As I approach my one-year anniversary as EPA’s Critique Group Coordinator, I want to take this time to congratulate our members. I have met many of you at local events, and we have connected through e-mail and social media. We are writing and illustrating and achieving our goals. We are evolving and growing and making books. I can see our growth in one area in particular—critique groups.
In the past year, I’ve added ten new groups to our Critique Group page. Ten! That is a lot. And that means we are working on our craft. We are supporting each other. We are teaching and learning and putting ourselves out there. We want our work to shine and to be worthy of the young readers who will someday be hugging our books to their chests.
If you are not yet in a critique group, but would like to be, please look at our site’s listings on our Critique Group page to see if there is one open in your area that meets your needs. If there isn’t one in your area, it’s time to step up! To borrow a phrase from the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” I can help guide the way, but it’s up to you, dear members, to build your critique groups. If you are asking yourself, “Why would I do that? How do I do that? What do I do once I get started?” I encourage you to check out my previous blog posts that answer these questions (The WHYs of Critique Groups; The HOWs of Critique Groups; The WHO, WHERE & WHENs of Critique Groups; and The WHATs of Critique Groups). Or, just e-mail me! My contact information is on the Critique Group page.
And now for something new!
You know I am a huge fan of critique groups, and I encourage every writer to be part of one. But what if your group genre, location, and meeting times are perfect, but no one else writes fantasy? Or your group is only a group of two (or even one) right now, and you’d like more (or any!) eyes on your manuscript? Or your group has seen so many versions of your manuscript, they are all blurring together? Maybe you’d like the opportunity to swap manuscripts with a set of fresh eyes; with someone you can trust, because they are local members of SCBWI who are dedicated to honing their craft. Now there’s a place just for you.
I have created a new Facebook group called EPA Critique Swap. Like other manuscript swap groups already out there, this is a place to connect with other kid lit writers and illustrators to swap manuscripts and dummies. But this group is ONLY for SCBWI members in the Eastern Pennsylvania chapter. You must request to join, and acceptance will only be granted if you are an EPA SCBWI member. You may join and use the group whether or not you are already in a critique group. Rules for posting are listed in the group, but here are the basics: Post what you write, the word count you want read, and what kind of feedback you are looking for. Interested parties then private message the author/illustrator, and both make arrangements for swapping work. The expectation is that members will exchange critiques, not just request and receive feedback on their own work.
My hope is that this becomes an additional way we, as creators, can continue to support each other on our journeys. Who knows? Maybe one set of fresh eyes will be just what your manuscript needs to whip it into shape. Maybe a new critique group will form out of connections made on EPA Critique Swap (If that does happen, please tell me so I can add your group to the CG page!). Maybe you’ll make a new friend.
Now, go create!