Variety is the Spice of Life

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: December 20, 2012
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Comments: 1 Comment

In a few recent critique meetings I attended, we discussed:

A funny picture book about grammar

A middle-grade novel featuring a magic dog and a missing professor.

A middle-grade graphic novel about a kid who gets superpowers from mud (yes, Muddy Max).

A YA novel addressing (I kid you not) stuttering, music, the Free Speech movement in Berkeley, Hannukah, time travel, and LSD.

A picture book on space.

A picture book about a historical train ride.

A middle-grade novel about a family living in the woods.

A quirky piece of writing about a man with a literary fetish.

A picture book about a wren.

Both of the critique groups I belong to are open to any genre of children’s book writing – and even allow the occasional piece for adults. And I have to say that I LOVE the variety. I may never write a YA novel, but I can learn a lot by reading one closely. Critique group members may have never written or even read a graphic novel, but they know enough about character, plot, setting and structure to give great comments.  And picture books…picture books are just super hard to write – and super fun to read.

So what does this mean for you? If you are thinking about starting a critique group, consider not making the parameters too narrow. (I was once in a lovely critique group with people who wrote everything from adult novels to self-help nonfiction to magazine articles to children’s books.) And if you are in a critique group and you want to share something a little different from what the group usually reads, go ahead. (Depending on your group, you may want to ask first.) My guess is that you all may all benefit from the variety.

So that’s my experience. Is anyone out there a member of a YA-only, a MG-only, a nonfiction-only, a picture book-only, a magazine-article-only critique group? (Or one with any other focus?) Feel free to share the benefits of that approach!



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1 Comment - Leave a comment
  1. I think a range of genres is nice, as long as there is a range of experience to go with it. I’ve struggled in my critique group because I write nonfiction picture books and everyone else writes MG and YA. Since we are all newbies to the children’s book market, it was hard to get helpful feedback for my work, though I did appreciate the support.

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