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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Don't Be Afraid

Writing/critique groups are immensely helpful. I've been critiquing with one group of writers for four years and what a joy it has been to see each other get published and realize that each of us had a little bit, or a lot, depending on how you look at it to do with that success. During that time, I've also met with other groups, submitted manuscripts for evaluation at conferences, etc., and every time, whether I agreed totally with the critique or not, I have found them to be helpful. Sometimes, it just gets me thinking - how did the reader see it, what could I have done differently to lead them where I wanted them to go?

I was terrified in my first critique. My years of professional experience in management, which often included speaking to hundreds of people in workshops, went right down the tubes. I will never forget sitting in the Barnes & Noble cafe in Destin, Florida, feeling like I was five years old and attending my first day of kindergarten and knowing beyond any doubt that my parents' expectations of me were never going to be met. Thank God, I hadn't eaten before coming and was just sipping on Coke, or I might have lost my cookies right there in front of all those people I was trying to impress.

I quickly learned when the lady across from me was dripping water and trying to pretend it was a hot flash - at twenty-something? - I don't think so, that she was as nervous as I was. We were saved when the show-off at the table decided to read hers first. It was horrible, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Talk about flight of ideas. We had been given instructions before hand, and I drew heavily from the "say something positive first" side of the handout. There was no plot, so I couldn't go there. There was no setting, so I couldn't go there. I did what we all do from time to time. "Interesting idea. Interesting characters. I liked the way so & so responded to so & so." And in that moment I realized, every piece has some redeeming value. Sometimes you have to plunge to the depths to find it, but it's there somewhere. I would like to tell you my short story got rave reviews, but alas it didn't. It did, however, have a plot, and the other writers at the table did find it, so I felt pure success. {It doesn't take much to push me along.}

There are on-line groups, local and national writing organization groups, library groups that have critique groups, so go on-line and you're bound to tumble into something. It may take a few tries to get the group that fits your needs the best, but the value-in-return is worth every painstaking moment you search. {Hope you like the word group.}

A little vinegar with the honey never hurt anyone, and it makes a great salad dressing.


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