When writers (published or unpublished) ask who is part of my critique group, that's the response I usually get.
Yes, I'm in THAT group. I'm one of the members who's been there the longest.
The next reaction is: How did you get to be so lucky?
Before I go on, let's back up. Here are the seven members of my group:
- Robison Wells
- H. B. (Heather) Moore
- Sarah M. Eden
- Michele Paige Holmes
- J. Scott Savage (Jeffrey S. Savage)
- Lu Ann Staheli
And James Dashner is a past member. (The first chapters of The Maze Runner were read aloud around my kitchen table.)
So yes. Whoa. I'm in that group. How did I get in?
I certainly didn't just get lucky one day, managing to sneak into an amazing group with writers who'd all been published multiple times and won lots of awards.
That's not how we started out. That's who we became.
Below is a collage of our book covers and awards. (This doesn't count the books published by a couple of current members who joined after being published or since leaving the group. It's solely books published and awards received while in the group.)
I know. Amazing company.
So I'm am lucky, in one sense. I've been part of this great critique group for eleven and a half years.
Our group began with a bunch of aspiring writers who happened to live in the same general area. Our only publishing credits were a few articles here and there. We bumped along for a few years, trying to find our legs as we figured out what we were doing. The group morphed over time as members have moved in and out, as goals and priorities for some people changed.
Today, it's something else altogether, and we have the publications and awards to prove it. But that's not a result of sheer luck. It's a result of other things, like hard work and friendship and synergy.
Nearly two decades ago as I sat in a university class about the Romantic poets, I was amazed at the wild coincidence of how the most successful poets of the era all knew each other and were good friends. They hung out together, read one another's work, and offered suggestions.
What were the chances?
I get it now. It wasn't a coincidence at all. The Romantics were essentially an amazing critique group. Their friendship and support are the reasons they were all so successful and why, two hundred years later, we're still reading their words.
I can say without any hesitation that I wouldn't be where I am in my writing career (or skills or sanity) without my critique group.
At last night's meeting, we thought back to our beginnings and talked about where we've come from. We laughed a bit at the writers we were ten years ago, seeing how much we've all grown.
Granted, I doubt we're destined for the history books like the Romantics were. (Although a former member is already a NY Times bestseller, so who knows . . .)
But what I do know is that these people are like family to me. We're there to cheer one another on, to cry together when things don't go quite right. To laugh and giggle and crack jokes that help ease the tension of the writing life. (I think last night's meeting might have had more tweetable one-liners than any other. Too bad my computer and phone were in the other room.)
Our success is largely a result of that friendship and support.
They're ten shades of awesome, and I am, indeed, very lucky. If I have any say in the matter, I'll never, ever leave.