Teachers Write: Setting Up Critique Groups!

Last week, I wrote a bit about critique groups — and after I blogged, a whole bunch of super-smart writers popped in to  offer tips and leave comments about how their critique groups work. If you haven’t already read that post, you should go check it out before you continue reading here.

Now…does a critique group sound like something you’d like to try?  If the answer is “no” or “mmm…not right now,” that’s totally fine, and you can skip the rest of this post or come back to it another time. But for those who do feel like this is something you’d like to do,  I thought we’d use today’s post to start the process of setting up some groups.  Here’s what I suggest…

If you’d like to start a critique group where you live, or an online group, leave a comment here with the following information:

  • Your name
  • Where you are in your writing life: (beginner, long-time poet, working on 1st novel, agented nonfiction writer, etc.)
  • What you’re working on now or what you most want to write: (YA fantasy, MG mystery, picture book biographies, professional books, poetry, etc. Or you can say not sure – a little of everything.)
  • Where you live if you’re hoping for an in-person group, or just “Online” if you think connected via email will work out better.  Or share both if you’re open to either of those.

(Remember that in-person critique groups actually go someplace to meet and eat brownies and drink coffee once or twice a month, while online groups do all their critiquing and commenting via email or Google docs or something like that. Sometimes, they eat brownies while they do this, too. Just not in the same city.)

If you’re intrigued by all this, but you’re not the kind of person who likes to start things, then you can just hang out and see if anyone posts a request for critique partners in your city, or if anyone who shares your passion for memoir is looking to form a group. If you see a comment from someone you’d like to chat with about forming a group, then reply to it and figure out how you’d like to continue the conversation (email, Facebook, etc.) to work out details.  Then I’d suggest you arrange to swap just a few pages of something for a sample critique, so that you can see how it works out and figure out if you’re compatible in this way. (You can read this piece I wrote for Stenhouse to get ideas on how to offer good feedback.)

Please don’t get stressed about this ,okay? If no one answers your request right way, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer or that you smell like onions or anything else. Give it some time, and if this doesn’t work to connect you with someone like-minded, we’ll find another way.

Once you’re connected with a maybe-critique-buddy, try it out. See how it goes. And understand that this is not a perfect science. Critique groups have fits and starts, growing pains, and bumps in the road, so it may take a few tries before you connect with someone who is the right match. It’s worth it, though. You’ll get great feedback on your writing,  you’ll learn a lot from critiquing your partners’ writing, and you’ll come away with some ideas that you can share in the classroom or library with kids who are trying to help one another improve their writing, too.

Ready  to round up some critique partners?  Fire away in the comments! Remember that the point is to find one another here and then trot off to email or Facebook or Google to talk amongst yourselves and decide how you want your group to work.  There’s a good number of authors planning to visit for Q and A Wednesday this week, so if you end up with more questions about critique buddies, be sure to ask for their thoughts.

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50 Comments

  1. Posted June 18, 2012 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Kimberley Moran
    Beginning Writer. I’ve always written, but not in a focused way like now.
    I have two things I’m working on…a picture book and a chapter book for 8-10 year olds.
    Portland, Maine area or ONLINE. I’m open to either one.

    • Melanie Ellsworth
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Hi Kimberley,

      I just posted a comment and then noticed yours. I’m also in Maine (Warren – near Rockland) and am currently working on a picture book. If you were interested in starting up a critique group, I would be willing to travel a bit to meet. I’m used to driving the long distances required to get anywhere in Maine! I too am a beginning writer of fiction and am inspired by my 2 1/2 year old. Let me know if you want to chat via e-mail or on Facebook. My e-mail is melanie@ducksong.com and Facebook address is melanie.ellsworth.75.

      • Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        Kimberley and Melanie,
        I am in Maine, too, but quite a distance from both of you (I live in Enfield and teach in Orono), If you want 3 in your group, I’d love to join and could possibly meet this summer but do most of the sharing online. I don’t have any projects to speak of-I’m just a second grade teacher who writes about this and that!

    • Posted June 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Hi all! I’m also in Maine, in the Windham area. I would love to be part of a group, if you’re interested. I teach high school English and have numerous works in progress, including a novel that has been languishing for years.

      nataleestotz at gmail dot com

    • Melanie Ellsworth
      Posted June 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      Hi to Kimberley, Kim, and Natalee,

      It looks like we have just about the perfect number of people to form a critique group. I know we’re all a bit far apart in Maine, but I would really enjoy meeting and wouldn’t mind driving for a once a month or once every couple of months meeting. I’m also happy to exchange work over e-mail if that’s more convenient for others. If you all were interested, I could start a Google group that we could make private – might be an easy way to share between the 4 of us and to exchange bits of works in progress. What do you all think?

      • Posted June 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        I would not mind making a drive once a month or once every couple of months to meet in person. A Google group for the in-between times sounds good too.

