Critique Group Take 2

The first time I attended a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators critique group, I did a great impression of the Bid Red Chicken from Dora the Explorer. See this post for details. In short, I chickened out of reading from my work in progress, a young adult novel titled AESOP’S CURSE. The people sitting around the table were friendly and supportive, but it was my first group critique session ever. My nerves got the best of me, so I chose to listen and offer advice instead of put myself out there.

Well, I’m happy to report that I have shed my Big Red Chicken feathers. I recently attended a meeting of a new SCBWI writer’s group that meets closer to my home, and when it was my turn, I read the first five pages–Chapter 1–of AESOP’S CURSE.

Only a couple of people have read parts of it. My friend Matt read the first few chapters, and I had posted the first fives pages on the YALITCHAT website. I received lots of helpful feedback, which I used to nail down those crucial first chapters. My friend Stacy has read all of it so far. She’s been great, offering encouragement and letting me talk through certain scenes.

So, I have shared it with some people already. Having others read it and give me feedback doesn’t make me nervous. As a former journalist, the write-revise-edit cycle is ingrained in me. I want my novel to be in the best shape possible before I send it to my agent to read. The thing is, everyone who has read parts of it has read it on their own and then sent me comments via email. I’m used to this process.

Reading self-created work aloud in front of strangers is different and nerve-wracking. My sister, who is an artist, understands. As an undergraduate, she would reveal a piece to the class and then stand next to it in silence while everyone looked it over and prepared their comments. Awkward! But a necessary part of the creative process.

Plus, what’s the point in joining a writer’s critique group if I don’t participate fully, right?

When it was my turn to read, my voice was shaky at first. As I went on, though, I sounded less like a robot with the chills and more like my main character, Aaron. My reading fell into a rhythm, rising and falling where it needed to, emphasizing certain words as Aaron would.

When I was done, my critique group offered lots of positive feedback–Thanks!–and some suggestions. Overall, they liked it and wanted to read more. I’m excited to bring the next five pages to our May meeting and hear what the others have written!

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