by Lisa Bullard
With a traveling companion along for the ride, the guffaws are louder. The adventures are grander. The late-night soul-searching is more soulful.
Then there are times like the morning I woke up mid-road trip with severe food poisoning in Myrtle Beach, a day before needing to catch a plane in Raleigh. Do you know how long it takes to drive from one Carolina to the other when you have to make an emergency pit stop every ten minutes? My friend “Thelma” does. She drove the entire nightmare trip while I lay curled around a bucket in the backseat.
I line up lots of people to ride shotgun when I set off on writing road trips. These writing companions are often different people than my riding companions, but they’re just as important to my creative journey. My writing group alternates between tough-love critiques and cheerleading sessions. My other writing friends let me despair over rejection letters, and then offer encouragement and advice. There’s always somebody willing to take the wheel when my writing life hits a back-seat-and-bucket moment.
And a writing critique group is a two-way road: I not only receive feedback for my work, but I learn an enormous amount from evaluating other writers’ manuscripts.
You can build supportive writing relationships in your classroom by offering peer review opportunities. Model constructive feedback for students; show them how to strike a balance between feedback that is kind, but too vague to be useful, and feedback that is overly negative. As a starting point, you can download my peer review handout.
If you haven’t tried it before, I think you’ll ﬁnd that the buddy system can be a real writing boon.