In my last article, I discussed the WHYs of Critique Groups, and I hope, if you are not already a member of one, that I inspired you to join a group. But maybe you’re now left wondering, “How do I go about doing that?” Wonder no more, because today I present to you:
How to Find a Critique Group
- Writing Associations: SCBWI and other writing associations have all sorts of resources, including how to find a critique group. In a matter of a few simple clicks you can be directed to a list of critique groups near you. For Eastern PA members of SCBWI, log on to scbwi.org and find our local chapter (Pennsylvania: East), then click on Local Critique Group. There you will find a listing of our current critique groups, including contact information. Scroll down to find a group open to new members near you or online. NOTE: If you are a critique group leader and do not see your group listed here (or see incorrect information), even if you are closed to new members, please contact me – Heather Stigall – to let me know. I will add/correct information ASAP.
- On-Line Groups, Blogs, Social Media Groups, etc. There are a whole host of on-line writing and illustrating groups (many free) that offer ways to connect with other writers and illustrators. Examples include 12×12 Picture Book Challenge (fee required to join the challenge); Facebook groups like Sub It Club Critique Partner Matchup, KidLit411 Manuscript Swap, KidLit411 Portfolio Critique Swap; The Writers Match (free – like matchmaker site for writers); and Inked Voices (fee required). The SCBWI Blue Boards have ways to connect with other writers/illustrators looking to swap critiques or form groups, and I’m sure there are other groups you can find through other social media sites that I’m not aware of. Post in the comments any other on-line places you know of that offer ways to join or form critique groups.
- Attend Writing/Illustrating Conferences & Events. Attending conferences, workshops, meet & greets, classes, and speaking events means meeting other writers and illustrators. You’ll often find one or a few people who are looking to exchange feedback on manuscripts, dummies and portfolios. Mix & mingle and ask others if they have a group near you with an opening, or would like to form a new in-person or on-line critique group. EPA has several events coming up. Use these as an opportunity to reach out to your neighbors!
- Word of Mouth. The more you become involved in the kidlit world, the more you will discover. I joined my first critique group by following tip #1. I joined my second group because I heard writer friend that two other writer-illustrator friends were looking join/form a group. And I’ve done on-line manuscript critique swaps because I heard from a friend about someone who was interested in doing that on an occasional basis. Attend events, join on-line groups, follow/friend/connect with kidlit folks on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., listen to blogs, make new friends!
But what if you haven’t been able to find a group in your area (or online) that “fits” (meets in your location on days/times that work for you and in your genre)? One thing you can do is to keep checking back at the EPA Critique Group Listing. Things change often, so you may find an opening later. Second, consider starting your own critique group! It may sound intimidating, but there’s really not much to it, and I (and others who have started their own groups) are happy to help.
How to Start Your Own Critique Group
- Contact Me. I am happy to assist you in getting started. I will provide you with some resources about forming and running critique groups. I’ll also ask you for some basic information about the type of group you want to form and your contact information. Then I can post your group listing on the EPA site so others can get in touch with you. Your group might be just the one others are looking for!
- Attend the Poconos Retreat. Registration for the 2018 Poconos Retreat is open! If you want to “test out” a critique group, we will be having a Peer Critique-a-Thon on Saturday afternoon. You will be put in a group with writers or illustrators in your genre with whom to exchange critiques on manuscripts or portfolios. This is an opportunity to have a fresh set of eyes on your work and a way to see how a critique group works, if you’ve never been a part of one before. You may find others who are looking to form a group there or at the Retreat. I will be introducing Critique Group Leaders that attend the Retreat, so you will have an opportunity to meet many of them. Even if their group is not a fit for you, they will be happy to share any tips they have about running critique groups. If you are interested in forming your own group, you can start a sign-up sheet to collect contact information from interested writers/illustrators. Consider attending the Poconos Retreat May 4-6, 2018!
If I still haven’t convinced you to join or start a critique group, stay tuned for my next post that will address the “who, where, and when” questions you might have. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions or submit comments below. For those seasoned critiquers, I’d love to hear your experiences in finding or forming your critique groups!