Join us in the all as we visit with Hillary Homzie, author of QUEEN OF LIKES. There’s a Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a $50 Amazon/BN GC!
How do I feel about critique groups? I love them! My critique group is my writing family, and they truly support me. When nothing is going right, there are there. When everything is going right, they are also there. However, not all critique groups are created equal. In fact, sometimes critique groups can go very wrong and become an out and out distraction. Just like you want to seek out personal relationships that are healthy and supportive, you need to do the same with a critique group. It needs to be mutually beneficial for all the participants. While I’m currently in a critique group that offers helpful foundational support and friendship, I’ve been in critique groups that were not as productive, and here are two main reasons why:
• One Bad Egg
Yup, one bad egg spoils the critique group. Let me explain. When I lived in New York, I had a critique group that on paper looked amazing. One member was an editor of a major woman’s magazine, another had a book scooped up by Simon & Schuster. However the fourth member of our group, although a lovely person, ate up way too much time and spiked frustration. She brought the same picture book manuscript (called The Magic Dollar) week after week after week. And even though we offered her substantial and substantive feedback, she always brought back the very same picture book unaltered.
• Size Matters
A group that is large is unwieldy. A group that is too small doesn’t offer enough opinions. I think that critique groups probably work best with four people. Although three works for some and, for others, groups of up to six is optimal. It really depends on how much time you can spare. I have been part of giant critique group of 10 people. And I think those are tough just because you have to sit for such a long time and especially if they’re not timed–one person could monopolize 45 minutes, and then by the time it’s the 10th person’s turn, it’s 10:30-11:00 p.m. and people start to leave!
However, there are solutions to these problems.
For example, with one bad egg, as hard as it is for me to say this, I will–you need to fire them. I didn’t do that. But I should have. Instead, I cheated and moved to Philadelphia instead.
And I think for a limited amount of time big groups can work. However, eventually I’d recommend splintering off into two separate groups and then meet together collectively for social time.
Start your own Group
When I first moved to Philadelphia, I remember asking a friend from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators if I could join her group. And the group said no because they were full. At the time, I remember feeling a little hurt. But as I look back on it now, I applaud the group. They had something that was working and why mess with that?
So what do you do when the critique groups that you’re interested and are closed? Well, you start your own. I’ve done this many times to great success. There are many ways to start a group.
Where to find groups:
-Writerly Facebook groups.
-Writing organizations such as the Society Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators with critique group coordinators.
-The old fashion way–post in your notice in your local library.
Find a critique partner
Also considering swapping with just with one person (or more). I have a few people that I do this with (and one very intensely). After all, sometimes having one critique group is not enough. Perhaps your critique group only meets once a month and you have a need for more frequent feedback. Or maybe you’re looking for some fresh eyes.
Try a virtual critique group
My critique group meets in person. We all live in the same area of the Northern California but I have another online critique group that meets four times a year through Skype or Google Hangouts. We pick one person’s full-length novel to read and discuss. In addition, we have a Facebook group, and through this group, we also ask if people are willing to read something shorter. I really appreciate having some fresh eyes on a longer work. In essence, having a group that only meets four times a year is like having an organized group of Beta Readers. Beta Readers are readers who give honest feedback to an author after she is finished a work-in-progress. However, most Beta Readers do not know you. You simply send them the manuscript and a list of questions.
Whether you choose to have a critique group or not, make sure you surround yourself with supportive friends and peers. The most important thing is to feel supported and encouraged as the road to publication can be full of steep climbs, potholes and some slippery ice. But it can also be a lovely drive through sweeping vistas and incredible scenery. Isn’t it nice to have friends to share both the ups and downs? I think so. What’s been your experience?
Like everyone at Merton Middle School, Karma Cooper’s smartphone is almost another body part. She’s obsessed with her LIKES on Snappypic. When her parents shut down her social media account and take away her smartphone, Karma’s whole world crumbles. She has to figure out what she actually likes and how to live life fully unplugged. This book will jumpstart conversations about how social media is changing the ways tweens are growing up.
Enjoy an excerpt:
“So we’re come up with a new punishment,” says Dad. “Something that will get your attention.”
Dad looks at Mom and Mom looks at Dad and I can tell that they are a united front against me. “We’re going to close your Snappypic account,” states Dad.
“What?” My stomach dips as if I’ve just dropped from highest part of a roller coaster. I want to flop against the nearest car in the parking lot. “You can’t do that. It’s my account. It’s private. You can’t.” Every day, I get smiley faces and hearts and balloons and LIKES. All of the time. Waking up and not being able to se what my followers are up to? Being totally cut off like that? My parents might as well send me to Antarctica because I’m going to be frozen out of everything. “This must be some kind of hallucination,” I say. “The parents I know would never do this to me!”
“Karma, I’m sorry,” says Mom. “But I think you are over-reacting. You knew the rules.”
“Please.” I clasp my hands together. “Please, please. Please. I’ll do anything. I’ll babysit Toby as much as you want. I’ll clean the house every single day. I’ll make dinner I’ll—”
“It’s a final decision,” says Dad.
“But I’m like… a professional. I have more followers than some companies.”
“Exactly our point, Karma,” says Mom. “You’re not a company. You’re our daughter and still a kid. And I don’t really love this obsession of yours.”
The parking lot is practically spinning. “You just don’t want me to grow up!” I fling up my arms. “Please,” I beg. “Don’t do this.”
About the Author:
Hillary is the author of the tween novel, THE HOT LIST (Simon & Schuster/M!X) which Booklist says “captures the angst of young teen friendships and fragile identities.” She’s also the author of the middle grade novel, THINGS ARE GONNA GET UGLY (Simon & Schuster/M!X), a Justice Book-of-the-Month, which was just optioned by Priority Pictures, and the forthcoming QUEEN OF LIKES (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin M!X, April 2016), which is about social media, as well as the humorous chapter book series, ALIEN CLONES FROM OUTER SPACE (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin), a Children’s Book-of-the-Month Best Books for Children. Emmy-nominated Suppertime Entertainment developed the books to become an animated television series and it was sold to ABC Australia. Hillary’s young adult fiction has been published in TEEN MAGAZINE and anthologized (MUDDVILLE DIARIES, Avon Books). She has sold non-fiction and fiction projects to Klutz Press/Scholastic Books, The Learning Company and John Muir Books. With her frequent writing partner, Steven Arvanites, she has had film projects developed by Brooklyn Weaver’s Energy Entertainment. Hillary got her start performing and writing sketch comedy Off-Broadway, and was a Heideman Playwrighting Award Finalist. Hillary holds a master’s degree in education from Temple University and a master’s of arts degree from Hollins University in children’s literature and writing. Currently, she’s a visiting professor of children’s literature and writing at Hollins University.
Here’s a link to the song QUEEN OF LIKES which was written just for the book. It’s a wonderful song. https://soundcloud.com/ari-eisenberg/queen-of-likes