Thursday, April 25, 2013

Crit Group Celebrations, and a Talk by Editor Wendy McClure

Our critique group met the other day, at Mary's house, and Mary had a birthday. So we had to celebrate. Left to right, we are Susan, Marcia, Mary, and Connie.



Then, Susan had a book out! Route 2, Box 12 is the third collection of her weekly "life on Sunnybook Farm" columns that have appeared in several regional newspapers since the early 1980s. So we had to celebrate again. This time, we are Mary, Marcia, Susan, and Connie.


And yes, we did actually do some critiquing after all this. :)

This past Saturday, April 20, Wendy McClure, Senior Editor at Albert Whitman, spoke at the SCBWI-WI Spring Luncheon. She gave an entertaining program on her favorite MG childhood series, the Little House books. The most interesting part of the program for me was the excerpts from Laura Ingalls Wilder's early drafts; the long, single-spaced editorial letters sent to her by her own daughter, Rose Wilder Lane; and rejection/acceptance letters, the former from RWL's own literary agent and the latter from Knopf; which we got to see onscreen through Power Point.

I was really struck by this: Laura's early attempts were (1) all telling, and (2) from a distant observer's POV. Rose told her she had to be inside Laura, and Rose was right on. While listening, I thought about the need to allow first drafts to be poor if that's the only way they will come out, about how we sometimes can't put the emotional content into our stories until we can first bring ourselves to record them at all, about how steep and difficult the climb to publishable-prose level is for all of us, and how the newbiest of writers can go on to produce something special, even timeless.

And I thought of the kinks, rocks, and boulders in the road to publication even after you succeed. Because it wasn't Knopf who published Little House in the Big Woods, even though they accepted it. The year was 1931, and Knopf closed their children's book imprint because of the Depression. The book had to go back on the market and sell again, this time to Harper, who did publish it.

All of the biggest successes we can think of were achieved by people who, when they first set out, couldn't be sure they'd accomplish a thing. And this is why I believe, on every level, that life is a faith walk.

20 comments:

Dawn Malone said...

My critique group recently talked about LIW and these very points, especially the 'showing vs. telling' aspect. Her books are timeless, nonetheless, and points to the old adage that rules are meant to be broken.

Faith E. Hough said...

Crit group meetings are the best. :)
Thanks for sharing the points about the talk--that's pretty fascinating! I'd love to see those early drafts...

Barbara Watson said...

What fun celebrations!

And ohhhh...thank you for sharing the bit about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Inspiring.

Leandra Wallace said...

So fun to get to see pics of you guys getting together. I'd love to have crit meetings like that!

Mirka Breen said...

What a lovely bunch of writing ladies. I've never been part of an in-person group, but imagine that when the mix is right it is all that and then some. Lucky all-of-you.

Marcia said...

Dawn -- I think more telling was simply allowed in those days, too, and to my mind most adult novels tell. Yes, the books are most definitely timeless.

Faith -- The letters from Rose, and the rejection/acceptance letters, were pretty interesting, too. All writers face an uphill climb.

Barbara -- Yes, I really think it helps to see the process others have had to go through.

Leandra -- I found my critique group through SCBWI. Maybe you could, too!

Mirka -- We've been together so long that there weren't any online groups when we started.:) We've become an institution.

Vijaya said...

Marcia, what a fun celebration with your critters -- it looks warm and cozy in all the senses of the words. Congratulations to Susan!!!

My MIL is a huge LIW fan, so she has various NF materials, but I've never seen the original stories. I'm so happy she persevered and left us this legacy, with Rose's help.

I think I met Wendy at my first SCBWI conference ... she is very funny. And her memoir Poundy(?) is excellent.

Emily R. King said...

Beautiful sentiments, Marcia. I needed this tonight.

I'm glad your critique group is so supportive. What a blessing!

Scribbles From Jenn said...

I'm not sure I could make it through this writing journey without my critique group. Sounds like your's is amazing as well.

Kelly Hashway said...

Life definitely is a walk of faith.

Marcia said...

Vijaya -- I first met Wendy when we both spoke at a conference in IL. The original LIW books are lovely. I think my favorite was actually Farmer Boy, the one about Almanzo's childhood.

Emily -- I'm glad the post came at a good time for you. :) Our group started out as critiquers, but we became friends over the years.

Jenn -- We're a cozy little foursome, that's for sure. Some of us have other beta readers, too, but the group fills a need.

Kelly -- Amen!

C. Lee McKenzie said...

I love to hear about how writers grow in their talent. This was a great story.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I would have loved to hear that presentation. I didn't know any of that about the books.

Marcia said...

Lee -- I too think it's great how long we've been together.

Stina -- Wendy wrote a book about the LIW books. You might be interested in it.

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Oh I miss being part of a real, live critique group. We used to celebrate every victory, large or small.
Looks like a great group. Enjoy!

Marcia said...

Ruth -- I'm glad for all the critique opportunities online these days, but you're right about the benefits of a live group.

Janet said...

Great post and congratulations to Mary and Susan! I love the Little House books. That was so interesting what you wrote about it. I would love to have seen the excerpts and letters by her daughter. I guess if we all get good guidance, we have a chance at publication.

Marcia said...

Janet -- Thanks for stopping by. :)

Joanna Hinsey said...

Love this perspective on the first draft...too often I forget that the good stuff often comes with revisions.

Marcia said...

Joanna -- I'm a revision-lover, myself. :)