When I do writing workshops I structure my responses to other writers this way. First, respond from life. Next, say what works. Then, and only then, comment on what doesn’t work. “Respond from life” means expressing a memory evoked by the writing. There’s no need to fake or embellish this memory. It’s the authenticity that counts. What a writer needs to hear to keep on going is how her/his work touches a reader’s life. All that other critique of craft is just writing workshop babble.
Updated 082708: My “response from life” to Major Jackson’s poem “Some Kind of Crazy” turned into a memoir of a kid named Joey who lived on the street where I grew up. A memoir doesn’t always fix memory in time. This one has become a work-in-progress. Read the most recent version: