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Get Thee to a Crit Group

My newest picture book, WHEN SPIDER MET SHREW (illustrated by Genevieve Cote and published by Groundwood Books), is about a group of unlikely creatures – Spider, Shrew, Bat, Possum, Dog, and Pony – who find friendship, compassion, and community in each other.

Although the story was inspired by two viral videos about sweet and quirky animal pals, the heart of the book — the message that helping someone in need can sometimes fulfill needs of our own — calls to mind something a little closer to home. Specifically, my crit group.

Whenever I’m asked to offer writing advice to hopeful up-and-coming authors, after “read, read, and then read some more” my #1 suggestion is “find yourself a critique group”. Why? In addition to friendship and support, you’re guaranteed to evolve into a much better writer. That’s because giving feedback is more useful to your creative growth than receiving it. Those of you already in a crit-group of your own are likely nodding your head in agreement at this point. And those of you who aren’t, please take a second and read that last part again so it sticks.

Giving feedback is more useful to your creative growth than receiving it.

How is this magic possible, you ask? How can helping a fellow-creative in need end up fulfilling creative needs of our own? How can giving be more beneficial than receiving? Simple. Because by picking apart someone else’s writing, considering its strengths and weaknesses, and analyzing what works, what doesn’t, and why, you’ll gain practical, hands-on tools and learn oodles about the craft of writing.

Case in point: yours truly.

When I first started on my publishing journey, I was lucky enough to join up with a small group of like-minded kidlit authors, all of us looking for feedback, friendship, and advice in this roller-coaster-ride of a business. Over the years, we’ve stuck together – sharing manuscripts, ideas, publishing experiences, milestones, and immeasurable amounts of laughter, tears, (and sometimes champagne). Although we all started out at different stages in our publishing journeys, we’ve grown together as creators – celebrating each other’s successes along the way. I would never have published so many titles at this point in my career (going on thirty books now) if it weren’t for my beloved, wise, generous, and trusted critique partners. And the cherry on top? Every time one of our shared crit-group manuscripts makes it to publication, we celebrate as if it was our own. (Cue the proud book-auntie feels!)

As the saying goes, “Friends are family you get to choose.” I’m forever grateful for my priceless critique-family – this group of unique creatives, with whom I’ve found friendship, compassion, and community. Just like Spider, Shrew, and the rest of their sweet and quirky animal pals.

(Originally posted on L.E. Carmichael's Blog, September 9th 2022)


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