Focus on a ‘Ladies Who Critique’ Critique Group
Jani, Tracy, Ladonna & Juliana met on Ladies Who Critique in 2011. The foursome who reside on three different continents are in contact everyday. I couldn’t wait to learn more about them and their experiences being in a critique group!
Jani Grey: I am a twenty something writer from South Africa. By day I work at a local newspaper where I’m lucky enough to sneak writing in whenever I have a few spare minutes. My boss either doesn’t mind or doesn’t know. I think it’s a combination of both. Oh, and I’m not a fan of shoes in summer, as I’m typing this I’m at work, barefoot.
Tracy Rohlfing: I am from and currently reside in St. Louis Missouri. I am a wife to an ex-marine, mother of a 2yo little boy. I work part time as well as a part time stay at home mom. I’m an animal lover with three dogs. I love movies and books. I started writing nearly two years ago (I believe I’ve started several times before that while I was still in school but have only recently made it a permanent part of my life).
Ladonna Watkins: I’m a Canadian girl exiled to Southern California, and I’m a stay at home mum. I enjoy writing, reading, and running.
Juliana Haygert: I’m a Brazilian wife, mother, friend and writer. I started writing when I was 13 but only about two years ago the hobby status was lifted and I gathered enough courage to go for it. I lived in the US from 2004 to 2009 and have not-so-sure plans to go back next year. *fingers crossed*
LWC: How did you get together?
Jani: Ladies Who Critique came at exactly the time I needed it. It’s that whole meant-to-be thing for me. I was in desperate need of critique partners and had no idea how and who to approach. Then one evening, while I was procrastinating and wondering how on earth I was going to find somebody to critique my work, this link popped up in my twitter feed.
I met Tracy at LWC first. We started chatting on Twitter and had a lot of stuff in common. I thought she would make a wonderful critique partner. I wanted to ask her but I had to do a lot of self convincing and I was also very nervous about asking because I wasn’t 100% she would say yes, so I just closed my eyes and hit send on that tweet. I’m glad I sent the message asking her if she would be willing to look at something I’ve written, her feedback has been invaluable.
Ladonna rocks. She approached me and said she’d seen I was looking for critique partners at LWC and would gladly read something of mine. I jumped on her offer without thinking twice. She gives fantastic, in-depth critiques.
I’ve only recently started exchanging emails with Juliana but I’m looking forward to her thoughts when I’m ready to send my YA Urban Fantasy to everybody.
Tracy: I had been following Natalie Whipple’s blog and she always raves that everyone should have critique partners but I was having a very difficult finding any, much less one. Then one day she wrote a blog post and linked LWC and I flocked to it. If I remember correctly, I believe I met Ladonna Watkins and Jani Grey close to the same time and then Juliana Haygert. After connecting on LWC we kept in touch daily on twitter. Though we live in 3 different countries with a broad range of time zones we usually manage to get on line and chat for a few minutes each day. Whether it’s just a “Good morning/afternoon” exchange or checking in on someone who’s waiting to hear back from an agent on a full/partial or a contest, we all give words of encouragement and I think we each know the other is there if/when needed.
Ladonna: Through LWC, and then following each other on Twitter. It sort of happened.
Juliana: Honestly, I don’t remember who put the LWC link up on twitter, but I jumped at it. I was one of the first to sign up. Then, Stefanie Gaither created a thread on LWC YA forum to share twitter usernames and we started adding each other (if you go there now, you’ll see the four of us on the first page lol). Soon, I was talking to Jani and Tracy and Ladonna over at twitter every day. I was the last one to the critique group though.
There are more writers we met through LWC that we keep contact through twitter: Stefanie Gaither, Melissa Hurst, Jenn (A Single Bell), Jenny Kaczorowski, Kelley Lynn, Allison Merritt, Heather L. Reid, and so many others …
LWC: What were your first critique exchanges like? Were you nervous about handing over your work? How about returning your first critiques?
