By Lenora Biemans
Do you live in the middle of nowhere, have a crazy schedule, can’t find a sitter or simply want to have a critique meeting from your own cozy bed?
There are a million-and-one ways to run a critique group. Here’s how I administer my 100% virtual meeting.
In my critique group, there are five members. We meet on the first Monday of each month at 7 pm on Google Hangouts.
Step 1: THE EXCHANGE: On the Monday prior to each meeting, I send out an email with my
submission attached and everyone Replies All with their submission within 48 hours.
Step 2: THE CRITIQUE PREP: Prior to the meeting, we redline each submission and fill out a critique form.
Step 3: THE MEETING: At the time of the meeting, everyone logs in. Ahhh – four of my favorite smiling faces. The first writer is randomly selected and someone other than the writer reads that work aloud. I set a timer allowing three minutes per critique. The writer thanks everyone, asks any clarifying questions and we move on to the next story.
Step 4: WRAP UP: After the meeting, we email each other the redline and a critique form. Then we get to work on our next submission. That’s it!
To set up a meeting in Google Hangouts, you’ll need a Gmail account and it works more smoothly if you use the Google Chrome browser. Create an invitation on Google Calendar, choose “Add Conferencing” and select Google Hangouts. Invite your members to your meeting. The meeting invitation will contain a link for them to click on to join the video conference.
This is just one way to do it. You’re a writer–be creative and find what works for you!
What if I just want to exchange email critiques? That works too and can be a very flexible option. However, being able see and hear the enthusiasm and critiques of your partners can be a lot of fun.
How many members should be in my critique group? Five is an optimal number.
What if we’re all newbies? That’s okay, but you may be able to sweet talk a more experienced writer or two to join your group (especially if you’re willing to do the administrative leg work).
I have myself and two other writers signed on and want to add another two members, what should I do? Contact the SCBWI Critique Group Coordinator and list your group on the SCBWI Critique Group Page. Other writers can contact you directly and you can choose from among them.
What if someone contacts me about joining my group and I don’t think they are a good fit? As the group administrator, you have sole discretion for choosing your group members.
What if I want to include a writer that is not an SCBWI member? You’re free to create a critique group with anyone you choose, but there are two rules for having an SCBWI group: 1. All members must be SCBWI members 2. You may not charge for membership in your group.
For more info on how to give and receive excellent critiques, please see the Critique Chapter in SCBWI The Book.
Special thanks to SCBWI members, Liz Entwistle Edelbrock, Summer Short, and Rachael Woodward for paving the way for how I facilitate my group.
Interested in learning more about our chapter’s critique groups? Visit our SCBWI-NT Critique Group Page.
Lenora Biemans is a dedicated picture book writer, reader and an enthusiastic member of the SCBWI community, currently serving as critique groups coordinator for the North Texas chapter. She lives in Dallas, TX with her husband, son, and muppety Bordoodle. When she’s not writing, she is immersed in writing courses, productivity courses, and dorky video games. Follow Lenora’s antics on Twitter @BiemansLenora, on Instagram@HowToEmpowerKids, and on her website LenoraBiemans.com.
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