Monday, February 22, 2010

Critique Group Success: The Main Ingredient

Of the seven WWFC members, six of us have a published book or an agent. On reflecting over the last four years that we’ve been together, I would boil our success down to one main ingredient: cooperation. We haven’t discussed it much, but the Cakers have always worked with the assumption that success for one is a success for all.

With thousands of manuscripts circulating the inboxes of agents and editors, children’s publishing is a competitive business. Competition can bring out various emotions and strategies, and not all of them are helpful. It’s easy to feel that someone else’s slice of the pie means less pie for me. At the risk of carrying the dessert analogy too far -- if I have to eat more pie than you, chances are, I’m going to position myself in front of the biggest piece with my elbows pointed out.

But if we try to succeed alone, we shut ourselves off from allies that could be crucial to our success. Like critique groups everywhere, we read manuscripts. We applaud what we love and constructively critique the parts that don’t quite work. But we don’t just share manuscripts. We lend books, send links to great articles on writing, and share market information about new agents and opportunities.

Could we gain a slight edge by keeping great finds to ourselves? Maybe. But the Cakers have chosen not to and we’ve been rewarded with true friendships and a group where creativity thrives.

The submission process rides like a bumpy roller coaster with ups, downs, and unexpected twists. While it’s always easy to share good news, bad news takes another level of vulnerability. Genuine goodwill and commitment on the part of critique group members makes it possible to be open about failure. And that, in the end, may be our greatest success. Our learning curve has been steeper and faster because we’ve learned from each other about what works and doesn’t work in both our writing, and in the market. Together, we have six times over the experience any of us would have individually.

We’re just getting started, and the best is yet to come as we continue growing in craft and career. But one thing is certain: there’s enough pie to go around, and it’s much sweeter when shared with friends.
-- M.G.King


  1. What a beautiful post on critique groups! My own group is just the same. I'm so lucky to have found them.

  2. I love this post! I'm so fortunate to be involved in a critique group just as supportive as yours. Hooray!

  3. I loved your post. It's true that people work better in groups. It's funny, in college I found that other students in my creative writing class were supportive and honestly wanted to share with others. I liked this part of University, unfortunately, I was an Art Major.

    It wasn't just the art students it was the teachers as well. It wasn't as though everyone was in it for themselves, but the sharing of information wasn't really there. I would never hear of a "call for submissions" unless the art instructor couldn't enter themselves.

    It's not that way everywhere, though it does seem harder to find strong art groups on the internet (or in person) than strong writing groups. Hopefully this will change soon. I think some people don't realize how important it is to connect and share with others. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing this story. It means a lot.

  4. I love this post, Chris, and am working on the WWFC interview for posting over in my neighborhood. You guys model positivity and support...