Today, I’m going to introduce you to a few of the women from my writing critique group here in the Twin Cities. We meet once a month to catch up with one another, to provide feedback on each other’s projects, and to be a sounding board for any writing-related headaches we’re experiencing. That, in fact, is one of the things I love most about my writing group– that it is full of talented, whip-smart women who are flexible enough to be whatever I need them to be: sometimes I need brutal critics, sometimes I need shoulders to cry on. They do it all.
Rachel, Rachel, Jaidyn, Anna, Addie, and I (and sometimes Carra) are more than just a writing group– we are a community.
Rachel Riebe, wife and mama of twins and a toddler, has changed approximately 2,968 diapers this year. She is a freelance writer and poet (after 10:00 pm) who blogs at fellowpassengers.com. She, her family, and 10 chickens live on a hobby farm in Taylors Falls, Minnesota.
Writes: poetry, creative non-fiction
On feedback: Getting feedback during a writing project is like a meal break during a long backpacking trek. You stop. Check the map. See how far you’ve gone. Eat. Drink. Assess the trail ahead. Pick your poles back up. Move. Keep moving.
On our group: Our writing group has had the good fortune of longevity. We’ve been meeting for almost a decade now, which means we’ve seen one another through a lot of formative life experiences that shape the how’s and why’s of our writing. We know our technical strengths and how to encourage them. We know when it’s important to be a quiet ear, and when to reach across the table and grab someone’s hand. We know grace. And we might know the Dunn Brother’s and Caribou Coffee menus by heart.
Addie Zierman is an author and blogger. She recently published her debut memoir, When We Were On Fire, which was named by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the Best Books of 2013. She lives in Andover, Minnesota, with her husband and two sons and blogs at addiezierman.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Writes: creative nonfiction (mostly)
On feedback: I think feedback is absolutely essential to my own process. For me, it’s most essential at the beginnings of projects when things aren’t coming together right or when I’m struggling to figure out how to do something new. Hearing what works and what doesn’t from people I trust often helps lead me forward in my own work to places I wouldn’t necessarily have gotten to on my own.
On our group: This writing group feels different from others that I’m in in that it’s made up entirely of people who are on similar faith journeys. I appreciate having a place to talk about that strange intersection of writing and faith — how they play against one another and inform each other, and how different facets of faith enter our work. I love that.
Anna Dielschneider is an aspiring young adult fiction writer who does a little poetry and art on the side. She is currently earning her MFA from Hamline University. She blogs about the writing life at writingyoungadultfiction.wordpress.com.
Writes: YA fiction and poetry
On feedback: I used to think I needed feedback all the time. Now, after being in an MFA program, I’m understanding that I really only need feedback in later stages of revision around certain issues–like clarity. In the program, we are being taught to be our own best editor. This isn’t to say that other’s feedback isn’t important because IT IS. I’m just more strategic about it because feedback from the wrong person at the wrong time in the drafting process can kill a story.
On our group: I love my writing group because it’s made up of a group of smart, dedicated, graceful women who have similar writing goals. I believe that if you want to do something, you should surround yourself with people who are doing it and doing it better than you. That’s my writing group. We support each other and get each other on a writer level. Sometimes, all a writers needs to do is talk out loud about the problems they are facing and that is enough to get through the next draft. My writing group is a place to do this. It’s not about pages, but process. Every writer needs a writing group that is about each writer as a whole person–not about producing!
Thanks to Rachel, Addie, and Anna for their thoughts today!
Your turn: tell me your thoughts on feedback in the creative process.