|Photo: Brooke Cagle|
JOINING A CRITIQUE GROUP
I'll be honest. Being part of a critique group has never been my cup of tea. I prefer to get critiques from my beta reader, my husband. He cheers me on and he gives me great advice—I don't need others to weigh in on my work. However, about five years ago, I got curious about a writing group that met at a library close to my home.
When I arrived for the meeting, I discovered aspiring picture book writers eager to get published. They were passionate about the stories they had written, and because they seemed professional, I made a commitment to join them. It felt good connecting with local writers, helping them on their stories, and getting feedback on my own manuscripts. We met one day a month to discuss our work and to give constructive critiques. But before long, the group fell apart as people's schedules got complicated. I hated seeing this group dissolve. From what I observed, many members got a lot out of the sessions.
Since then, several years passed and I never gave any thought to joining another group. And then I meet a person through Mindy Alyse Weiss' Picture Book Party New Draft Challenge and Critique Train, an online event where writers were paired with critique partners. By luck, this person invited me to join a critique group called Friday Minds.
Friday Minds meets twice a month on Friday afternoons via Zoom. I'm the only writer on the east coast. Four of the others live in California and another gal lives in western Canada. Friday Minds is composed of teachers, poets, moms, and of course, picture book writers.
Before we dive into the manuscripts, we chat about what's going on in our personal lives, what we may have learned through workshops or webinars, writing events we may have participated in or hope to participate in, and what picture books we have read and loved. Then, we get down to business and one person reads a manuscript aloud. Next, we all give positive comments on the piece. Afterward, the members take turns pointing out the parts that are unclear or might need editing.
Friday Minds is a good fit for me. I was unsure at first, but the more I got to know everyone, the more I wanted to be part of this group. Everyone is talented, fun to hang out with, and offers great advice and insight. Now, I'm aware that other writers may feel differently about joining a critique group. Some writers simply like to work alone. Hey, I did that for years. However, if you're curious (or tired of rejections) sit in on a meeting and consider these questions:
- Does the group give positive feedback, discuss what works, and address the strengths?
- Do they give constructive criticism on the areas that need improvement?
- Do they give detailed comments on plot, character, word choice, pacing and page-turns?
- How do the members handle criticism?
- Is there chemistry and respect among members?
I'm thrilled to be part of this critique group. We brainstorm and offer new ideas to improve each other's stories. We help each other navigate the waters of publication. We commiserate over rejection and rejoice in our successes.
Being a writer is a hard, lonely profession. Now, my supporters have grown. I have five more people who want to hear my stories. I never thought I'd stick with a critique group, but Friday Minds encourages me. They give me confidence in my writing. They want to see me succeed. Like my husband, Friday Minds is always there to cheer me on.
✌ and ♥