“Reading is like breathing in; writing is like breathing out.” Pam Allyn
Most authors and writers don’t write alone. We hangout with other writers who point out our best and worst words, sentences, and stories. I belong to two critique groups. My groups are very different.
Writing Buddies Grace and Winston
My original group, Pens and Brushes formed in 2008. Four of us are seedling members and still stay in contact with a few others. Our diverse members bring a great deal of depth to our community. We trust and respect each other and our craft. Most of our group members are published and/or agented. We represent a variety of spiritual beliefs, cultures, genders, and parts of the world.
Pens and Brushes single focus is picture book manuscripts. One member submits weekly, and the others have seven days to write a thorough critique of the manuscript. All of the critiques are available to all members to see and learn from. Sometimes, there is need for line-by-line edits. Other times our comments are global. If member needs feedback immediately, we have an open-door policy sending at other times.
The second group started in Grand Junction Colorado in 2011 when I served as the SCBWI, Rocky Mountain Chapter, Local Area Coordinator for the West Slope of Colorado. We met monthly at the coffee shop of a Barnes and Noble and held an annual writing retreat in the Rocky Mountains. When I moved home to Oregon in 2015, the group continued in person.
Pandemics manifest positive outcomes. I had maintained my connection to three original members, especially during my adult daughter’s catastrophic health event in 2016. Our coordinator encouraged me to write and encouraged me to return to the group. We now call ourselves STUDIO 5.5 and meet weekly on Zoom.
A mash-up of published and agented writers, poets, illustrators, artists, and photographers, all of us have a history of working with kids, including public schools. Myself and one other share mental health backgrounds with children. Our work history creates a strong dynamic.
Studio 5.5 is unique. The past two years, we have supported each other through loss of family and hardship. We have a young member in our group who shares her newest writing, drawings, or sculpture. She occasionally provides feedback on manuscripts and reminds us of the importance of exuberance and innocence.
Besides great feedback on our written and visual work, STUDIO 5.5 is like group therapy. We share about our week including writing/creativity and the ups and downs life brings. Our members are also available throughout the week for support or creative feedback.
Both of my critique groups are a significant part of my life. Although, we don’t always agree about each other’s work in progress, our safe community is unique and fosters growth. The groups fuel and support the special craft of writing and illustrating for children along with our commitment to providing quality literature for children.