Connect with a SCBWI critique group
Do you feel like you’re working in a bubble without any idea of whether you’re on the right track? You don’t need to go it alone. A critique group can offer feedback on your work in progress, advice on how to improve it, encouragement to keep going when you’re feeling disheartened, and support and friendship from fellow creators. It only takes a few writers and/or illustrators willing to read their work or share their art, and eager to exchange opinions, to form a cohesive critique group.
How does a critique group work?
That’s up to the members. If you’re starting a critique group, or as you fold into an existing group, you’ll have some decisions to make together. Talking through each person’s expectations, goals and styles at the onset will help ensure you’re all on the same page. Here are some things you’ll want to discuss:
• How regularly do you want to meet? Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or as needed?
• Where? In person at a home, library, cafe or online?
• Will you include refreshments and food, or are you there strictly for critique?
• If you’re critiquing each other’s novels, are you comfortable reading an entire manuscript, or would you prefer to bring individual scenes for critique?
• How do you prefer to review each other’s work—in advance by e-mail, or on the spot while read aloud at your meeting?
• Will the writer read his or her own work aloud or have someone else do the honours?
• Will the writer provide photocopies for each group member?
• How will you comment on each other’s work—taking turns or letting the feedback flow freely as inspired?
• What will be the group’s size and how will you bring in new members (or not)?
Before you join a group it can be helpful to think about what kind of group will work best for you.
• Do you prefer to mingle exclusively with others in your genre or field, or are you open to mixing (eg picture book writers only; all children’s writers; writers only; or writers and illustrators)?
• How productive are you and how often do you need feedback?
• How do you handle comments? Are you able to listen to criticism without getting defensive?
• Are you willing to give others’ suggestions a try, even if at first you disagree?
• Do you feel more comfortable with others at your same level, or are you more inspired when you work with people across levels of experience?
If you would like to start a group, join a group, or have an existing critique group with a chair to spare for a new member, email Teena Raffa-Mulligan on email@example.com. She’ll send you a brief questionnaire to find out what sort of group will suit you best and put you in touch with other members with similar expectations.
Teena Raffa-Mulligan has been writing for children for more than four decades and her publications include poems, stories, picture books and a novel. She’s presented numerous writing workshops and author talks for all ages and during a long career in journalism worked as a writer and editor on various magazines and newspapers. Teena has been a member of a critique group for seven years and has found their support and feedback indispensable to her development as a children's writer.