Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Community of Writers

The Susquehanna Writers have done it again. Five members of our group are featured in the latest anthology from Sunbury Press. And I also have to note that out of the 25 stories, one-third of them are from the Susquehanna Writers. Pretty impressive statistics, wouldn't you say? And even more fun, the writers are CPs.

If you think critique groups aren't worth your time, think again. When we got together 5+ years ago, we were unpublished writers working to improve our craft. Since then, between us, we've had more than 25 books published. This is our first group venture, but here's hoping it won't be the last. And stay tuned for info about a group signing.

If you're serious about writing, find some critique partners to share your work with. Beta readers--friends, classmates, relatives--are great for stroking your ego or pointing out dangling plot threads or areas of confusion. But if you're trying to get published, you need other writers who are studying the craft, working on their own work, and are knowledgeable enough to help you move your work to the next level.

It's nice if you're all writing in the same genre, but that isn't necessary to be effective partners. You may find you need to explain some of the conventions of your genre to your CPs, but good writing techniques are the same whether you're writing picture books or erotica or anything in between. Our group has reviewed stories and novels from a variety of genres: nonfiction, mystery, romance, thriller, YA, picture book, short story, and paranormal to mention a few. And we all learned a lot in the process.

Critique groups are also great because you're all partners in the publishing venture. You not only share advice and techniques, you also share submission tips. And you offer moral support when rejection letters roll in. And each person in the group has different contacts in the publishing world. We also share those. We've introduced each other to new publishers and arranged for crit buddies to speak at conferences or participate in booksignings. That kind of help is invaluable and slowly builds your contact lists. You never know when someone your CP introduces you to might end up as a resource for publishing/editing/speaking gigs.

So get out there and search for some like-minded CPS if you don't have any. If you do, be sure to thank them for all they've done to help improve your skills. And for those of you in crit groups where the majority of you are still unpublished, don't give up hope. Keep plugging away. Study, read, learn. Attend conferences. Bring back the materials for your CPs. One day, you, too, will be holding a group booksigning.

When I was a fledgling writer, I sat at a conference table with an author who was accepting a major award. She told me that her crit group had been together for ten years. They were all unpublished during first five years. Then one after the other, they each got book deals. Over the next several years, they all made the New York Times bestseller list, sometimes multiple times, and every one of them had won at least one a national book award. I was in awe and said I hoped I could find a group like that.

I believe God (or the Universe or a Higher Power) hears when you set an intention like that. A short while later, I ended up in two terrific critique groups. And the members have gone on to get published in many genres. This particular group has reached its fifth year, and we, too, have now all been published. I guess that means those national book awards are next. Can't wait!

Oh, and if you're interested in getting a copy of A Community of Writers, it's for sale at Sunbury Press and on Amazon. If you love libraries, here's your chance to support the Fredricksen Library. All royalties from the sale of A Community of Writers will go the library.

Here's a list of the writers and their stories:

1. Hunting Season - Rayne Ayers Debski

2. Take Care - Margaret DeAngelis

3. Angel in the Mist - Laurie J. Edwards

4. Survivor Barbie - C.A.Masterson

5. A Soldier's Gift - Don Helin

6. Operation Pumpkin Patch - Gina Napoli

7. A Cautious Life - Larry C. Kerr

8. The Green Eyed Monster - Catherine Jordan

9. Smoke - Lori M. Myers

10. Number 11 - Maria McKee

11. The Things She Chose to Keep - Susan Pigott

12. The Surprise Party - Carol A. Lauver

13. an excerpt from "Oops," Said God - Duffy Batzer

14. Swan Song - Ann Elia Stewart

15. Dragon Riders - D.A.Morrow

16. Free as a Bluejay - Madelyn Killion

17. 4:30 - Bob Walton

18. Fade to Black - Kathryn Grace

19. The Nature of Sin - Maria McKee

20. Dead Letters - Susan Girolami Kramer

21. Dissipation - C.A.Masterson

22. The Mirror - Susan E. Bangs

23. Betsy's Delight - Marlene Ross

24. Moving Targets - Debra A. Varsanyi

25. Creature of Habit - Don Helin

So the best advice I can give unpublished writers seeking publication is write, read, submit, and persevere. But most of all, find a crit group. Work hard and meet regularly. Then someday, you will be doing a group booksigning.


Cate Masters said...

Let's set our sights on the New York Times bestseller list!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Let's hear it for the gang! Great work.

Laurie J. Edwards said...

Great idea, Cathy! And thanks, Susan! Cheers to all the Susquehanna Writers for their hard work.