  2. Posted June 18, 2012 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Andy Starowicz
    Beginning Writer that is working on 1st MG novel manuscript
    Working on: MG realistic fiction and YA realistic fiction (very early stages)
    Syracuse, New York or Online – either works!
    Thank you!

    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Hi Andy,

      Let me know if you’d like to swap 1-3 chapters for a quick critique. If you don’t like baseball, you won’t want to read mine.

      Dana

      • Posted June 18, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        Hi Dana,

        I love baseball! If you don’t like some drama on the beach (how can you not like drama on the beach?:), you won’t want to read mine. I am interested in swapping 1-3 chapters for a quick critique.

        Send me an email at starowiczandrew@gmail.com, and we can work out the details. I am currently finishing my last four days of school, so life is a little crazy, but I am done on Friday (Hooray!).

        Thanks!
        Andy

        • Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

          Sounds great, Andy! I love the beach and l love drama! (I’m a school counselor.)

          I’ll clean up my first three chapters and send them your way. You do the same when you are ready. Good luck on your last week. We finished before Memorial Day. 🙂 Of course, I’ll complain when we start back July 31st!

  3. Posted June 18, 2012 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Theresa Dixon
    Beginning a new blog where I write about teaching, technology and literature. Also working on a chapter book (just beginning)

    Racine, WI or online would be great!

    Thanks!

    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      Hi Theresa,

      I’m new to blogging also (readingtothecore.wordpress.com) My intent was to share my thoughts about the CCSS and how reading/language arts instruction will be affected by them. I have a couple of picture book manuscripts that may really be chapters in a beginning chapter book. I live in Northwestern Connecticut, so an in-person group would be difficult, unfortunately. School ended today and I have curriculum writing for the next week, but after that, I’m looking forward to a summer of writing and blogging. (And reading, of course!) You can email me at cwflynn@charter.net if you’re interested.
      Thanks!

  4. Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Jessica Wisniewski
    Unagented, but hopeful. Have begun agent search, but paused due to revision.
    Working on MG Contemp. (completed, but revising); YA Sci-fi/Dystop. (complete, not revised); writing YA Contemp Fantasy (not complete); I also write short plays. I’d like to continue writing MG/YA and plays
    Romeoville, Illinois (South Suburbs) or Online

    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      Would you be willing to exchange some chapters?

      • Posted June 18, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

        Hey guys,I saw Sarah’s reply below to my post but thought I’d respond here because if you’re both interested in doing an online group, I think we might all compliment each other nicely! I know of some groups that share chapters one week and Skype to talk it out the next… Something to think about, but email is totally fine, too. 🙂 If you’re interested, email me at kellylouhoo@gmail and we’ll try to get this puppy rolling. Well, maybe not rolling. Puppies shouldn’t be rolled, I suppose… 😉

        • Posted June 19, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

          I’m in. I prefer email overall, but wouldn’t be opposed to an occasional skyping (that sounds like something someone does to you with a knife, doesn’t it?)

          Anywho, I definitely would be interested in exchanging a few chapters at a time. : )

          my email is wisniewskijb@gmail.com

          • Posted June 19, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

            Hey there,
            I’d definitely be interested in an online critique group, exchanging one or a few chapters.
            I have one rough draft completed and I’m in the middle of editing it.
            I guess I would call it YA Fantasy Adventure?
            My e-Mail Elliemoreton@gmail.com

            • Posted June 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

              Sorry I didn’t get back to all of you before now. I think I prefer email to Skype, but I do like the sending things out one week and discussing the next idea. Maybe a chat or Skype would be something to try. My email is sarahannwendorf at yahoo . com

            • Posted June 19, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

              I sent an invite to a Google Group. 🙂

  5. Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I’m five chapters in with my MG contemporary ms. It’s about a 12 year old boy who tries to “shake” his awkward friend as he enters middle school. There’s a huge baseball theme with some play by play action throughout.

    I’d be happy with some general feedback, etc. I live in the Atlanta area, but I’m very happy with online critique. I am happy to return the favor (although, I am probably not the best person for dystopia, vampire, or heavy sci fi).

  6. Posted June 18, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Sarah Wendorf

    I have four projects in need of editing/revision and a number that were started and set aside. I’m looking to get back into writing regularly again. I still feel like a beginner.

    Most of my projects are MG/YA fantasy. One is a contemporary younger-end YA about a girl in writing class who is frightened about sharing her work and the goofy fellow band member who helps her. Another project is about a high school student who becomes a werewolf because of a mosquito bite (See what reading Fever 1793 and An American Plague at the same time causes?)

    Southern, WI or online (online would be easiest)

  7. Posted June 18, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Angie Miller
    Blogger/essay writer. Feel like I’m a beginner every day.
    Writing first novel–a re-telling of the Iliad for middle school students. Love honest, hard feedback and ong walks on the beach.
    Live in central NH, but would love online.
    I’ll eat brownies anywhere.

