I was once on a panel with the amazing and wonderful Walter Dean Myers, who is serving now as our National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. (I mostly sat quietly and absorbed everything he had to say.) Walter was asked about the amount of competition and jealousy among those of us who write for kids and teens.
“We are not competitors,” he said. “We are co-conspirators. We support and encourage each other so we can make the very best books for our readers.”
This is a common sentiment among the authors that I know. It may help explain why so many children’s authors have critique groups or critique partners who are also children’s authors.
It can be a challenge to find the right critique group. I went through several when I was starting out, trying to find people whose approach to the work was similar to mine, and whose opinions I could trust. I tried a couple of groups in which I was the only person writing for kids. That was a nightmare. I had a critique partner for a couple of years who eventually soured on the business aspects of writing and gave up her writing. I finally found an amazing group that met once a month for an entire day. I worked with them for almost ten years until I moved out of the area. Since I live in the boondocks and travel so much, it’s been hard to be a regular attender at the great group I found up here. I trade manuscripts with a few trusted writer friends and get feedback that way.
If you write for kids or teens and you are in search of critique partners, your local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators) will be able to help you. (If you don’t belong already, join SCBWI. It will be the best money you spend all year.)
Critiquing friends and other co-conspirators are not just there to point out the holes in your plot. They’ll support you as you support them through the ups and downs of the creative journey. Writing is a solitary craft. Making sure that you have people in your life who respect and understand your work is vital.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
C.S. Lewis, who was in a critique group with J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and others
Today’s prompt: Write about a time when you worked on a creative project with a friend. See if you can go back to your childhood for this.
Bonus points – if you don’t have a critique group or a critique partner, start the search for one today.
Scribble… scribble… scribble…