Has anyone else had a hard time finding the “right” critique group?
The first group I joined was in Toledo, Ohio, and wasn’t exactly a critique group; it was a “Reading and Writing” group. Several gals from my church joined together to share books that we read and stories that we wrote. It was more of a book club with a few writers. Of those who wrote, not all wrote for children. Still, we had a good time and it was helpful to hear critiques and comments about our work. One quirky note, is that most of the gals’ names happened to start with the same letter: JoAnne, Jane, and Jenni, to name a few. I joked that I should change the spelling of my name to Jdebbie, the “J” being silent of course. That is the group where Jane and I became friends. After a number of months, however, the group sort of died out due to people moving away.
About the same time, a group of fellow SCBIers got together for a “regular” critique group. We had a few –maybe 5–initial members but after a few months, that group also petered out. Looking back, I think one reason it didn’t work very well is because we weren’t very good at giving and/or receiving critiques, and some feelings got hurt.
That group morphed into another one, because someone on the Northern Ohio SCBWI listserv asked if there was a critique group near Toledo or at least nearer Toledo than Cleveland. I was on the SCBWI board and lived in Toledo, and it was decided we “should” have a group there. We formed a group of about 5 people who met monthly. Most of the writers were new and just learning to critique and it became more of a support group. This time, I was the one to move.
Here in Utah, I wanted to join a new group. I was looking at the ICL website one day and saw a post for people looking to join online critique groups. I wondered if this was the answer? After seeing those posts several times, I emailed all those people and organized two online groups, one for PBs and one for MG/YA. (They fizzled after a few months). About then, I joined a MG/YA group formed by writers from the utahchildrenswriters listserv, and another PB group of friends I knew in Ohio that were more seasoned writers. Later I connected with some gals I met at a workshop with Rick Walton and joined another PB group.
I had a hard time keeping up with all those groups and was trying to figure out what age group I really wanted to write for. I dropped from the Utah MG/YA group and got down to two online groups, both for PBs.
Now a year or so later, I’m writing YA not picture books so the PB groups aren’t as relevant. I needed a MG/YA group.
I’m happy to say that I found one! I think it was a bit of serendibity since I found out about it from someone from one of the old PB groups. I’m very hopeful this group will stick together and that we can help each other get our work to that higher level ready for publication.