    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      Valerie Stein
      Every page is a new beginning, but writing is like coming home, so I guess that’s why I don’t feel like a beginner anymore. Essays, memoir, blog, and currently writing MG historical fiction. Have a published memoir, and run small print on demand publishing co. with my aging father (in all my spare time away from my library and my writing).Brownies are good for the writer’s soul and I endorse their consumption. Online works best for me.

      • Julie
        Posted June 19, 2012 at 12:23 am | Permalink

        Would you two like to trade work online? I’m a potato chip girl, but I don’ t turn down brownies. 🙂

        • Posted June 19, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

          Hi, Julie, would love to connect. And actually, after chocolate, potato chips are definitely an important food group, so at the very least, we’ll be well fed. My email: vlrstn750@gmail.com . I have Google circles, but have not used it, though it might be just the thing.

        • Sherrie Pryor
          Posted June 20, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

          I’m more a chocolate chip cookie girl but would love to be part of a group who shares writing. My email is: spryor@logantele.com
          so let me know if group needs one more.

      • Posted June 23, 2012 at 12:56 am | Permalink

        I’d like to join an online writing group. I’m in California and I worry about skype time differences, but I’m all in for asynchronous exchanges and virtual brownies. I am working on an fictionalized memoir about raising a child with autism.

  8. Posted June 18, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Micki Fryhover
    I’m working on my first YA realistic fiction novel, but I’ve been a writer in some capacity for most of my life. I think I might maybe write YA fantasy some day. I would love an in person group in the Wichita, Kansas area (I realize that’s a long shot ;)), but I am VERY open to an online group!

    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

      Hey Micki, if you’re still interested in giving an online critique group a go, shoot me an email. 🙂 You can see my comment here for more tidbits on what I write if interested!

      • Posted June 19, 2012 at 12:17 am | Permalink

        Would I be able to join in on the test run with you guys?

        I’m working on a YA realistic fiction, but I’ve also just started a blog that I think I want to be about teaching and I’m not really sure where to go with that. I’ve been a reader my whole life, and writing was a natural extension of that starting somewhere around high school. I’m a pre-service teacher heading into student teaching this fall, so I’m in a little bit of a different boat, from what I can tell, from most people here, but I’d love to join! I’m in the Chicago area, but an online group sounds great to me!

        • Posted June 19, 2012 at 2:50 am | Permalink

          I don’t see why not! I’m not sure how many of us are in yet, but I think 4 or 5 of us should be manageable. If you’ll email me, I’ll set up an email list with everyone on it and we’ll hash out details — how much we send, how often, etc. I’m hoping once a week, and 1-2 chapters I’m guessing, to keep the volume manageable for everyone. And I think once it’s established, it’d be fun to try to Skype or use the google meeting room thing (pretty sure it’s called something else…) so we can have some face time as we work through stuff.

          I love your blog idea and I think it’ll be a great way to reflect on your time student teaching. 🙂

  9. Julie
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I write fiction, memoir, and essays, and am interested in YA. I need some direction since I rarely do anything with what I write. A friend and I are starting a local critique group, but working online sounds good too!

    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      My name is Valerie. I guess I’m not a beginning writer. I’ve a published memoir, and am also co-proprietor of small publishing company with my aging Dad. I write essays too, blog and otherwise, and am currently working on a (probably MG? Maybe YA?) historical fiction, which is in editing/revisions. I’d love extra input. Can’t commit to travel so will say online, though I am in the Edmonds, WA area if anyone else is interested in meet-up.

      • Posted June 23, 2012 at 12:58 am | Permalink

        Valerie,
        If you are interested, I notice you and I are at least in the same time zone. I’m in the Los Angeles area and I write memoir and I blog…

  10. Melanie Ellsworth
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Melanie Ellsworth

    I’m a beginner in writing fiction; my background is more in analytical writing. Right now I’m working on a picture book and would love feedback. I would also enjoy writing non fiction for magazines or other publications.
    Ideally, I’d like to form an in-person critique group, though I would be open to on-line as well (or a combination).
    I’d be interested in meeting up in mid-coast Maine around Camden or Rockland, but I’m also happy to travel further south or north as necessary.

  11. Kelly Mogk
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Kelly Mogk — as probably stated above 😀

    I can’t really think of a time when I wasn’t writing, but I also feel like I discover new things as a writer all the time, so surely I’m still a beginner! 🙂 I do have a couple completed(ish) manuscripts that are rudely yammering at me all the time, so I’ve just started nosing around in the wide world of agents. It’s scary!

