Here’s a dilemma I’ve never faced before: I volunteered to be on the writer selection committee of my playwrights’ group and the first person’s work I read was lacking in many, many ways. My first reaction was thumbs down. The dialogue, characters, plot and storytelling all needed major work (in both pieces that were submitted), and I pointed out to my fellow committee members that we weren’t in the business of teaching basic playwriting.

But then I started considering this writer’s personal qualities… even-tempered, has the ability to give constructive feedback. Now if someone were an ogre, I would count that against them, and no matter how talented they are, I wouldn’t want them wrecking havoc on our group. So if someone is pleasant, thoughtful and has helpful insights (even with a blind eye towards their own script – which can be true of most of us writers, ho ho ho!)… should that tip the scales in their favor?

Then someone on the committee wondered if we could ask for a rewrite, giving the writer some of our feedback, to see if improvement in the work were possible. That seems like a workable solution… and isn’t just a thumbs up / thumbs down thing, although the feedback has to be open-ended enough that we’re not making the writer conform to how WE want the play to be. The extreme version of this would be Hollywood studio executives man-handling a script with a million notes so the writer’s vision and voice are completely compromised if not lost.

The other extreme would be saying “Sure, c’mon and join us!” and not having the guts to say no just because we’re too polite and don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.

Discussion to ensue, no doubt, as we balance what’s best for this writer and for the group…

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