6/21/09

Critique Group Profile: Chicago North

I belong to three separate critique groups, all of which offer support and varying shades of purpose in my writing life. I wanted to take this time to profile the lovely ladies who keep me sane and make me a better storyteller. Both roles are equally important and appreciated!

This time around, I'm talking about Chicago North, my RWA homebase. I joined with Liz back in August of 2007. Sitting in the audience at Nationals in 2007, I watched absolute sweetheart Marilyn Brant win the Golden Heart for best romantic elements. The noise that her Chicago North cheering section made was unbelievable. I remember thinking, "I want to be with those girls!" So when I returned home, I looked up their site and roped Liz into coming with me.

(By the way, Marilyn went on to sell ACCORDING TO JANE as a trade paperback release with Kensington.)

At our first meeting, Liz and I knew that Chicago North was something special. They're a critique chapter, known throughout the RWA ranks as having the ability to dish is out, suck it up, and produce some amazing published authors. Seriously, I started making a list but then decided it would take too long: A-Ma and Mc-Z.

I joined on that first day, and I've only missed a handful of meetings in the last two years. They cheered like mad when I announced my sale, and they've ripped up works-in-progress on two different occasions, both times making them better in ways I couldn't have done on my own. Reading for the group is like taking a survey of the very best minds in romance and asking: Does this work?

And on a twice-monthly basis, I get to put on my thinking hat and offer my opinion regarding other peoples' stories, which invests me personally in their success and gets me thinking about what works and what doesn't. Active critiquing makes me a better writer. It's that simple.

Since joining, I've become involved in helping the chapter function, twice serving as the historical coordinator for our annual spring contest, Fire & Ice. In December, I was elected Manuscript Chair, which means I get to run the critique sessions that I so admire and appreciate. I'll also be head of the workshops committee for the 2010 Spring Fling conference. Very exciting!

So that's my chapter, and that's the third of my three very influential, very essential critique groups.

It's no wonder I'm writing an article on crit groups for the December issue of Romance Writers Report. Granted, the topic is "when to leave your critique group and how to do it," but I certainly have a solid perspective on what makes for a good group! And yay for more articles and free ad space!

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