I’d like to thank Teena Raffa-Mulligan for contributing the first guest post. Yes, we’re related – she took me on as a journalist at a community newspaper and later became my wonderful, wise mother-in-law. She also happens to be a gifted writer and has been writing for children for more than four decades. Her publications include poems, stories, picture books and a novel. She’s presented numerous writing workshops and author talks for all ages and during a long career in journalism worked as a writer and editor on various magazines and newspapers. Visit her website at www.teenaraffamulligan.com or her blog presenting advice and insights from published authors at https://intheirownwrite.wordpress.com Her topic of choice was the importance of critique groups.
Connect and critique to hone your craft
Writing is a solitary occupation. It’s so easy to feel like you’re working in a bubble as you labour for months to produce a manuscript, all the time fully aware that it might never reach a reading audience in today’s competitive publishing environment.
Joining a critique group can offer a vital sense of connection, of not being alone. I didn’t know that when I set out to become a published author. It was more than 40 years ago and I’d just become a mum. Writing had been my passion since childhood but I was absolutely clueless about how to write for publication. I knew no other writers and there was no Internet. I had to figure things out for myself and it was very much a case of trial and error.
Ultimately, persistence and a willingness to learn paid off and during the next 10 years, some of my poems and short stories were published and my first picture book was released. I also became a journalist, and that led me to a friendship with novelist Anna Jacobs after I interviewed her and reviewed some of her books for the local newspaper.
When Anna decided to start a new critique group seven years ago, she invited me to join it. We were an interesting mix: the much-published, industry-wise Anna, plus a doctor, a lawyer, a publications officer/librarian, a records clerk and a newspaper sub-editor. Although not everyone had been published, we all shared a strong sense of commitment and a professional approach. Everyone in Anna’s critique group is now a published author. Sadly, we lost the lovely Leonie Knight to cancer two years ago. For a long time we couldn’t even contemplate allowing someone else to join us but with Anna spending half the year in the UK, we eventually welcomed a new member in 2013.
I look forward to our monthly meetings. It would have been wonderful to have the feedback and support of this wonderful group of professional writers earlier in my writing career. They read my work with a critical eye and I can trust them to tell it to me straight – but not in a way that will shred my confidence.
They keep me on track. I’m such a butterfly, always working on at least half a dozen different writing-related activities at once. Knowing I have to produce my next chapters before our meeting gives me the motivation I need to buckle down and commit to one project. Their input into all of my work, regardless of genre, has been invaluable in helping me become the writer I am today. We celebrate each other’s good news and commiserate over disappointments as we work together to help each other produce the best work we can.
The best thing about being part of this critique group is knowing we are all on the same page when it comes to writing. Only another writer truly understands what’s involved in crafting a manuscript. I’m so glad I found this wonderful group of fellow writers and I hope we’ll continue to support each other for many years to come.