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Growing a Writers Critique Group
by Kathryn Lay
A great critique group doesnt just happen; it
begins as a seed and grows into something amazing if it is nurtured properly.
What is the process of turning an okay group into a garden of published and
TILLING THE SOIL
You are ready to begin a critique group, not
having found one in your area. To prepare for your group, think about what you
want out of a critique group. Are you looking for a specific genre or just want
a childrens writers group in general? Will it be weekly, twice a week, or once
a month? Will you bring manuscripts for everyone to take home and bring back the
next week, or have members read and receive critique cold turkey? Will you have
specific rules for critiquing, such as allowing comments from the writer during
their critique or not allowing defending? Do you want to limit the amount of
members in your group? If you have ground rules in your mind and on paper when
you begin your group, your incoming members can decide if they agree with them
enough to join or if they feel your group isnt quite right for them.
If you are involved in a local SCBWI, begin
advertising for your critique group. Make sure to mention if its all genres or
picture books only. Suggest an initial meeting time and place. Perhaps you have
specific writers in mind that you would like to be a part of your small group.
Be honest with yourself. Personalities that clash too strongly will not make for
an enjoyable experience. Perhaps you want all beginners, all published writers,
or a mixture. If possible, its best to have a mixture. Once you have your first
meeting, talk about the best times to meet. Set up a central location. Do you
know of a small restaurant that will let you use a corner room? A bookstore?
Library? Or a church? Go over the rules and discuss which ones are flexible.
Will it bother you if some members go weeks without reading their work? To have
a group that really works its best, encourage everyone to participate as much as
possible. If you have a group of 8 and meet every other week, showing up with 2
members several times in a row may get frustrating. Have an email chain set up
to let the group know if some will not be able to make a meeting.
WATER & FERTILIZE
A critique group that bonds can be the backbone
of a writers life. Every week that I am able, I attend the critique group Ive
been a part of for the past 12 years. We are friends. We are family. It is a
time that I rejuvenate my writers soul with those of my companions. I can share
my ups and downs, my joys and frustrations, and commiserate with theirs. When
there is sickness, babies and grandbabies born, birthdays, etc., we get
involved. But it isnt a social club. We write, we critique, we market, we
publish. We have times before critique group where we study the books of other
children writers. Time to talk about our lives. Then, we get down to the
business of reading and critiquing. Depending on how many of our group of 13
show up, we have 15-20 minutes to read and be critiqued. We encourage kindness
and honesty. If we are kind without honesty, we do nothing but pat one another
on the back. If we are brutally honest, we risk discouragement. We pass around
the names of publications and editors. We encourage one another to step out and
do something different, take risks, overcome fears.
As time goes on, you may find that some plans
work, others dont. You may find a troublesome member to deal with. Your meeting
place may become a problem. Whenever possible, keep your garden free of weeds
and bugs that are there to choke out your creativity and passion. Talk out
problems, find solutions. A great critique group is worth the effort.
WATCH IT BLOSSOM
In the last few years our group has sold
approximately 15 books, and been published in numerous magazines and
anthologies. We participate in school talk preparations and storytelling plans.
Members books have been nominated for and won many other awards, Tuesdays from
11-2:30 is often the pivotal point of my writing week. I may come tired or
discouraged. But after hours of laughing and sharing, of hearing praise for my
work and getting an honest assessment of how to make it better before it is sent
to my agent or editors, I know that I am motivated, challenged, encouraged, and
better prepared for another week of writing and marketing. Our writers group
blooms all year long. Do you have a garden growing? If not, consider finding an
established group or starting your own. And if its cared for properly, youll
build relationships as you create publishable work.
© Copyright 2002, Kathryn Lay
Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through firstname.lastname@example.org
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