Member Monday: Critique Groups in New England and Beyond, Part 2

Happy Monday Morning! I am slowly adjusting to the dry, cold and snowy weather that is  Maine (read: not Puerto Rico). I’m so glad that you are here to read Part 2 of my interview with NESCBWI Critique Coordinator, Stacy Mozer. If you missed Part 1, take a look here.

Today we talk about critique group conflicts, intellectual property, and setting structure norms. How does your crit group deal with these issues? What do you get from your writing pals? Join the discussion and leave a comment.

Hey Stacy, welcome back. Sometimes crit groups are made up of long-time friends and sometimes they are constructed of writers and illustrators who have just met. Either way, there are bound to be issues. What if a group is having problems with a member? Are you (as crit group coordinator) available to help? What types of problems do crit groups have?

Critique groups certainly can have issues with members. The best way I’ve seen it handled is to go back and review the group’s norms (which should be set up at the first meeting). If that doesn’t change a member’s behavior, the critque group leader needs to have an honest conversation with the member, which I am happy to help with either by coaching the leader or making the call. If things continue not to work, it is time to part ways.

Some people are reluctant to join a crit group because they are afraid someone will steal their ideas. What are your thoughts about crit groups, the SCBWI community, and intellectual property?

You have ownership of what you write, even if you don’t have a copyright on the work. If a member is still worried, set up email submissions. That gives the file a date stamp you can use if it should ever come to it.

I know that a crit group can ask important questions that make a manuscript tighter, but what other benefits do you hear about?

The critque group is your tribe, a group of people who are there to help you survive. Make sure to leave time during group meetings to share more than your work. It will help keep you going through the very slow process that is writing and publishing a book.

Is there a structure for reviewing work in an SCBWI crit group that is standard? What does it look like?

Each group needs to set up their own norms. Some like to submit work before, some like to bring it. Some critique into the circle, everyone talking when they have an idea. Others like to go around, giving each person a chance at critique. There really is no “one right way” to do it. It’s a good idea to take a step back every so often and review the group’s norms to determine which are working and which need to change. I also find it helpful to type up the group’s norms so that they can be reviewed later. One of my leaders sends new members the group’s norms before their first meeting.

What are the differences between online crit groups and in person groups? Structure, relationships, etc.

I don’t know if there is a good answer for this question every in person and online group is different. I can tell you that SCBWI is creating a new website which will make finding online groups much easier. They are hoping to have that up and running by the summer.

I know that our Illustrator Coordinator, Casey Girard is working on a new illustrator sharing blog. How many of the crit groups are for illustrators?

At this point we have few open illustrator groups. We do have illustrators that belong to picture book groups if they are author/illustrators. I would like to see this area grow in the future.

Thank you so much, Stacy. I wish you luck on your current WIP!

Your welcome, Anna. For more information, members can look at past NESCBWI News. I write a column each month that focuses on some area of critique groups.

SCBWI Members from any region can access the NESCBWI News by logging in to going to the Regions tab>Regional Chapters> click on any New England State>Regional News and scroll down until you get to the PDF links.

4 thoughts on “Member Monday: Critique Groups in New England and Beyond, Part 2

  1. Thanks for this interview. As a crit group leader, I can’t fully express how helpful our group is to my writing process. If you’re not in a group, find one as fast as you can! If one isn’t near you, start one like I did. Be prepared to give your group time to grow. It took my group several years to really get going but now we’re a highly effective group. Two members have signed contracts in the last 6 months and others seem to be getting close. One other tip: Don’t limit yourself to current SCBWI members… one person attended a meeting to “check us out.” She went home and immediately joined SCBWI so she could be part of our group.

  2. Great point about giving the group time to grow, Michelle. A crit group really evolves over time, loosing members, gaining members, and coming together emotionally and in terms of craft.

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