Sunday, February 10, 2019

Critique Group Cheerleading

Several years ago, while I was still very much a wannabe writer with barely one badly-drafted novel to my name, a dear friend here in Houston, Andrea White, invited me to join her in a new critique group with another of her friends, Chris Cander. Andrea was already a published YA author (SURVIVING ANTARCTICA, WINDOW BOY, RADIANT GIRL) and Chris had just self-published her first literary novel for adults (11 STORIES).

Chris and I immediately knew we'd get on, and over the next few months we invited three more friends to join our group, all then unpublished writers like - Eleri Grace, Tobey Forney and Mimi Vance. Unlike other critique groups, we decided early on that we wouldn't swap chapters. Instead we would be there as a support group for each other, meeting up every so often to catch up and offer advice, and it works brilliantly. Five years on, I know I have the best squad of cheerleaders any writer could ask for. Certainly, when my own books came out in 2017 and 2018, I was so thankful to have my own personal cheer squad standing beside me.

Of course, it hasn't all been sunshine and roses. We've all had ups and downs with our publishing journeys, but I remember saying, the first time all six of us got together over lunch, how exciting it would be when every one of us would become published writers. I know it's only a matter of time before that happens (they are all so talented, believe me!), and we are getting closer to our goal each year. From out of our group of SIX writers, FOUR of us are now published, and even more amazingly, we have had THREE new books published just in the last few weeks!

I'm therefore proud and delighted to introduce you to these brand-new beauties from my wonderful critique partners, in alphabetical order, along with their retail links so you can buy them!

A moving dual time-line story about the two women and the piano 
which connects their lives.

by Eleri Grace
A lush WW2 romance about Red Cross girls and B-17 bomber boys.
The first in the Clubmobile Girls series.


by Andrea White
A post-apocalyptic young adult thrill-ride about a boy who tries to do the right thing
when everything around him is going wrong.

If you are writing, whether as a newbie or an old hand, I cannot recommend enough the value of finding 'your people'. You don't necessarily need to find an established critique group to join, you just need to find another one or two other writers you think you can get on with, and start your own. Ours was created using the good old friend-of-a-friend method, but if you don't think you know enough writers to make that work, why not talk to your local chapter of SCBWI or any other writing organization to see if anyone else is looking for support? In our Houston SCBWI chapter, there have been two new groups set up in different parts of the city just in the last few months. And if you live in a rural area, have kids to stay home for or have problems travelling, why not set up your critique group online? With video services like Skype and Zoom, you can chat to one or more other people from the comfort of your home. Who knows, you and your critique partners you might end up being life-long friends, all cheering each other as you compete for the top spot on the bestseller list!