In the last few days I’ve read several blog posts and comments about writer critique groups and professional organizations—some have been pro groups, some have been anti groups, often so opposed that I found myself wondering who had beat that person up so badly in a group setting.
I’ve been a member of Sisters in Crime (writers and readers of mysteries, not a merry band of female criminals) and a smaller critique group for many years and would not have gotten where I am today (granted, it’s not some high, exalted place, but still, I’m happy) without them.
So, without further introduction, here are my Top 5 Reasons for Joining and Sticking with Sisters in Crime. Tune in next time (either this weekend or Monday) for my 5 reasons for sticking with a critique group, which has occasionally been known as the Thursday Night Slashers, but generally isn’t really known as anything fancy.
I’m not a joiner. I’m perfectly happy sitting at home in my pajamas (like right now, they’re bright green with flamingoes, how could I not be happy?) and writing about Redneck Tarot, Fiona and Eyeball Tate, and murder in the fictional town of Grand Junction, Georgia. But honestly, if you don’t ever go out and see other people, find out what they think and like and dislike and how they react to words and deeds, you can’t write well-rounded characters—or at least I can’t.
The opportunity to meet smart, nice, supportive, interesting people. Sisters in Crime started in 1986 by women mystery writers who realized that women writers were paid less, reviewed less, and generally received less respect than male writers. And they got together to do something about it. Twenty+ years later Sisters in Crime is an international organization with thousands of members, both male and female, readers and writers, which offers support and encouragement to people from beginning writers to professionals who’ve written many books.
The chance to hear fascinating speakers at our Atlanta Chapter meetings, from Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents who have walked us through fascinating cases to editors like Chris Roerden, who’s book “Don’t Murder Your Mystery” and talk to our group helped make my mystery “Redneck Tarot” something that a real-live New York agent agreed to represent.
Introductions to writers and books I never would have found. Through Books in Print, the Sisters in Crime publication that lists members’ mysteries and mystery-related titles, the Sisters in Crime list-serv, at local chapter meetings and in talking with others who love to read mysteries, I have found writers and books that I never would have discovered if I’d stayed in my happy pj’s and never left the house.
Mentors. Patricia Sprinkle a past international Sisters in Crime president who now lives in the Atlanta area and writes books that I enjoy and have bought for my mother and grandmother, and Kathryn Wall, Atlanta chapter member who writes the wonderful Bay Tanner mystery series, both read the first three chapters of my manuscript and offered invaluable suggestions for making it better.
No. 0 (I know, it’s really 6 reasons, but I write fiction, I don’t do numbers)
My critique group. I met them all through Sisters in Crime. More on them next time.
So, get out of your pjs and out of your house and find a group that can help to make your work better and your life much more interesting!