You Be Thelma, I’ll Be Louise

by Lisa Bullard

pit stopIt’s best to bring a bud­dy when you hit the highway.

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.


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