Jani: It’s only normal to be nervous about sending your work to somebody else. It’s like standing in front of a crowd in only your underwear. They will inspect you from head to toe, look at your flaws and attributes, scrutinize the smallest details and then discuss them in every aspect. It’s nerve-wracking knowing this is happening, especially when it comes to your work. You pour your heart and soul into your writing then hand it over to others so that they can essentially tell you what’s wrong with it, and what’s right. Hopefully there’s something right with it. There better be something right with it!
I’m not going to lie. When I received Tracy and Ladonna’s critiques of my YA Paranormal, I was depressed for about three days. What a wasted three days those were. I just had to remind myself that they are trying to help me. I considered dropping the manuscript but emailed both of them with my thoughts and feelings. We talked it out and I decided to stick with it. Those feelings are normal and I’m not ashamed to talk about it, and when I look back those critiques weren’t even that bad, just a bunch of little things. Sharing them with my critique partners made the difference. If I had decided to drop it, I wouldn’t have entered a contest and received a request for the full of this very YA Paranormal. That’s the difference critique partners make. Sometimes I think we forget how important they are.
When I sent out my first critique within our group, I was afraid I was a bit too direct. I do in-depth critiquing, lots and lots of notes with light editing, and it makes a manuscript look uhm… Let’s just say it looks very busy. But I also remind the writer that those are just my thoughts and she can do with them whatever she likes. The notes are subjective and I’m just one person. Somebody might read it and have a different opinions or views. It still worry about what my partners think of my notes but I also expect them to tell me if they don’t agree with what I’ve sent them or if they want me to critique differently. It’s a partnership of shorts and there needs to be communication. We communicate a lot, especially after we’ve returned critiques.
Tracy: I first critiqued one of Jani’s MS’s. I wasn’t too concerned about her taking my critique personally because I felt we had already established that everyone who receives a critique is defensive at first – I mean, someone is tearing your baby apart. But I knew she was the type to grit her teeth, take it as constructive feedback and use it to better her work.
I am just finishing up critiquing Ladonna’s MS and just like Jani I know she will take the critique and use it to make her work even greater and more polished. Because I think we know each other well enough to know ultimately we have the best intentions for each other’s work. Both of these women are great writers with original stories and as their friend and critique partner, I want to help make their work the best it can possibly be because I believe in them as much as they believe in themselves I want to see them in print just as much as they do.
It’s hard to send any amount of work but if you can’t let people you trust look at it how will you ever let the world read it? They have only critiqued bits and pieces of my work for contests. And every time I’d change it up and resend it they’d point out more things I’d overlooked and make me question why I included something or they would just say “you can make this stronger.” And they were right.
Ladonna: I’ve critiqued before and had my stuff critiqued by others so it wasn’t too painful. However, when I sent my full ms to these girls it was a bit stressful. You’re wondering what they’ll think about your work. But we need feedback it is the only way we’ll get better.
I critiqued Jani’s ms. I must admit it was fun to critique an entire novel instead of waiting for chapters to come one at a time. I find I have a better grasp of the story. She is very talented.
I have yet to read Tracy’s work. O_O. I’m still waiting and waiting and waiting. But I have read the first 250 words of her ms and it is really good.
I like to do a follow up on what they thought of my critique and if they have any questions. That’s important. You don’t want to shut the door in someone’s face.
I have not critiqued anything from Juliana, but she did look at my query letter.
Juliana: So far I only critiqued queries and synopsis from these girls. I know Jani is getting ready to send out her manuscript to us. And my manuscript is also almost ready to be shipped away to them too 😉
Before meeting them, I had teamed up with two other writers, but it didn’t work. We both had completely different tastes and ideas. And they ranted more than supported. So, I’m a little nervous to see how it’ll work with these three ladies. That said, I’m also sure it’ll be great since we get along very well.
Stop by on Wednesday to hear more about their critiquing journey and their advice for other critique groups!
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