Something Happened in Roundtable — by Tosh McIntosh

The topic of whether to participate in a writers’ critique group seldom enters our conversations at Roundtable, because with the exception of guests who are there to check us out in advance of joining NIP-Austin, we’ve all decided the benefits received are worth the time and effort it takes to be an active member.

This post on my personal blog addresses the question, To Group Or Not To Group, and offers some observations from over the years of being a member of NIP. One of the key benefits mentioned is the opportunity to form satellite groups to augment the NIP experience. I’ve been active in a such a group for a number of years, and I’ve learned to appreciate an advantage unique to the less structured format possible with fewer participants. Based on our most recent Roundtable on May 22, 2016, however, the bold, italic emphasis in the previous sentence may no longer apply.

Unless you’ve been inactive since the first of the year, you’re well aware of the increase in Roundtable participation from an average of less than 10 to about 15 members, and the resulting impact on the time allotted to each of us for verbal comments. We’ve had to address the problem of time-warp-itis to avoid losing control of the meetings by emphasizing the necessity of organizing our comments and being more selective about what to include.

The first meeting conducted with heightened timing awareness resulted in a surplus at the termination of Roundtable because some members didn’t use all of their allotted time. We rejected the option of allowing later critiques to use some of the surplus, which would have created an unfair advantage to those members who comment later in the session. We also agreed as a group that having more time than the standard 15-minute free-for-all period to end the meeting was a good thing.

And now to the something that happened, which highlighted an unexpected benefit of more attention to timing as illustrated by two key words: synergism and brainstorming.

It bears noting that as reflected in the verbal comments during the Roundtable portion of the meeting, the submission engaged members exceptionally well. With collectively more to say, we were actively participating in the free-for-all when one question directed at the author triggered the interaction or cooperation of two or more members to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects through a spontaneous group discussion to produce ideas and ways of solving problems.

And from the moderator’s chair, it was a wonder to behold.

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