Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Starting a Critique Group

I use to hate it when a new couple would visit our Sunday school class. Everyone went around the circle telling their name and what they did for a living. "I work in the home," I'd say.

Everyone was always nice. "Oh that’s the hardest job there is," They’d say.

I kept reminding myself that I loved being at home, and that there were lots of parts of working that were no fun, and that I was lucky. Sometimes, though, I wished that I could say something more prestigious about myself and that I could contribute money to the family.

If only I could get published, then I could say, "I'm a writer." I would make money, too.

Instead of making money on my writing, though, all I did was spend money. I took an expensive ICL class. It was great. I loved it.

Next I saw a writing class advertised in UVA's continuing education catalogue. I asked for that class as a Christmas present. I loved it, too.

In my UVA class the students had to critique each other’s work. The first time they critiqued my work I got mad. They were harsh, and they didn’t understand what I was trying to do. The next day, though, when I looked at my paper, I realized that I had failed to make them understand. From then on I welcomed criticism.

After being in the class I knew that I wanted a critique group, but I didn’t know how to find one. I went to a local SCBWI event and asked if there were any critique groups that I could join. They told me that all the critique groups were filled up. They said that I should start my own, but I didn’t know how.

Then I saw another writing class advertised. This one was called "Writing for Children." That’s the kind of writing that I did. I had told myself not to spend any more money on my writing, but I couldn’t resist. I signed up for the class. The teacher was great and the assignments were fun, but the best part of the class was the critiques from the other students.

One day during class I looked around and realized that people who had been willing to spend money to improve their writing surrounded me. If I could convince them to form a critique group with me, we could give each other the best part of the class for free.

Three other students were interested so we began. To help us grow I posted fliers in the libraries and invited everyone that I knew who had ever mentioned being interested in writing.

After the first six months none of my first three members were coming but by that time three other women were coming regularly. We carried on.

Today none of the members from my initial group are part of Slushbusters, but I am grateful for everyone who ever came to a meeting. They helped me stick with my writing and enabled the group to survive.

So far I still haven’t made any money on my writing, but it is a hobby that I love and now it is a FREE hobby!!

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