Let’s Talk Shop Talk

Filed under: Community, Critique, SCBWI, Uncategorized, Writing

I don’t know if I mentioned that my friend Linda Hanlon and I have taken over as co-conspirators co-coordinators for The Hudson Valley Shop Talk. This is my local writer’s group for the SCBWI Eastern New York. We had our second meeting of the year yesterday (I missed the first get together due to attending the New York SCBWI Conference) so for me, it felt like the first. I’ll admit it–I was a little nervous but I think it went well. We are still in a kind of transitional phase, trying to see what works best for the group. But I thought I’d share some of my thoughts with you and see what you guys like out of your writer’s groups.

First of all, this group is a very mixed bag. Not everyone will be able to attend all the time, there will be a mixture of illustrators and writers from picture book to novel and there will also be a range of members from newbie to published.

This is a tough group to work with. Because of the diversity it can be very hard to meet everyone’s individual needs IF you think of Shop Talk as primarily a place to get a critique done on your work. But you guessed it–I don’t think of it that way. I know you’ve heard me mention this before, but I think of these Shop Talk meetings as a tribe gathering place–almost like a family reunion. All good families have a mixture of people at varies ages and stages of life and for Shop Talk to be an effective tool for all of us, I think we need to treat it as our tribal reunion for the month.

Here is what I see happening at a successful Shop Talk…

*Information and resources are readily available-Anyone new, walking in for the first time, should have a plethora of information about the SCBWI at their finger tips. Every month we will be adding more resources to our reference documents.

*A monthly book club where we all read one PB and one MG/YA book and briefly discuss it as WRITERS. It’s an optional exercise but it helps us all to learn to read with an eye towards craft.

*A monthly topic. On Saturday we talked about critique groups. We touched upon the traditional skills that are needed to give feedback. We also addressed a common occurrence–negating our own worth when it comes to giving feedback. We need to acknowledge that our critique skills will grow with time and practice, but that we are all capable of giving a thoughtful response as a reader. Then we discussed a blog post by Kristen Lamb, which suggest that we would benefit from ┬ábeing a Non-Tradtional Critique group. I have to agree. It is my personal belief that there is a limited amount a large, mixed, rotating group of people can truly do for each person’s individual manuscript. Instead we need to focus on learning general critique skills, working with big picture plot/synopsis critiques, creating relationships that will result in successful critique partners/groups and beta readers. We also need to utilize the diversity in our tribe to foster mentorship within the group. I began attending Shop Talk meetings with no real knowledge or skills about writing or publishing–I learned everything I know from the SCBWI and other children’s writers. I feel that there is no better way to say thank you for what I was given than to pay it forward. I’m inspired by the idea that the Hudson Valley Shop Talk will be a community where we all share and learn from each other.

*We need to take it to the streets–or the book stores or the restaurants or online. For this group to harness the power of it’s members we need to be in contact more than just for 2+ hours a month. Friday some of us will be heading to one of our local independent bookstores for a YA author event. We’ve got an online group on Facebook to help stay in touch and we’ll be putting together an email list so we can stay connected. Additionally,there are SCBWI conference events, book festivals and more coming down the pike. I’m excited to get to know everyone a little bit more.

I’ll be honest–I’m sure some of our best laid plans–well you know how that goes LOL! But I’m hopeful and really, isn’t that the best way to be? So, now it’s time for you to step up dear reader–whether you’re in my local Shop Talk or not. You don’t even have to be in a writer’s group to have an opinion of what you’d like out of a group. Spill. ┬áTell me your wishes. Share your best tips.


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4 Responses | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

  1. First, congrats on becoming co-coordinator! Is it ok for me to attend March’s meeting? My concern with the monthly meeting is not having enough contact hours but from everything you mentioned in your post, especially the Facebook group and other gatherings, would help me connect more with area SCBWI-ers. Thanks for the post:)


  2. Sounds like you are really on ball with this group, Kim!

    One of the things I like best about the writers groups I’ve been/am in is the moral support. Publishing is a tough and often heartbreaking business, and the temptation to quit can become quite overwhelming at times. Have a group of like-minded individuals to talk you off the ledge when you need it is invaluable.

    • I’ve got to agree–i think that’s the best part too!

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