Finding the Right Critique GroupGuest Post by Linda Moore Kurth
For years I’ve thought of myself as a children’s book writer, even though my first published book was a romance. Next was a non-fiction children’s book about Keiko, the famous star of the movie, Free Willy, and after that, twelve little picture books I self-published about the Glimmer Glen Elves. All the while I’d been honing my craft, going to workshops, participating in critique groups, reading newsletters for writers and children’s books by other authors. But there was a different kind of story that kept calling to me―a story about my troubled twenty-five year marriage and the conflicting messages I received from the Christian community when I decided to end it. I would have to find a way to tell it.
I began by reviewing my journals, but after fits and starts, I realized that merely transcribing them did not a memoir make. I needed feedback to help me develop the form my story demanded. I asked two of my Facebook writer friends if they’d be willing to critique. They agreed, and I began sending off my chapters. As I suspected, the first two chapters came back with glowing remarks. The third chapter was a different story, however. One of my critique partners became very busy with her family and never did get back to me. I think my writing offered so many problems, she didn’t know where to begin. My other critiquer also had difficulties with the chapter. I tried to identify and fix these problems as I continued writing, but my lone critiquer was increasingly critical. My writing was too choppy, there was too much telling rather than showing, it felt like I was hiding something, and more.
I was bummed. Why was I finding this so much more difficult than my other writing? Despite this setback, I was compelled to tell my story. I wanted to help people walk in my shoes in a dysfunctional “Christian” marriage, and for them to question whether or not it’s right to end such a marriage, and who should judge. I wanted to help women, and men, too, identify possible dysfunction in their own marriages so they could make conscious decisions on how to proceed. But what good would it do if I wrote my story in such a way that no one would want to read it? I had to write it so that readers would stay engaged and relate to my experience.
I’d joined the Skagit Valley Writers League, and at their picnic last summer I confessed my discouragement to the chairwoman. She asked some questions, made a few suggestions, and then invited me to join her critique group. There’s a mix of genres with one other memoir, and all the members are good, active writers. Their critiques are spot on, pointing out the good parts and identifying areas that need work. We meet three weeks out of each month, and they’ve indulged me by listening to a full chapter at each meeting, although mine is longer than everyone else’s work. I enjoy critiquing my partners’ work and believe they appreciate my contribution as well. My online critiquers were happy to be “fired” and just be friends once more.
I’d found my place, and eventually I found my story’s form. But that’s a telling for a different time.
Linda Moore Kurth is currently working on her memoir, SHOULD THIS CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE BE SAVED? A Memoir of Marriage, Divorce, and Faith. She is the author of HOME OF THE HEART, a romance novel recently revised and released as an eBook, and KEIKO’S STORY: A Killer Whale Goes Home, a mid-grade non-fiction chapter book.
Web site and Blogs: www.lindamoorekurth.com
Facebook Writer’s Page: https://www.facebook.com/LindaMooreKurthWriter
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