Meet Sally Stuart!
Web site: www.stuartmarket.com
Bio: Sally has been writing for over 40 years and is currently working on the 24th edition of the Christian Writers’ Market Guide. In addition to the market guide she has written a dozen other books and hundreds of articles and columns. She is a writing/marketing columnist for the Christian Communicator, Advanced Christian Writer,Christian Writer, as well as some online publications. Sally is the mother of 3 and grandmother of 8, and lives with her husband, Norm, in .
Q: How have you personally benefited from critique groups?
A: When I was writing and selling regularly, I belonged to a critique group for about 15 years. We met monthly and I never missed a meeting unless I was ill or out of town. Although I was selling regularly, I still depended on the input of other writers I trusted to help me improve everything I wrote. The group I belonged to had pretty strict rules–which meant you were expected to bring something to read every month. Really helped me with the discipline of being sure I was producing on a regular basis. I left the group reluctantly when my time was taken up with the market guide and I was no longer writing regularly for publication.
Q: Are critique groups as valuable to a veteran writer as to a beginner?
A: Definitely. Actually, when I was in the critique group, about half of the members were well-published writers that depended on it as much as I did. It seems all writers have a blind spot when it comes to being a good judge of their own writing. It benefits all of us to have the input of someone more objective. They often helped me see that I had overlooked an aspect of my topic, or needed to show another point of view.
Q: How can a writer find a good critique group to join?
A: Of course, there is a section in the market guide that lists many of the writers’ groups by city and state, but you may not find one in your area listed there. If not, start by advertising for members in your own congregation–then have those members invite others they may know about in the community. There seem to be “closet” writers everywhere. You can also advertise at your local library–or at a local writers’ conference. It only takes a few people to get a group started. In fact, if you are all going to read at each meeting, then 6-8 members is plenty–4 to 5 is enough.
Q: What tips would you give to someone trying to start a critique group?
A: In addition to the answer above about finding members, you will want to have specific guidelines for the group. It is important that everyone commits to bringing something to read each month (or whenever the group meets). I think we allowed people not to read one time during the year. Set up a specific structure for the meetings. Our groups started by going around the circle and having everyone give an update on what had happened since the last meeting (what they were working on, sales made, queries or proposals submitted, etc.). Then as each person read, we went around the circle and everyone had to respond by saying something (positive or negative). You tend to pay closer attention if you know you will have to critique the piece. Instead of reading aloud, some groups have each person bring a printed copy of their piece so everyone can have a copy, read and critique it on their own. Then either just turn the marked-up copy back to the author and/or have a critique session on it after everyone is finished. I’ve heard of other groups where they e-mailed each other the copies ahead of time. If you live in a more isolated area, then you might want to set up an e-mail, round-robin group where you don’t actually get together, but pass around material by e-mail only. I do actually sell a little booklet on how to start a critique group if anyone is serious about starting a group. You can order it on my Website bookstore. It’s called “How to Develop a Professional Writers’ Group.”