Penny Morrison runs the writers’ group Picture This, which meets regularly at the Centre. We asked Penny to share her writers’ group experience:
Writing is a social occupation. Or it can be, if you’re part of a critique group like mine. It’s true that writing does involve some amount of sitting alone at my computer, but I have a group of friends who love getting together to talk about writing and who are happy to read whatever I email them. We can talk endlessly about the latest picture books we’ve read. We discuss courses, competitions, festivals and which publishers to send our work to. We share the excitement of acceptances and, more often, the misery of rejections.
I had trouble finding a group which focused on picture books, so I began one. I went along to a writing course, asked who was interested in starting a group and it has grown from there. We invite editors to come as guest speakers, which gives us an opportunity to get to know their preferences as well as learn from their expertise.
At a regular meeting our group follows a set procedure:
– Someone other than the author reads the story aloud
– We spend five minutes making notes on our own copy of the manuscript
– The author is not allowed to speak while each person gives their feedback
– Feedback must begin and end with something positive
– The author can ask clarifying questions (as opposed to giving a defence) if there’s time
This structure has worked well for us and I always come away with ideas for improving my story. More than this, I leave feeling inspired to write more. Hearing the creative ideas of others is wonderful. Thinking critically about their work is fun. There’s satisfaction in seeing the stories grow and being part of that process. I wanted to be part of a critique group so that my own stories could improve, but I had no idea how much more the group would be. These people are now my friends and without their encouragement I would have given up my writing a while ago.