Guest Interview: PJ Hoover on Critiquing

PJ Hoover is the author of The Forgotten Worlds Trilogy, a fun fantasy that takes its characters and readers into the world of Lemuria and Atlantis. The series includes The Emerald Tablet, The Navel of the World, and The Necropolis. (The last book will be released Fall, 2010.)          

PJ is also a wonderful blogger, with a positive energy that always warms and cheers me when I read her posts.


I asked PJ a few questions about her experience critiquing and how her critique group works. Read on for some great information. 

BL: Can you give us a brief description of your critique group (online or in person, how many members, what they’re writing, how you found the group, how long you’ve been together)?

PJH: Sure! My current critique group is more a group of online on-demand beta readers. I was previously part of a more formal critique group (20 pages each once a month, 8 members), but a few of us formed a side group to critique extra stuff like full manuscripts. I also contacted a few bloggers whose book reviews I was terribly impressed with to see if they would want to join. They did, and we soon found a nice solid group. Eventually, I dropped from the formal group to focus on the side group. So as for how long we’ve been together, it feels like forever, but in actuality it’s only been a year or so.

BL: Is your group genre-specific or do the members write in various genres? What do you think are the benefits of the kind of group you’re in?

PJH: Our group focuses on MG and YA novels. That’s not to say we wouldn’t read something in a different genre, but thus far the request hasn’t come. The novels are all sorts from fantasy to sci-fi to romantic comedy to historical. The benefits of sticking with MG and YA novels are that we are critiquing the genre we’re all writing in and thus get the added expertise of being familiar with the market while still seeing a variety of work.

BL: What’s the hardest part of being in a critique group, for you? What makes that part worthwhile?

PJH: There’s nothing hard about my current group J I’d say the hardest things in the past groups I’ve been in have ranged from personality conflicts to how long it takes to get through a manuscript. I’m not sure there is anything worthwhile about personality conflicts. I want to have my critique partners for the long haul, so making sure I’m working with people I respect and enjoy talking with is an enormous requirement for me.

BL: If a writer’s goal is publication, do you think participating in a critique group can help the writer toward that goal? How?

PJH: Yes! First off, getting work critiqued really helps us see our work more objectively. It’s so much easier for other people to see what needs to be improved in our work, and their critiques help us see this, too. In addition, critique groups are a fabulous source for networking and support. I consider my critique partners my friends and feel I could count on them for most anything.

BL: What was the biggest surprise for you, about critique groups or the critique process, when you first started participating in a group?

PJH: The biggest surprise to me has been how everyone sees things differently and how getting a variety of opinions can really give us a nice rounded picture of what needs to be improved in our work. Some critiquers may focus on plot while others may focus on character. And seeing as how both are important, getting that variety of opinions becomes essential.

Please answer the next questions quickly, without too much thinking time. 🙂

BL: Do you critique with: Red pen or NOT-red pen?

PJH: Highlighter

BL: Favorite critiquing drink: Tea, coffee, or diet soda?


BL: Do you prefer: Critiquing or being critiqued?

PJH: Being Critiqued

BL: Who would you rather have run the house while you write/critique? Jeeves or Alice from The Brady Bunch?

PJH: Alice—she did everything,

BL: Name one book that has blown you away in the last year.

PJH: Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer

PJH: Thanks so much, Becky!

BL: Thanks to you, PJ!


  1. PJ Hoover says:

    Thank you so much for featuring me, Becky! I am honored!


  2. Terri Thayer says:

    Great interview. I love hearing about other groups. And your James Lipton/Bernard Pivot questions are great. Although you didn’t ask what PJ’s favorite curse word is!

    Look forward to reading PJ’s books.


  3. Amy G. says:

    Enjoyed this! I think having one critique croup emerge as an offshoot of another one is a very common experience, but it can be tricky to navigate. Sounds like PJ did it beautifully!


  4. Great information! I’ve never been in an online critique group and it was fun to learn about yours.
    By the way, Becky, I just finished your book and I’m posting a review on my site. (A positive review!) I am so impressed by the book, found it had much more information than I anticipated.


  5. Thanks for this post and the book recommendation. I am a writing teacher and coach and I lead three critique groups a week in creative non-fiction in my home, I am always interested to read about what others value in critique groups. I’m doing a writing camp for 11-year-old girls this summer and am looking forward to reading Life As We Knew It as a possible required reading for the group. Thanks


  6. Kelly Polark says:

    Fun interview! I’d love to have Alice come and help me a few days a week around the house! (and I might get a discount from Sam the Butcher!)


  7. Super interview. I want Alice too. That woman could do it all. And I would just sit back and write. Too cool to even imagine.

    And maybe Sam would bring in ONLY the best cuts. Mmmm, to impress Alice, of course. Thanks to Tricia and Becky. And “freaking” is my fav too. I can say that out loud.

    Becky, I am almost finished with The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide. It has shown me some stuff with my own story and made me a better critter. Thanks to both of ya!!


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