Monday, December 22, 2008

Our Family Has Suffered a Sad Loss

On December 6, 2008 our family suffered a tragic loss. Our oldest son, Byron, and his wife Debbie, were returning home from a dinner/theater event, celebrating Debbie’s 48th birthday. About a mile from home, a car driven by an 18 year-old slammed into them, head on. Debbie, who was driving the car, died at the scene and Byron was air-lifted to Harborview Hospital, the area’s trauma center. Byron suffered a severally broken wrist, bruised lungs, an impact injury to the collarbone, and a lacerated forehead.

Besides Byron, Debbie leaves a daughter, Bobbie, almost 18 and a son, Jacob, almost 20. Jacob serves with the U.S. Marines, currently at Camp Pendleton, so he was able to come home for a few days. Bobbie is in her senior year at high school.

The following Friday, December 12, we celebrated Debbie’s life at the Presbyterian Church in Maple Valley, WA. The service was lovely, upbeat and inspirational with about 150 people in attendance. Byron is healing physically quite well. Emotionally he’s doing as well as can be expected. Bobbie is coming along, though it is a terrible age to lose your mother. Jacob was splendid in his U.S. Marine dress blues. His mother would have been so proud. Actually, I felt her presence–she was with us.

Farewell to our beloved Debbie. May God keep you in His amazing grace.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Critique Group: Getting on-line feed-back

Although I prefer the face-to-face interaction of a critique group, where I not only hear verbal pats on the back but get to "feel" the reaction to my work, there is another increasingly popular approach: an online critique group.

Three types of online critique groups meet most writers’ needs–web-based groups, listserv-based groups and private email lists.

With the web-based critique group, participants send their work to a web site administrator who publishes the manuscript on the web site for members to review. Member comments are e-mailed either directly to the author or to the site administrator for distribution. To research available groups, do an Internet search on "on-line critique groups."

Listserv-based groups are set up with a list service.Manuscripts and critiques are e-mailed to the list and members can receive each individual email as it is sent or messages that have been collected into a daily digest. To find a group to meet your needs, do an Internet search on "Listserv based critique groups."

Private email lists are set up directly with participants who share work via e-mails and attachments. Search for "Email based critique groups."

Advantages of online groups include ease in scheduling, especially if you are also employed outside the home. You can participate at your own convenience, day or night. Also, there are obvious geographic advantages–no driving for miles to meet with your group. Additionally, online groups draw people from all over the country–even from all over the world–who are dedicated to common goals. You have the advantage of a national or international viewpoint. Finally, many writers like the idea of receiving critiques without having to be present.

Whether you participate in an on-line critique group or a face-to-face interaction group, honest feedback from thoughtful readers is among the most valuable tools a writer can use. A serious writer can’t afford not to do it.

Please share your thoughts and experiences on critique groups–either in-person or on-line.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Critique Group: The Importance of By-laws

Last week I discussed the value for writers of Critique Groups. In this piece I’ll discuss the importance of good by-laws. You might think going to the trouble of by-laws is a bit anal. Maybe so, but our group is convinced it has protected us from possible disaster.. We’ve been in existence for 15 years–that’s a long time in critique group years!

Each February we hold a business meeting to discuss current or potential areas of concern which we feel may weaken the group’s goals and to fine-tune our by-laws. Every member has an equal vote and the majority rules.

Newcomers are often puzzled. "By-laws? What’s to discuss?" You’d be surprised. We often assume we have the same slant on issues, but when we get down to the nitty-gritty, it’s amazing what holes we find in those assumptions.

A brief outline of our By-laws:
--Goals: What we hope to gain my our group–honest opinions and caring support.
--Rules of Conduct: Critique the work, not the author or subject matter, etc.
--Definitions: Define member, honorary member (past member), guest (there are 3 kinds of guests!)
–By-laws: Covers the meeting date and time; responsibilities of the group leader, a position which changes each month; order of reading; announcements; annual business meeting; appointment of secretary who takes care of administrative issues; attendance; new membership procedures; procedure for former member to rejoin the group; stand-by, a procedure to form a stand-by list if our membership stands at 10; leave-of-absence.

So you see, we have plenty to talk about and to fine-tune. Being writers, we really hone in on every nuance. If something suddenly comes up–say someone wants to join us to see what we’re all about–we have procedures to follow which allow this to happen, but with safe-guards. We all agree that our annual meeting to review our by-laws is a valuable session in preserving our group.

On my next Blog, I’ll discuss on-line critique groups. In the meantime, I hope you’ll share your thoughts and experiences on critique groups in the "Comments."