Thursday, March 18, 2010


"They" say that you can write anything on your blog that isn't illegal, immoral  or...fattening(?).  So today I'm going to vent.

A friend of mine ( cyber friend) was crushed recently when she tried to join an online critique group.  Both of mine are full, otherwise she'd be with me.  So the women in this group are all SCBWI members, which...supposedly...means they are all good writers, honest, friendly and supportive.  Uh huh.

To join this group, my friend, as well as others who were seeking a group, had to send a short personal bio and a "sample of writing."  I should have warned her.  When a group says it wants a "writing sample", that usually means one of two things: either they are ALL published and don't want anyone who isn't, OR none of them are published and they don't want someone who is because that person would "show them up."

My friend is published in national children's magazines.  She was published before I was.  She is an excellent writer, has no desire to write books, wants to continue writing fiction and non-fiction for magazines.  She was turned down.  The reason?  She "wasn't polished enough" for the group.  The interesting thing is that NO ONE in that group is published.  Yet a published writer was not "polished" enough for them.  No...they just didn't want someone who writes better than they do.

WHY does any critique group ask for a writing sample?  Don't you belong to a group to better what writing skills you already have?  Isn't the whole idea of a critique group based on each person helping every other person to learn more and become more "polished?"

I hear a lot of groups are asking for writing samples.  How insulting to the person who is turned down because they "aren't polished enough" or they aren't published or haven't been writing long enough...or what ever other LAME excuse the group can come up with.

It really upsets me.  Critique groups are supposed to be made up of supportive people who want to help other writers get to the point where they can reasonably expect to be published.  Instead, I'm hearing more and more about groups that are harshly critical, become personally offensive, and do nothing to support or help each other.  These are the people who have no business being in critique groups at all.

I started an online critique group three years ago.  None of the women who joined knew each other...we are scattered all over the US and one is in So. Africa.  We started with 6, lost one, got a new one, lost her, and the rest of us ( 5) have been together for the whole three years.  I was published, no one else was, now 2 of the others are published.  We're friends, not just critique partners.  That's what a critique group is supposed to be all about.

How many of you have had bad experiences with critique groups?  How many good experiences?

Think about it.  Let me know.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday's This and That

First of all, I'm getting tired of this page.  I'm going to have to redo my blog to make it more interesting.

It's been difficult to find time to write the last week or so.  Life in general is catching up to me.   Right now I'm behind in assignments, haven't sent out a query in almost 3 months, I'm still polishing my first novel, even though my husband says "Leave it and start querying!", and my historical novel is not going well. Even after 2 years of research.  So what else can go wrong, you ask?  Well, just found out yesterday that I have to have some serious shoulder surgery at the end of April, so that will keep me out of circulation ( to say nothing of writing ) for about 4 weeks.

One of the problems I've had lately is not being able to come up with something interesting to write about.  So last night ( Monday is a lousy TV night) I asked my husband for some help, and we brainstormed some ideas.  Now all I have to do is actually write about them...

1.  Talk about something in the news that you like, dislike, or agree or disagree with.  For instance, what about this season's American Idol?  How do you feel about Ellen DeGeneris as the new judge? are you unhappy or happy about Simon Cowell leaving the show after this year? what do you think about the contestants this year? If you've got an opinion, so do others.

2. Tell a story about yourself...or maybe your spouse.  Five days before Christmas, my husband had an accident at home and was in a wheelchair for 8 weeks, and is now in a walker for another 2. Oh boy!  This has led to all kinds of interesting...and not so interesting...complications.  I could also write about my new dental bridge...I hate dentists with a passion, and the fact that mine was young and handsome did not detract from the fact that I hate dentists with a passion! was a different kind of experience !

3. Share something about your writing journey.  Or if you just happen to be an editor or an agent reading this ( I should be so lucky), tell about some of the events along the way that made you into an editor or agent...or "just" a writer.

4. Teach.  Maybe that isn't the right word.  But what have you learned from writing courses, conferences, books, conversations with other writers/editors/agents that you can share?  We never know all there is to know about this profession we're in.

5. Tell a story. Especially if it is humorous.  I have a post about an incident in a Mexican restaurant in Canada, where I had taken my 16 year old daughters on vacation.  Pretty funny.  Do you have pets?  Do they do strange/loving/funny things?  I have a Blue& Gold Macaw who loves to scare people by screaming "Help! Help!" when a stranger first comes to the house...I should write about him, right?

6.  Do an interview with another writer or, better yet, an agent, editor or publisher.  What golden tidbits of information can they give your readers?  ( I should do this myself.)

7.  Have a contest or give links to other contests.  There are many on the Internet and most people don't even know about them, so spend some time doing research, and then post what you find.  OR...make up a contest of your own.  Just be sure you give away a GOOD prize or no one will enter.

8. Stir up a conversation about a book.  Read any good ones lately?  If you have, probably others have, too.  Give your opinion, what you liked or didn't like, ask 3 or 4 specific questions about that book and ask for comments as answers to those questions.  OR...give some examples of what you look for in a book, whether it is a children's book of the genre you write, or an adult book, and then ask for others' comments and what they look for.

9. Be more about problems that everyone is facing today.  The bad economy, global warming, the loss of wildlife habitats, the drowning of polar bears.  Everyone is concerned about these things ( or should be ), and it's a good way to generate a lot of comments.

10.  Be FUNNY!  I know, I know, sometimes that is hard to do.  I have a very dry sense of humor, so it's not easy for me to "be funny."  But you can probably do that!  Maybe you've heard a really good joke or just watched a humorous video like on You Tube, or even read something funny in the newspaper.  Share it!  People love to laugh, and personally, I wish I had much more of an ability to make them laugh than I do.

I hope this has given you some ideas about what to blog, and you will use them effectively.

Think about it.  Let me know.