When I spoke at the Tri-Valley chapter of the California Writer’s Club, I heard about this great base critique group the club had, one that helped the club’s writers get started with critiquing, and then went even further–to help them form their own, smaller break-out groups. I loved this idea then, and I still do. So when Lani Longshore offered to guest-post about the club and her history with its critique groups, I jumped at the idea.
Read Lani’s bio and post below, and don’t forget to enter a comment. I’m doing another giveaway with this post: one commenter will win a copy of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide. I’ll draw a name sometime late Sunday and will post the winner on Monday, April 23rd. If your log-in doesn’t link to an email, make sure to leave that email in the comment, so I can find you!
Lani Longshore is a charter member of the California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch. She and her friend Ann Anastasio created a new literary genre – quilting science fiction – with their novella Death By Chenille (available on Smashwords.com). As well as writing the sequel (When Chenille is Not Enough), she teaches quilting and makes art quilts. Her weekly blog follows her adventures in the sewing room.
The Tri-Valley Writers’ Way to Critique
I am pathetic without a deadline. Writing may be in my blood, but the stories collect like plaque on the arteries unless I have a date circled on the calendar. Years ago I joined a writing circle – a critique group by any other name – but it disbanded when two of the women got full-time jobs and one went back to school.
Eventually, I joined the California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch. One of the first things the Tri-Valley Branch did was start a critique group. Hector Timourian volunteered to run it. He arranged for us to meet monthly at a Barnes and Noble. The group started with five regulars and a few drop-ins.
Then the group grew. In one year, membership went from five to fifteen. It was becoming unwieldy to discuss so many pages on one night. We posted our work ahead of time, so that the entire meeting could be devoted to commentary rather than reading, but there were still too many people in the group.
As sad as it was to split, we decided that was the only solution. This turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to critiquing at our branch. The first group to spin off was comprised of those of us working on novels.
I joined that first novel group. We made very few changes to the system that had worked so well in the original group for the first few months. We already had a strong working relationship, so we felt confident we could adapt to changing circumstances. This is exactly what happened, and after two years we are still a productive, committed group.
The original critique group has also adapted. A year after the first spin-off, another novel group was established. The branch recognized the value of training new members to be good critiquers. Now anyone interested in joining a critique group starts with Hector’s. New groups spin off from it when they are ready. Members learn how to give constructive, useful comments under the guidance of experienced critiquers. More important, they learn to accept constructive, useful comments to become better writers.