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I enjoyed reading this article and, for the most part, agree with you. Yet I also agree with Linda Austin's comment (above). On the other side of the cruel type of critique you describe experiencing is what I typically experience in writers groups—particularly those that are comprised of women: no critique. I have thirsted for some real, "here's how you can improve your work" kind of critique, but more typically receive only "I enjoyed reading your story" kinds of comments. There is certainly a place for encouragement, especially when working with a group of new writers. Heck, there's *always* a place for encouragement. My #1 rule when critiquing a piece is to start with what I really like about it. I can always find something. But I also believe that when we are so afraid to hurt others' feelings that we don't tell the hard truth along with the soft truth, we aren't helping each other become better writers. I liked your example of Betsy; she gave time for thoughtful critique, not just her reaction, and pointed out those gaffes and errors—gently—so that the artist could improve her work. This is exactly the kind of critique I hope we lifestory writers will cultivate with one another.
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