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Musings July 2007

Real Life Critters



Writing is one of the loneliest jobs in the world. Often, you spend hours with only your screen for company. Online critique groups and writing groups can help by expanding your network and providing valuable feedback. My membership of the Muse-it-up Club (and subsequent connection to writers all over the world), has certainly helped me banish the feeling that I'm writing inside a vacuum.


However, nothing beats the immediacy, the warm human contact and just plain fun of an honest-to-goodness, real-world critique group. We established such a group in my hometown. This is how we did it.


Four of us were participants in a local writing class. We'd spent many hours together and believed we knew each other well enough for trust and honesty. We were ready to take our writing more seriously. While only one was currently seeking publication, all of us were determined to persevere and improve our writing skills. We got together to decide on our goals and the practicalities of implementing them.


We met weekly at my home on Wednesday evenings from 7.00 pm - 9.00 pm.  We each brought text of around 1000 words to share orally for critique. The text could be a troublesome part of a longer work or several paragraphs requiring feedback. Once a month each member brought an additional printed text of 1000 words. This was handed out for the other members to critique in hard copy, due the following week. Each member received three oral critiques weekly, and three written critiques monthly.


We established contingency plans. If a member was going to be absent, another would fill the gap. If someone else wished to join the group, it would be a matter for the group to decide. We assessed how the group was going at regular intervals: Was it meeting our needs and how could we improve outcomes for each member?


Weekly meetings went something like this:


a. Warm-up: eg brainstorming topics on a chosen theme.

b. Grammar Guru: eg speech tags.

c. Ten minute writing: eg "Bugs".

d. Oral critiques.

e. Editing: eg deleting unnecessary words.

f.  Problem characters: hot seat.

g. Sharing: examples of best practice.

g. Business: handout for written critique, role-allocation, sharing success.


Our group shared some roles. We took turns in choosing and bringing: writing prompts for ten-minute writing, warm-ups, other writing activities. Other roles were not shared. One of our members was happy to be Grammar Guru every week as he was particularly concerned with editing. The group grammar activity flowed from problems he found in others' writing. I willingly took on the role of recorder and sent out an email newsletter each week, reminding members (and myself!) what was done in our meeting and what was required for next week. Each of us provided support, encouragement and honest feedback to the other group members.


Our group, Write Offs, worked out for all of us. Meetings were relaxed, informal and fun. Sharing the process of skill-development was motivating - we all found ourselves working harder and smarter. It was rewarding to not only get immediate feedback but also be able to ask for clarification or examples there and then. Hearing genuine laughter at your witty, well-crafted sentence has amazing punch compared to a smiley face or LOL!


The virtual reality of online critique groups can be a lifeline for writers. However, if you have a hankering for old-fashioned, real-life critters, get some writing friends together and go for it. Another weapon in your writer's survival kit could be just the shot-in-the-arm you need.




Quote of the Month


Language is more fashion than science, and matters of usage, spelling and pronunciation tend to wander around like hemlines. -Bill Bryson, author

(1951- )


Have you been to these sites?


Two Upcoming Chicken Soup Calls


Baking With Kids

A collection of stories and recipes that bring back fond memories and experiences of the baking experiences you had as a young child. The deadline date for story submissions is December 31, 2007.


Christmas Pet Book

Many people feel that their pets are a part of their families. Do you have a special holiday story to share with us involving your pet? We would love to have you submit it to us. The deadline date for story submission is March 31, 2008.

Meadowbrook Press "is working on a series of hilarious anthologies featuring funnier-than-fiction tales about the 'misadventures' of life." Planned volumes will

focus on weddings/honeymoons, pregnancy/childbirth, and the baby/toddler years. They're looking for "short, funny, true stories" and will pay $50-$125.

Deadline: September 1, 2007. For more information, see About Us


God Allows U-Turns has reopened submissions for three new books:

God Allows U-Turns: Parents Setting Boundaries

God Allows U-Turns: Boomer Babes Rock

God Allows U-Turns: Writing from the Heart and Soul

View submission details at link above.


Here’s Looking at You Contest

Category: Fiction with a cameo appearance by you – the author

Theme: Open

Prizes: $100 plus publication in The Verb and signed copy of Characters and Viewpoints  (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card

Entry Fee: None

Deadline: September 15, 2007

Email entries to:


http://www.bylinesc guidelines. php

Attention Writers!

Contributors Wanted for Bylines 2009

We are now accepting submissions for Bylines 2009 Writers Desk Calendar and

we invite dedicated, serious writers who have been published and paid for their

work to submit an entry. All genres and disciplines are welcome.


NEW Double Dragon Imprint


Double Dragon Publishing bills itself as "The world's biggest independent publisher of science fiction and fantasy e-books." Double Dragon is currently accepting science fiction, fantasy and romance manuscripts. Starting September 1, 2007, Double Dragon will be accepting "literary erotica" for a new imprint, Carnal Desires. Carnal Desires "will offer works of literary erotica targeting mature, sophisticated, uninhibited readers who frankly enjoy character-driven erotic romance novels featuring explicit sensual scenes. We will offer each work of erotic fiction as an ebook, and, if the author so wishes, as a paperback. When we open for submissions on September 1, 2007, we will be looking for erotic novels that feature both high literary quality and supremely original story lines. Not only must vivid portrayals of sexual encounters be integral to a riveting plot featuring fascinating, well-developed characters, erotic scenes must form an essential aspect of the plot. So must romance. We will not consider work we deem pornographic: writing confined to a pointless succession of graphic portrayals of steamy sex intended solely to initiate arousal. Our offerings will engage the minds and the hearts of our readers!"

Detailed submission guidelines are available at link above.






Until next month, write on!




Copyright 2007 by The Muse Marquee. All rights reserved. All authors hold individual ownership & copyrights of any material contributed. No unauthorized usage of any published material within the Muse Marquee unless permission is first granted by copyright owner of said material.