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."

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