Critique Groups

Critique groups are integral to writing, and some would say a faction such as this gives breath and life to ones work. I know I usually begin my posts with the title in mind, and somewhere along the way go into a left turn that leads me one hundred miles in another direction. But, this time it will be deliberate. For us old timers (I mean how long we’ve been writing or trying to write), we know a few things that happen at a critique session:

  1. Bringing your work before your peers to obtain feed back on what has been produced in the past month or since you last met;
  2. Brainstorming – bouncing ideas around for those who are stuck in a plot, scene, chapter beginning, ending, etc.;
  3. Reviewing your work for grammar, structure; and
  4. Motivation – spiritual and intellectual.

I joined New Jersey Romance Writers (NJRW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA) twelve years ago, just as I moved from Rockaway, New Jersey to East Brunswick. Then, through NJRW I became hooked up with a group of women calling themselves, “The Lusty Ladies,” who I must say left an indelible work ethic on my craft as well as my heart.

Once a month the six of us would meet, right after work for me, at a members’ home where we’d begin the evening with pizza, and someone always managed to bring desert. Back then, only one of the six held bragging rights to being published.  Then, maybe a year before I moved here to Virginia (give or take), we took in another member who had stories published in True Confessions Magazine. Everyone usually read something at every meeting.  We would share stories, our written fiction works, as well as an account of our day-to-day lives since we were together last.  And, if anyone knows anything about writing, they are aware a writer’s story is their baby; they’ve sweated, cried, and agonized over its formation – so the person with whom the tale is shared becomes a confidant – almost as intimate as the doctor delivering a son or daughter, theoretically that is.

Growing up in the city, I think helps some of us develop a thick skin; some of us…maybe. I must say for the newbie out there, you have to bite the nail and dive right in, because as one of my critique buddies said, “otherwise you’re writing in a vacuum.”  Okay, so if you go in “thin-skinned,” after a few months, your hide should be toughened enough for anything.  But, you cannot trade the hours spent learning in such a setting. Along the way, I got in my head to take some courses at a school for creative writing.  After I finished the classes, I wrote a piece for one of the trade newsletters comparing that experience with the local chapter. What I said in that article still holds true today. Everything taught in those courses, I already knew. Why? Because of all the information picked up from the work shops, meetings, my special bond with my critique buddies, and those many critique sessions. I am in the process of looking for another group, I’ve had two since I’ve lived in Virginia. But, I have to say, and I must be candid here, I have this fear that I’ve been spoiled for life.  I don’t think I will ever; can ever find another party of women who can equal the professionalism and camaraderie found with “The Lusty Ladies.” Thanks guys, and I just want to say how much I miss our little meetings.

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Critique Groups

Critique groups are integral to writing, and some would say a faction such as this gives breath and life to ones work. I know I usually begin my posts with the title in mind, and somewhere along the way go into a left turn that leads me one hundred miles in another direction. But, this time it will be deliberate. For us old timers (I mean how long we’ve been writing or trying to write), we know a few things that happen at a critique session:

  1. Bringing your work before your peers to obtain feed back on what has been produced in the past month or since you last met;
  2. Brainstorming – bouncing ideas around for those who are stuck in a plot, scene, chapter beginning, ending, etc.;
  3. Reviewing your work for grammar, structure; and
  4. Motivation – spiritual and intellectual.

I joined New Jersey Romance Writers (NJRW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA) twelve years ago, just as I moved from Rockaway, New Jersey to East Brunswick. Then, through NJRW I became hooked up with a group of women calling themselves, “The Lusty Ladies,” who I must say left an indelible work ethic on my craft as well as my heart.

