If it develops into a forum where only the best contributions are read then I would have to go find another forum that would accept me however raw that I am. I confess I am not the best writer there is, though I believe I am far better than I was a year ago. I am editing my own novel and I think I have matured and fermented as writer since my earlier rewrite. A writer always evolves and to evolve he needs the support of a peer group and I guess BWC fulfils that promise that it started with. I still need inputs about my work and one forum is BWC because the members though unsparing in comment are supportive.
Let me draw a parallel here. You know those tasty south Indian dosas? A writer’s career is like that of a dosa. It is ground mercilessly by peer review then left to ferment with the author’s own experience and then fried on a skillet, which is the ultimate publication and acceptance of a writer by the public at large.
BWC I think is the grinding stage in which a writer is ground to bits by peer reviews and is prepared for the ultimate frying of the dosa on the skillet. The idea is to break a writer from the shell of his own making and make him more experiential and open to new viewpoints. Only then can the writer mature or ferment and be accepted for publication that is the frying on the skillet. At the outset, we had agreed that if an author is sensitive to criticism of his work then he has the option of requesting nothing but positive and constructive criticism and no barbs or tearing to bits. That was accepted so I guess it still stands. If I felt my work is still undeveloped I would request the audience to spare me the “tearing to pieces.”
Believe me the ultimate stage of publication is a merciless and ruthless process as any published author will know. In the ultimate frying on he skillet, they grill you, grind you, burn you and crucify you. So BWC prepares you for all that torture by some peer criticism and review. I am sorry to say BWC readmeets cannot change into the frying on skillet stage in writing because then it becomes not a forum but a commercial, corporate, profit-seeking entity.
On the other hand, SATCT is our showcase, our show-window in which we can show the world, “Look these are the promising writers we have discovered and encouraged.” Those writers who are chosen for publication in SATCT are in the frying stage and they should be able to withstand trenchant tearing to bits. So for SATCT we can have plenty of quality control and vetting of the stories we receive, not in the BWC readings.
We had a policy of allowing the writers on a “first-come-first-serve” basis I guess that still stands, or does it? Two poems would be adequate for a poet and a short story or article for every writer would be reasonable enough acceptance criterion. A list is prepared of the first posting on the event page and we follow that order at the readmeet and if you are the fiftieth, please make sure you are the first in line for the next readmeet. From the discussion (even the expression on the audience’s faces) the write will know where he has gone wrong, if more effort is required. I discovered so many different aspects to a novel I am writing from my first reading and subsequently I am doing a rewrite with the inputs I have received. I have in mind all those faces who sat before me (Ratna, Annie, Fiza, Hema, Sunil, Peter, Ankur, Vijay, etc) and I know from their reactions what was good and what was plain bad and needed reworking.
An author works in the isolation of his own mind. He need to know his audience and the best way to get an audience is to go and find a peer group that will be supportive. He is already unsure of his work and if he doesn’t come out of his shell and find his peer group he will never ever come out. If he reads an atrocious poem or article he will get the hint from the expressions on faces around him that that he has to work harder, no need to be turned down by a quality control committee. I guess BWC is a good forum in that one can keep in touch with discussions online and can contribute at the readings.
Writer members should not think that they would be panned or drawn over coals and shouldn’t withdraw into a shell because I guess BWC cannot afford to have quality checks. Quality check should be there only for SATCT. But then SATCT has to have quality checks because it is the medium to create a corpus to expand our future activities. If BWC readmeets have quality checks, I am sure, in the end it will become subjective and will depend upon the quality controller’s personal whims and fancies and aspiring authors and writers would never benefit from the experience of reading their works and would withdraw further into their shells.
So BWC members no need to be afraid of quality checks and vetting. Come out of your shells and contribute. If you don’t come out of the closet now, you never will and will regret all your life that you never had the guts to stand before an audience and be heard. This is the best peer group that you can find for your work and ideal group to grow as a writer. Take the first step to publication and contribute a story to SATCT project and if your contribution is selected you will share all the glory and if not you can still be read and accepted at BWC readmeets.
I have poked the burning embers, stoked the fire, now for more coal nuggets please!