The Joys of Email Critique by Christine Duncan


   My critique buddies (You know who you are, ladies.) and I are playing a game.  It’s kinda sorta a game of (this is embarrassing) tag.  It goes like this.  One of us will email another, suggesting we exchange chapters. Let’s call this the I’m-just-checking-that you’re-still-writing phase. It is accompanied by a feeling of accomplishment.  We’re doing something.  We’re starting critique again.

     The recipient, either due to general busy-ness or just plain lack of organization, will not respond for–oh, say, five or ten days–give or take.  Hey, it’s summer, it’s hot, thunderstorming, we’re having a barbecue–take your pick. When the recipient finally realizes that she has an email from a critique partner, panic mode sets in.  Exchange chapters?  Have I written something?  Where is it?  What is it?
     Finally, she responds.  “I’m game if you are.”  The idea is that if she says yes, she will definitely, absolutely, really, write something or better yet, locate the stuff she knows she has written–whereever it is.  She just needs a few days for everything to jell.  This too, gives a feeling of accomplishment, although no actual chapters have yet been exchanged.
   By that time, the original e-mailer has gone back to–hey, it’s summer.  It’s hot, thunderstorming, I think I’m allergic to rag-weed mode and is no longer reading her email so religiously.  It takes days, but once she realizes there is a response, she goes out of the checking-if-you’re-writing phase to the hmm, maybe-I’d-better-get-on-the-stick phase.  This is not as emotionally worrysome as the previous phase, but is a bit of an adrenaline rush.  All it takes is some organization, she thinks.   So she writes back.  “Sure, send me something.”
   Weeks have gone by this way.  Months.  With nothing more than the illusion that something is going to get done here soon.  No one minds; the illusion is pretty.  And it’s summer and it’s hot.  But then the days start to creep toward Fall.  Fall, when traditionally school starts and new agendas are formed, somehow leads to organization.  We’ll exchange chapters.  Religiously.  For weeks.  Until we go into the holiday season, which these days starts around the middle of October,  when we will… lapse into our game of tag because we have to buy Halloween candy and think about costumes and it’s getting cold.

   Which is why, I think, soon, as soon as it stops being so hot, and thunderstorming, I’m going back to in-person critique.  I can still do email critique too, I’m sure of it.  E-mail me, ladies!



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