Once a month the six of us would meet, right after work for me, at a members’ home where we’d begin the evening with pizza, and someone always managed to bring desert. Back then, only one of the six held bragging rights to being published.  Then, maybe a year before I moved here to Virginia (give or take), we took in another member who had stories published in True Confessions Magazine. Everyone usually read something at every meeting.  We would share stories, our written fiction works, as well as an account of our day-to-day lives since we were together last.  And, if anyone knows anything about writing, they are aware a writer’s story is their baby; they’ve sweated, cried, and agonized over its formation – so the person with whom the tale is shared becomes a confidant – almost as intimate as the doctor delivering a son or daughter, theoretically that is.

Growing up in the city, I think helps some of us develop a thick skin; some of us…maybe. I must say for the newbie out there, you have to bite the nail and dive right in, because as one of my critique buddies said, “otherwise you’re writing in a vacuum.”  Okay, so if you go in “thin-skinned,” after a few months, your hide should be toughened enough for anything.  But, you cannot trade the hours spent learning in such a setting. Along the way, I got in my head to take some courses at a school for creative writing.  After I finished the classes, I wrote a piece for one of the trade newsletters comparing that experience with the local chapter. What I said in that article still holds true today. Everything taught in those courses, I already knew. Why? Because of all the information picked up from the work shops, meetings, my special bond with my critique buddies, and those many critique sessions. I am in the process of looking for another group, I’ve had two since I’ve lived in Virginia. But, I have to say, and I must be candid here, I have this fear that I’ve been spoiled for life.  I don’t think I will ever; can ever find another party of women who can equal the professionalism and camaraderie found with “The Lusty Ladies.” Thanks guys, and I just want to say how much I miss our little meetings.

Integrity

I appear stuck on some tough topics this week.  It’s a funny thing, today’s subject naturally flowed into the context of my last post, Peacemaker.  In searching the meaning of the above word, I noted Webster’s College Dictionary’s description as: Integrity – “Uncompromising adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.  Even though the word is much more, I like to think of it simply as honesty – if I tell someone I’ll meet them wherever, I don’t disappoint.  When I promise someone I’ll bring them anything, no matter how stupid, I deliver (note: this is with the exception of forgetfulness due to senior moments).  On the more complicated side, the word drums up images of trust, loyalty, respect, ethics, morality and truth.  Watch an old movie, and the characters are closing a deal with a hand shake.  That’s how people handled things back then, and for whatever reason I have noticed many people appear to have gone the long way around to avoid doing the right thing nowadays; as though they have forgotten the meaning of the word.

I don’t think it is that simple though.  As parents and grandparents we want to teach and set examples for our children.  We are usually always careful in the messages we send, because to teach one thing, yet do what we want is hypocritical, and that is also an impression we don’t want to create in the eyes of our youth.  I’m certain we all know, they watch that as well.

I remember my first real lesson as a young mother.  I had a Sesame Street album on for my daughter.  Yeah, remember those?  I specifically recall saying to myself – why do I have this on, she is to busy playing with something else.  I don’t have any idea at this point what held her attention, but I decided to leave the record on regardless.  About one week later she repeated something to me, specific of that recording; clear message to me, they are always listening, and watching.

Okay, getting back on track.  At one point in my life I never gave a second thought to backing out of something or just saying no, simply because I didn’t want to be bothered at the time.  I began realizing along the way, doing that may have probably hurt someone.  Thinking about it now, I wouldn’t want that done to me.  I don’t know about anyone else, but stupidity, many times, served as my middle name as a young woman.  Yes, one does learn over time.  Keep in mind, we don’t want to get caught up in the “can’t say no” thing – that’s an entirely different topic.  What I’m talking about here is agreeing to do something, and then reneging.

And lastly, I have heard it argued that integrity is an internal trait, meaning only I know whether or not I have this quality.  While this may be true to a degree, for the most part I think that’s malarkey.  If around a person enough, how could one not know? I think all of that is left for some double-talking politician.  A neighbor, co-worker, book club member, critique partner, whoever, will say – she/he has integrity issues or they don’t.  Since this is as important to me as a good name, I think I’ll take the narrow “Honesty Highway,” thank you very much.  Please, leave your thoughts.

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