[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

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Writer in Residence at KPL

Robert J. Sawyer was the Edna Staebler Writer in Residence at the Kitchener (Ontario) Public Library in October and November 2006, hosting five public events (three seminars and two sets of readings), and meeting in hour-long one-on-one sessions with 37 aspirant writers. Thirty-five of those writers filled out anonymous evaluation forms. Everything they had to say is below (and you can download a PDF file containing a scan of all 35 actual evaluation forms here):

Rate your overall experience (where 1 is poor and 10 is excellent)

  • Twenty-three ratings of "10"
  • Nine ratings of "9"
  • One of "7"
  • One "11" from a particularly satisfied patron who added that number to the scale
  • One left blank

for an average rating of 9.7 out of 10.

Was your consultation with Rob helpful?


Most helpful! He very generously answered my questions with information that will take me to a new level with my writing.

Absolutely! No holds barred critique. Rob saw many issues I wouldn't have seen in revising/editing my own.

Yes / Very

All I had hoped for. Constructive, helpful and to the point.

Extremely. Identified weaknesses I had not contemplated in a tactful way.

Yes, he opened my eyes to what I need to do.

Extremely. I felt like I got some great feedback. It was appreciated that his comments were tendered with kindness and to the point. He was very thorough in his experience.

It was helpful on every point. Very clear, very thorough. Nothing left unturned. Rob explained everything I wanted to understand, and more. He spotted everything that needed improvement.


Very. He was very knowledgeable and had plenty of clear suggestions for improvement.

Very helpful. Rob is an excellent teacher who provided invaluable information and critique about my submitted work and the industry in general.

Very helpful. the explanations were very clear and thought provoking. I like Rob's openness and willingness to answer any questions I had.


Yes. To hear the comments from someone who knows was great. He was unbiased and honest.

Very much so




Excellent & Beyond!

Very much so. In addition to critiquing my story, he helped provide me with a structured approach to furthering my writing career.

I think it was very helpful to talk to someone who knew the industry & how it worked. Also he had some interesting tips and ideas on how to edit your work yourself. The suggestions weren't bad either.

Yes. His insights were excellent & his attention to detail was extremely helpful. I will be taking his comments to heart as I continue working on the novel.

He's a very nice man. Absolutely. He offered constructive criticism, ideas and encouragement. I'll go back to my writing with renewed vigour.

Yes. Good level of feedback (not too much in the details). Some good hints & tips.

Yes — it was great to go over my writing with someone who really knew what they were talking about.

Very! I learned a lot in the time allotted. Lots of good, sound and applicable advice.

Extremely — he offered concrete feedback & valid suggestions.

Yes. Lots of constructive criticism

Yes, very informative, relaxed. Rob was very open and willing to answer even personal questions.

Yes — solid recommendations

Yes. Very motivating, prompting me to continue on with my work. Interesting to see an objective evaluation from an author of another genre.

Extraordinarily. His experience shines through every comment and editorial mark. Especially about Point of view.

Very helpful! His interest in my ideas, suggestions for improvement and comments about form/structure/voice motivated my thoughts for further writing.

I have never had so much thoughtful, detailed, positive feedback. He has no agenda but to improve you and your work. He has an amazing eye for both the micro- and the macroscopic aspects of your manuscript. From commas to concept, he had looked and thought about everything.

[Writer-in-Residence] What did you like about the experience?

Time to talk with a professional and get his views on the industry and my writing.

The expertise he shared / the encouragement he gave

Rob was very precise and accurate in his critique.

Encouragement / concise approach

The one on one contact / the ability to ask and receive answers from questions.

Thorough critique; suggestions for publication, tips on research

Gave me some direction. It was nice to talk to a published writer.

Timing. I had just finished writing my first novel. It was great in editing tips, sales tip from the seminars. I enjoyed the WHOLE experience. Thank you so much.

It gave me a focus I never had before. I saw the weaknesses in my manuscript with a lot of clarity because Rob is a very animated speaker, and that made everything he said leave a deeper impression.

Extremely detailed critique of my work and Rob's extensive industry knowledge.

Rob explained problems in my story and offered ideas about how to change them — way more constructive than just saying "this needs to be changed."

Honest and direct.

I found the experience motivating and enlightening. I found new direction for my work. I have a greater understanding of ideas that need to be work on with my work.

Thorough, insightful, balanced, encouraging, realistic

The comfort level. Robert was very down to earth.

Very good useful feedback / with one on one time

Rob's affable, positive approach & demeanour. Attention to detail, his interest & the opportunity to discuss detailed & specific concerns with a professional of his ability & calibre.