    I dabble in picture books, but most of my writing is geared more towards YA and I’m currently working on something new that can’t decide if it’s MG or YA. Go figure! 🙂 I write both fantasy and contemporary, and have always had a heart for the well-spun dystopian novel. I tend to have lots of ideas, write a while, get stuck, feel hopeless, and move on to something else! Would be awesome to have some peeps to tell me to suck it up and work through it. 🙂

    I’d be thrilled to pieces to get a group together in the Fort Worth, TX area, but online also sounds fun! I really need some writerly friends in my life. 🙂

    Oh, and also important to note: I have an addiction to emoticons. >_<

    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      I am in a similar idea boat. Care to swap chapters/try online?

      • Posted June 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

        I’ve been writing for children off and on for years. Pick it up, get tired of rejection letters and pick it back up again because I just can’t leave writing for children! Have received lots of rejection letters, but am finally starting to get a little feedback instead of just the typical rejection letter – I see that as progress. 🙂 I’ve attended a few SCBWI conferences as well.

        I’m finally completely dedicated to getting published no matter what, because writing for children is my true passion and has been for a very, very long time. I have a professional book for librarians which has been published, Once Upon a Sign, and I am just starting a new website: http://www.writingforchildrenlive.com where free teleconferences with published authors will start being held this fall (to help educate us aspiring authors).

        I write picture books and also am working on a MG/YA (still trying to figure that out as well!) novel which I think may be a series also..still figuring it all out but have a general theme/plot worked out, as well as a few pages of writing.

        I’d love to touch base with an online critique group! 🙂

        • Posted June 30, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

          Uh-oh, after looking at my post, it looks like I’ve got a thing for emoticons too. 🙂

  12. Georgia Parker
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I am currently 18 chapters into a YA realistic fiction novel whose working title is Breathe. I would really like to exchange a couple of chapters with another aspiring writer. I have done a little bit of online critiquing and am very interested in doing more. I live in Winter Springs, FL.

  13. Sara Vandenberg
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Sara Vandenberg-
    Posting online with over 700 other writers is a little overwhelming while also teaching — I have trouble sorting through all the posts. A small group would be easier to keep in touch with.

    Me:
    * Long-time poet (writing for myself), and slowly developing a 1st novel idea.
    *I write poems randomly, and now am sketching out a YA fantasy novel (for the older reader), centered more or less in the here & now, with an added perspective or two.
    *It’s time to write now that an larger idea/framework has finally gelled.
    *Eastern Colorado, or onlline

  14. Posted June 18, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Hey, folks…make sure in addition to posting your own call for critique buddies, you also read through the comments. I’m guessing some of you who have posted may want to swap a chapter or two to see if your styles fit.

    And again – I said it before, but be patient with this and don’t worry if you don’t get responses right way. Lots of people aren’t quite ready for this step yet, so it may be a bit before the conversations here grow more widespread.

  15. Posted June 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Jamey
    Writing since 5th grade…
    Working on 3 novel ideas, but one has about 6 chapters
    Online works, central Nebraska

  16. MsJenx
    Posted June 20, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Rian Jenkins of Columbia, SC

    Where you are in your writing life: Long time Poet and fiction writer, seek to publish nonfiction and fiction novels and books of poetry that I am currently meet them.

    What you’re working on now or what you most want to write: I go back and forth between poetry, and potential novels.

    Working online through email, blogs, phone, etc is better.

  17. Posted June 30, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Kate,

    I need the link to your book again. I love your comments on how to do a critique and I basically do the same thing. I do have a question. What do you say when a piece you read feels like a first draft and the setting doesn’t feel authentic? I mean, how do you do this and still be upbeat and not too negative? I’m having a really hard time with this one.

  18. Nanette
    Posted June 30, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Hello… I am editing a YA fantasy novel. At least I think it could be considered young adult, maybe it’s just a fantasy novel. It has 79,000 words right now.

    If anyone wants to do some swapping let me know. I’m actually more interested in getting input on the second half of the novel. I think that’s the part that needs more work. If you want to read the first part we can make arrangements.

    I have a goal of getting through my first edit by the end of July. It should be doable but I need lots of help!

    I read SciFi, Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, and whatever else trips my trigger at the time.

    Nanette

    • Nanette
      Posted June 30, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I should say, I’m in NW Iowa and feel rather isolated from the rest of the writing world.

    • Nanette
      Posted June 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      I’m also having a hard time finding e-mails for people! If anyone wants to contact me I can be reache at nanfladung (at) gmail (dot) com

      I’d be interested in an online group and have multiple chapters to share!

  19. Posted July 1, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Lyssa 🙂 (mymommyreads@yahoo.com)

    I’m a beginning writer working on a picture book. I blog about my son and teaching and guest post for Parenting Magazine’s blog. I love blogging because it feels like talking and I’m a talker!

    I would love to connect in person, but if not, online works too! I’m right outside Atlanta.

    Thanks guys!

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