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Overthinking: the politics of cookies May 9, 2011

Posted by philangelus in food, writing.
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“I wanted you to like me, and I thought the best way to do that was with brilliant and insightful critique.”  This is what I said during the first session at my critique group. “But in order to do that, I’d have to be brilliant. So instead I made cookies.”

That’s pretty much a verbatim quote from the TA for my English 201 class, who baked cookies for the few students who attended on the day before Thanksgiving. I recommend this strategy because it works.

The second month, I thought about bringing cookies again. I like baking for other people. I also like eating the things I bake, making it a win-win. But the second month, my Patient Husband said, “If you bake for them this month, they’ll expect it every month.”

I repeated that on Twitter, and someone replied, “Newsflash: they already expect you to do it every month.”

The day before the writing group, I did bake some awesome oatmeal-cinnamon chip cookies, but Kiddo#4 stood on a chair to watch and managed to break the sugar bowl on the stove-top. I had to throw away two dozen unbaked cookies, on the grounds that I didn’t think anyone would like Glass-Shard Chip Cookies. After that, I wouldn’t have had enough, so I didn’t bring any.

This coming Saturday it’s the third session. I thought about brownies.

Then I realized, I’m getting critiqued. Does that change things?

I like this group a lot. There’s insightful critique; it’s well-organized and everyone has an equal chance to participate. What worries me is that showing up with cookies might undercut the other members’ negative comments about my manuscript because they don’t want to hurt the feelings of the baker, and above all, I don’t want them to hold back.

I’m overthinking again. Critique is useless if it’s only positive, right? Saying that a piece’s dialogue works well but omitting that the main character is loathsome (for example) doesn’t help the writer, who needs to know those things in order to improve.

Cricket had a great idea:

But somehow…oh, I don’t know.

The urge to write versus the urge to bake. Who will win?

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Comments»

1. cricketB - May 9, 2011

Since I can’t enjoy any of your baking over the internet, my totally inconsequential vote is to write.

2. Marie - May 9, 2011

Can you not let them know you brought food until after they give their critique?

Jane - May 9, 2011

While that would have worked at my previous writing group, it’d be tough to do it here because this group does only critique. There isn’t really a socializing part of the meeting. If I’m the second person, then afterward everyone would pack up and go.

cricketB - May 9, 2011

If there hasn’t been a socializing part until now, and you’ve only gone twice, I’d be careful about changing the dynamics. Maybe it works well as a critique group because there isn’t socializing. Also, maybe the others have tight schedules, leaving no time for socializing.

Since you baked last time, doing so this time won’t affect the critique, but it will become a habit. If you don’t want them to expect it, bake every 2 or 3 meetings.

3. Kate - May 9, 2011

I’d bring the baking, but ask at the end of the meeting, “So who is going to bring a snack next time?” If you get even one volunteer, then you’ve changed it from something *you* do, that is characteristic to you and makes you special, to something the group does to enhance the social experience of getting together.

Which is what I did in one particular evening seminar so it wouldn’t just look like I was buttering up the prof by bringing scones.

Jane - May 9, 2011

That’s a neat idea. I’ll consider that. The group never had snacks before I brought the cookies.

4. Wyldkat - May 9, 2011

“Then I realized, I’m getting critiqued. Does that change things?”

imho, no, it doesn’t. Take the brownies. It helps make it a social thing. And I like Kate’s suggestion, see if anyone else is willing to bring snacks.

Jane - May 9, 2011

Thanks. I do like the social aspect of things, even though it’s mostly business. (Well, the focus being the business of critiquing.)

5. Monica - May 9, 2011

This isn’t the most objective opinion, given my love for brownies, but I’d say bring them. Everything goes better with brownies.

Jane - May 9, 2011

The brownies could be for me, to ease the pain of honest critique. ;-) (Of course, then I also ought to bring a pitcher of margaritas, except we all need to drive home.)

6. xallanthia - May 9, 2011

I don’t know if you should bake, but I do know how irritated I get if I don’t get constructive criticism, and I have only ever written *fanfic*.

Honestly I probably still wouldn’t bring something, not wanting to be seen as “the one who bakes,” even though I love baking. But I don’t think baking is necessarily bribery.


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