Rob & his wife Carolyn went over quite a few different ways of looking at the life of a poet. Ideas in my head I will now change concerning exactly what I was going to do with this. Thanks Rob & Carolyn.

He was very positive in his suggestions — a lot of good ones. Made me see my story in a new light. I am very excited about going at it again.

His generous spirit. His vast knowledge & expertise. His clarity when expressing himself.

I very much enjoyed that Rob is a science fiction author. As he has experience writing in my genre. It was very informative and there were some excellent critiques.

I liked that he was positive & gave constructive criticism which would help you improve.

Rob's enthusiasm and his focus on both the positive & what needs changing sent me away ready to dig into my manuscript & keep working.

The opportunity to have feedback from a professional writer, free of charge, in Kitchener.

Nice to have some feedback, to understand where I'm needing to improve and to get some information on how to proceed.

It was a good experience because it helped me figure out how to improve my writing.

Personable, kind, encouraging while still giving honest feedback. He pointed out technical advice that I know will be useful in future submissions. Very frank.

Inspirational — offered suggestions re: rewriting.

Unique experience.

The critique was helpful, thorough, encouraging.

Concrete ways to improve the book

#1 — conversation with an author I truly admire. #2 — insight into the writing process

Meeting an author whose work I've enjoyed. Getting a non-partisan affirmation of my skill.

It was open, engaging, supportive and above all, encouraging. You included my wife as well! Thanks.

Straightforward advice delivered by a total professional. He was encouraging in a realistic fashion. Never pandered nor patronized. I left with much to think about, buoyed up and encouraged.

What should we change?

It was great! Thank you very much.

Not a thing / Thanks!

No need to change any of it.

Don't know. No basis for comparison.

I have no suggestions. What I experienced was complete.



I really don't know what would be a better choice. I felt the program went smoothly. Maybe an editing class would help? I was happy with my experience. Again my thanks!!!

Maybe a secondary stage of reviewing the revised manuscripts, to point out potential confusion in applying the advice. But this is a matter of time constraints, not anything that needs improving with the evaluation itself.

Nothing. Get him back again next year!

Great program! Thanks!

A longer residency perhaps? Was a great experience as is.

Nothing except maybe add 2 more workshops.

"It ain't broke."


More lectures!

Nothing that I'm aware of.



It would be wonderful if students at the high school level could be made aware of Robert Sawyer's talent ... possibly workshops at the schools?

Genre specific authors are very helpful to people writing in that genre. As much as I would love to see another sci-fi author next year, however, a different genre would be more appropriate for others.

Seems pretty good as is.


Nothing, in my opinion.

No comment at this time.

I think that it was fine the way it was. [happy face]

Nothing! [happy face] I'm so grateful for the opportunity. Thanks for supporting K-W writers.

Continue offering this service — much appreciated.


Don't see a need for any changes to be made.


Nothing. High marks all around.

Comfort level of meeting room.

[changed question to "What should I change?] First of all, my self doubt about the effectiveness of my writing. With new confidence I shall move on with more writing and even directing my dramas.

Robert J. Sawyer should be at my side every day while I'm writing ... okay that's a bit unrealistic. But after today, I feel he will be. Change nothing! I also want to thank Rob for scheduling a special appointment for me after a death in the family prevented me from attending my original appointment. What a Pro!!!

In addition to formal survey comments, Rob received four thank-you letters from KPL patrons:

"I had the privilege of coming to hear you speak last week at KPL. Your points on point of view were precise and clear to understand. The audience participation part was extremely effective in emphasizing the point of view errors and applying corrections. The most pleasurable part was just listening to you speak. You have a fabulous voice and a personable way of communicating. The time just flew by. Thank you for offering your expertise. I look forward to implementing your suggestions in my own writing."

"I just wanted to say thanks again for reviewing my manuscript. I was inspired by your advice — I'm attempting to write a page a day. I'm a long-hand-first-draft kinda girl, so it feels good to putting pen to paper every morning. Thank you for all your honest, down-to-earth suggestions!"

"Robert & Carolyn, your love of reading, writing, selling and all things to do with books was generously and graciously shared with us here in Kitchener-Waterloo. Thank you both for being here. I learned a lot. Have a great day!"

"I want to thank you for the suggestions and kind comments you gave during my manuscript appraisal and for the generosity of advice you offered. You've truly given me new horizons in my writing."

More Good Reading

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Quotes about Rob from his writing students
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Letter to Beginning Writers
Rob's "On Writing" advice columns
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Notes for the copyeditor

Essay: WordStar — A Writer's Word Processor

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