HarperCollins Associate Editor, Alyssa Miele, loves fiction chock-full of strong, flawed, and loveable characters whose stories stay with her long after she’s earmarked, underlined, and reread the heck out of them. From commercial to literary, queer to straight, and everything in between, Alyssa loves books that inspire, haunt, and captivate. Alyssa’s recent projects include Changes in Latitudes by Jen Malone, Confidentially Yours: Vanessa’s Design Dilemma by Jo Whittemore and The Arrival of Someday (working title) by Jen Malone (Summer ’19). Alyssa was on faculty for this year’s Los Angeles Working Writers Retreat and spent a weekend in Encino with our members as they dove into their writing and tweaked, polished, and maybe even dismantled their projects. For tips, insights, and music to edit by, keep reading!
Sarah Parker-Lee: As faculty for the WWR, you gave feedback on attendees’ work, but you also had to share space with them for a weekend. Did that change how you approached critiquing? What is your “critique style?”
Alyssa Miele: Meaning, is it hard to critique someone’s writing when they could potentially be sleeping next door to you? Ha! I don’t think that occurred to me until after the first few group critiques, when, heading back to my room, I saw some of the writers walking to their rooms along the same walkway as mine. And of course we share meals and social hours, which really turned out to be a rewarding experience for me. But to answer your question, no, it didn’t change my approach. We’re all adults and, whether writer, agent, or editor, we’re all there to get better in some way or another. I got a very good vibe from the writers. In between critiques, everyone was conscious of giving you your time and space to recharge for the next critique group.
My “style” is pretty laid back. I tried to avoid ever sitting at “the head” of the table. I tried to have the writers open up the conversation before I would give my two cents…I very much believe that I was a guest, allowed into their sacred writing retreat environment, and I wanted them to feel like I came with the upmost respect for their time, their writing, and their process. I didn’t want anyone to feel or think I was the end-all be-all of advice, because the truth is that everything they do, and everything I say, is subjective. So I’m very much of the mind that — here is what I think, but if that doesn’t track with what your vision is, let’s hear some other opinions. I know I bring marketplace and publishing experience to the table, so I hope they could find helpful takeaways in that part of my critiquing, but other writers at the table provided helpful insight, too.
SPL: Critiques can be a hard experience for a writer, to give and to receive, but are super necessary. Any tips on how to stay open, be honest, and choose wisely? Continue reading