Thursday, June 02, 2011

Whoa. You're in THAT Group?

When writers (published or unpublished) ask who is part of my critique group, that's the response I usually get.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:
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.

19 comments:

Michele Holmes said...

You just about made me cry, Annette. And I often get the same reaction you do, when I tell people the critique group I belong to. I can trace just about everything I've ever learned about writing to our wonderful group, and I count my association with each of you as one of my greatest blessings.

Stephanie Black said...

Your critique group is way beyond awesome! What an incredible thing to work together and grow together to great success.

Sherri said...

You've made the most of your opportunities and I admire you for that.

Sue said...

You are lucky to have such a longstanding and mutually supportive group.

=)

An Ordinary Mom said...

Fascinating! And I completely agree with you - all of those poets must have been in one amazing critique group together.

I am so happy for you and your group and all your remarkable success :) !!

Krista said...

I love that chart! Whoa.

You are very fortunate, as are they. I have to admit, I have major crit group envy, but any of you have always been there for me when I've needed questions answered and words of encouragement. You guys are amazing. THANK YOU!

Rachelle said...

I love that collage of books and awards. You guys are awesome!

Nahno McLein said...

Thank you so much for sharing the story to your writing group. That's so inspiring, I feel like jumping out the window just to get to the next people in my area to join for a writing group. Amazing, really.

Congratulations on the success.
Nahno ∗ McLein

Sierra Gardner said...

The other ladies in my writing group are amazing - I'm definitely looking forward to a year or two from now when I can say I knew them back when...

Melanie Jacobson said...

Like Krista, hearing about your group has always given me major writing envy, but more than anything, I think your group is the major argument for finding a group that works and being patient while it takes time to coalesce. It took me two years to find my first in person critique partner and we just added one more person. I'm confident that I'm working with the right two people and it makes a tremendous difference in my writing. Even in my motivation to write, because I'm more committed to producing work to read.

Heather B. Moore said...

I feel privileged to be a part of it!

Maggie said...

How wonderful that you've all been there for each other each step of the way. Very impressive.

L.T. Elliot said...

I admit that I've heard you talk about your group before and felt the green-eyed-monster rear its ugly head but I do understand it.

My current group grew out of friendships formed better than a year ago and it's such a blast (and an honor) to work together now. Two people in our group are agented and we have two more in the querying stage. Someday, we'll have several published authors and people might say about us what they say about your group. I wonder what I'll think about that?

Anna Maria Junus said...

I am envious and I hope that I can one day find such a group.

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein were good friends.

Richard said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Somehow I missed this when it was posted. Maybe because I was at Disneyland! But like Michele and Heather said, I love being a part of our group. You are all my best friends and most excellent editors! You keep me writing, even when I want to quit, and you challenge me to become better all the time. You're just like an extra family!

Sheila said...

It is cool to be you guys! It is even better to be friends with you. I am so happy that all of you are experiencing such great success. You have all paid the price for so long and now you are getting the rewards!! :)

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

LOVE this post. Yes, I'm one of your jealous spectators and yet, I wouldn't trade my group for anything. I love my new found friends that I meet with every Wednesday. My writing is SO much better because of them. I love their ideas, and their advice. Thank you so much for writing this post!

Hope Clark said...

Critique groups are awesome. Good ones are a Godsend. They can take an average writer and remold him - seriously. You are so lucky.

Hope Clark
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