Cover Photo: Two people sit across from each other at a small table, discussing something.
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How to Workshop Stories About Trauma

Not all feedback, even from a reader you hold in high esteem, will be appropriate for the story you’re trying to tell.

I’ve critiqued nonfiction writing for years now in my capacity as an MFA teacher, editor, workshop instructor, mentor, and writing partner. Much of the work I read includes firsthand accounts about a writer’s experience with trauma due to things like intimate-partner violence, sexual assault, bigotry, neglect, emotional or verbal abuse, sexual harassment, grief, or betrayal. In many instances, the writer’s manuscript is one of their earliest attempts to process their trauma, and I’m one of the first people to read about it.

How to receive feedback on writing about trauma

Find a reader you can trust with your work

Provide a content warning

Remember that trauma doesn’t have to be written in scene

Choose how to incorporate the feedback

Consider seeking treatment before sharing your work

How to give feedback on writing about trauma

Create a safe space

Let the writer lead

Make sure your feedback sticks to craft

Don’t tell writers what they should or shouldn’t write

Don’t dismiss the trauma

Anjali Enjeti is a former attorney, organizer, and journalist based near Atlanta. She is the author of Southbound: Essays on Identity, Inheritance, and Social Change, and The Parted Earth. Her other writing has appeared in Oxford American, Poets & Writers, Harper’s Bazaar, Boston Globe, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and elsewhere. A former board member of the National Book Critics Circle, she teaches in the MFA program at Reinhardt University.