Feedback, Ouch, Revise, and Resubmit

December 30, 2021 § 6 Comments

By Lisa R. Roy

The first time I remember receiving feedback on my writing was from my fifth-grade teacher. I do not remember her name, but our class was given the assignment to read Cheaper by the Dozen and write a book report. I do not believe that I read the book, nor did I write an original report.  I think I just copied from the encyclopedia in those days. 

I was surprised that this teacher, with her English accent, was asking me to do better. As an African American girl bused to a majority European-American school outside of my neighborhood, I was invisible most of the time. The teachers rarely spoke to me unless I got into trouble, which was rare. The first time was for not raising my hand and blurting out the answers in kindergarten and the second time was for yelling obscenities at another school that we had played kickball against. I also do not remember almost fifty years later what exactly she said to me, but I do remember she expected more. 

Many years later I find myself working for Carol Boigon, former Mayoral appointee for the Mayor’s Office for Education and Children in Denver, Colorado. I was hired by Carol as a consultant, then as a city employee. Carol was a former newspaper writer. She pointed out that we needed minutes for every meeting because we received public funding sources, and she expected those minutes to be perfect. Needless to say, we had tons of meetings. 

Like the first time I was pulled aside by my teacher, I was shocked that my minutes and other written material never cut the mustard with Carol. I had worked previously for a former nun, Adele Phelan, who taught English, then went on to become president of a private college in Denver, Colorado. Adele thought my writing was professional and though she did ask to see everything before it went out, the red marks were few and far between. After Carol would read what I handed her, however, each page looked like it was cut to the quick and bleeding to death. 

I will admit that I gave up. I lost confidence. Carol ended up writing and I would edit. Somehow, I had convinced her that I could not put two sentences together.

A couple of years later, Adele, in post-retirement, came to also work for Carol. Lo and behold, Carol began trying to get Adele to write differently too. I then realized that it was not all me. Carol’s style of writing was shaped by her newspaper experience. Though I will always use the assistance of an editor, I now know that I need to ensure that the editor understands my style of writing and the audience that I hope to engage. 

When I wrote my dissertation, it was not edited for sentence structure, but rather for  conciseness and for the relationship of the research to my arguments and conclusions. I very much appreciated the time and energy that my dissertation committee, led by Dr. Shelley Zion, put into it, especially since they were not paid for their time. I learned that editors are indeed gifts.

Now that I am finishing up a graduate writing certificate program at the University of Nebraska Omaha, I cherish the feedback I receive. Literary nonfiction is very different from my professional writing. It is also different from the academic writing I did for my masters and doctoral programs at the University of Colorado Denver. In my current program, my fellow students and professors workshop my pieces, and the feedback is incredibly useful. One of my pieces was published – “Summer of ’68: Crab Feast” in The Linden Review, and my editor, Jody Keisner, was a champion, utilizing Jane Friedman’s three Cs of being clear, communicative, and compromising in her relationship to me as an author. 

It is my hope that I will continue to learn and not be shocked by the input or feedback I receive on my writing. Yet, I will also use discernment and express my opinion when I feel that someone is forcing me to revise in a way that makes me feel a lack of confidence or does not preserve the integrity of my work.  

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Lisa R. Roy is the Director of Program Development at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska.  She has a doctorate in leadership for educational equity from the University of Colorado Denver.  Lisa is a mother of three grown children and a grandmother of the three most precious children on the planet, and she is an avid genealogist.    

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§ 6 Responses to Feedback, Ouch, Revise, and Resubmit

  • Khoon Tha says:

    On Thu, 30 Dec 2021 at 6:30 PM BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog wrote:

    > Guest Blogger posted: ” By Lisa R. Roy The first time I remember receiving > feedback on my writing was from my fifth-grade teacher. I do not remember > her name, but our class was given the assignment to read Cheaper by the > Dozen and write a book report. I do not believ” >

  • Love this. Feedback, even negative, is the gift that leads to growth

  • Lisa,
    Thanks for your candor. It reminds me of my own experiences. I’m glad you recognized the feedback for what it was. You also give me inspiration to finish my dissertation!

  • I remember getting an A on a book report in high school English and showing it to my father who said it was full of errors and made me rewrite it. I was furious but did. That , I think, was when I became a real writer, and no one is harder on my work than I am, sometimes to a fault.. Yet writing students in the non-academic workshops I’ve taught don’t necessarily like my long critiques and edits and I’ve learned to say ,”You don’t have to give this to me, this isn’t school, , you know yourself well enough to know you want only praise. I’m going to tell you what I find interesting then offer suggestions about how to go on to the next draft.” They then all give me the piece they wrote..And I do garnish my suggestions with some praise which most deserve.

  • I love your insight about understanding an editor’s goals, and coaching them on staying true to your writing style. There are times when editing for the style itself matters, like when the writing needs to be on-brand in relation to a client or campaign. But when that’s not the case, an important aspect of editing is to make the work better while preserving the writer’s unique style.

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