Sunday, May 31, 2009

Great Crit Groups - Worth the Wait

I have been fortunate enough to find and belong to three of the best critique groups in the business of children's book publishing. I know this because I've tried lots of them, only to be disappointed in the end.

I searched high & low for a really long time to find an illustrator's group until, believe it or not, they found me. How lucky is that? I wish everyone could experience the bliss of being found by creative, talented, and caring people such as these. It is not only a blessing, but a foundation on which to blossom your career. Wonderful things begin to happen when people get together in the spirit of creative collaboration and unified, eager support of one another.

My first illustration critique group inspired me to begin my search for a similar writing group. Again, I tried several, but always found them lacking. Although it's true that not every group is for everybody, I've always played nice with the other kids in the sandbox and stuck it out until all professionalism died in the hands of an almighty ego.

It seems that in writers groups, a dominant character always emerges and takes over while the moderator's back is turned. This person can ruin the collaboration if the moderator allows it, and unfortunately, that has always been my experience. Often, it's the moderator herself who sabotages the group and eventually things turn sour and begin to unravel.

I couldn't bare to watch it happen again, so I did something about it. I applied what I learned to a group of my own, and founded "The Yellow Brick Road". Actually, I don't see it that "my own". A great critique group is the sum of all it's parts. It's the level of dedication that's given to the group, by the group as a whole.

By dedication, I don't mean that each person in the group has to constantly be posting new manuscripts and critiques, (although that would be nice). Dedication for me, means that each member is dedicated to supporting each other in every way possible. That could be by providing the group with important information, passing along helpful URL addresses, or alerting the group to a publisher submission deadline, etc. It means understanding when a group member must take time away from the group for personal or business reasons. It means celebrating together when one member achieves the success that we are all seeking. There is no room for back biting or petty jealousy. It takes away from precious writing time.

Having been an innocent bystander in a collapsing house of cards, I decided to be a different kind of moderator. One who stands in the shadows, like a school teacher on the playground. I quietly watch whats going on, and...
I only step in when clouds begin to gather
and thunder rumbles in the distance.

Other than that, I am a participant like all the rest. I have the same responsibilities as everyone else in the group, and I am determined to keep what little ego I have in check. After a successful year, with many in the group achieving the much sought after title, "published author", YBR is going strong. We have a waiting list of writers who wish to join us and a happy, talented cast of characters in 'Oz".

If you have witnessed the rise and fall of many a critique group, I suggest you follow my lead and form your own.
The SCBWI message boards are a great
place to recruit new members,

as they are filled with eager, dedicated writers who are looking for a new on-line home. provides free web pages that are simple to set up (just follow the prompts) and they're user-friendly. You can have your own private critique group up and running in just a few hours, and with any luck at all, your critters will also become life-long friends!

1 comment:

Augusta Scattergood said...

Thanks for this food for thought, Lisa. Lots of it. And btw, blogger IS very easy if you have a friend who's accomplished at figuring out all the tricks. And is willing to share.

Like the best traits on the playground! Share with your friends and play fair. You could write an article based on this blog entry. And feel free to use the playground analogy.