Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Critique Group Interview- Maria Marshall!

Maria is an amazing writer, editor and brilliant critique group member.  She was instrumental in getting me into this group.  For which I am very grateful.  Enjoy!

To find more about her visit www.mariacmarshall.com or on

twitter at http://twitter.com/MariaMarshall_ 

L.C.- So, what are three things you are PASSIONATE about?

M.M.- My kids, Nature, and Chocolate

L.C.- I would love to know more about your writing process.  How often do you write?  What do you write?  What inspires you? What are your goals as a writer? And how does the critique group help you achieve them? 

M.M.- I try to write every day, either new manuscripts or revisions of manuscripts. Most of the time I accomplish this goal, but sometimes life has other plans. I write everywhere throughout my house – my study, the kitchen table, the couch, and my bed.  I write a wide variety of things - Board Books, Picture Books, Chapter Books, and Middle Grade. My inspiration for these stories comes from my own childhood memories, my kids, and nature. I want to write books that kids, and their parents, will enjoy reading. Ones that excite interest and curiosity in nature and compassion for others.

I belong to several critique groups (a couple online groups and one local in-person group). I am so very grateful for all these amazing writers. In addition to providing honest feedback, these groups help each other with motivation, deadlines, and most importantly with the inevitable ups and downs of this business. Writing can be a lonely business, so I appreciate the friendships and comradery that we have developed. I also enjoy the opportunity to practice my editing skills and help my critique partners get their books published.

L.C.- How do you connect with other books/stories?  Do you read a lot?  If so (and I am sure you do) what do you read?  Where do you go? (favorite bookstore or library).

M.M.- I read all the time, for entertainment, reviews, research, and to find mentor texts. I have a book by my bed, one at the table, one in my car, and numerous ones next to my computer. I love picture books, mysteries, historical fiction, and science fiction. Fortunately, I live near traditional, university, and many smaller indie bookstores. Spending an afternoon strolling through any bookstore, especially used bookstores, looking for treasures, is a favorite past time. One of my favorite bookstores, with both new and used books, requires a map just to navigate through it.

L.C.-How long have you been in a critique group?  How did joining one change your writing and or writing practices?  How did you find yours?  What is the best thing about being in a critique group(s)? What aspect of it works best for you?  What is the hardest part?

M.M.- I joined my first on-line critique group (through the 12 x 12 Challenge) two years ago. Then I joined two others and was then invited to join a third. At about the same time, I started an in-person critique group through my local SCBWI. This group has grown from two initial members to about 12 members.  I have also joined a few groups formed during classes. Many of these have stayed together to support each other in our path to publication.

Interestingly, each group is organized a bit differently, yet they all help with accountability and forward momentum toward the goal of publication. I find having several eyes (or critiquers) evaluate a manuscript provides a tiny window into the crazy subjectivity with which agents, editors, and readers will view a story. You just need to be careful not to get too many “cooks in the kitchen” and to remember to stay true to your voice and vision for the story. Easy, right?

Through these groups, I have learned how to tighten and develop my stories, and develop a tough skin. The best thing about a good critique group is the honest and frank evaluations of a text. Which can be the hardest thing to accomplish on your own and the hardest thing to accept from others. But great critique partners not only help you perfect your stories, but they help you prepare for round-tables, pitching sessions, and querying – all areas with the potential for ego bruising.

Sometimes the hardest aspect of critique groups is organizing around busy lives (getting together and/or setting schedules), but so far we’ve made it work. I am so very grateful for all of them.

L.C.- What would you like other writers to know about writing? About critique groups? About the process of ‘Trying to get published’?

M.M.- There is no “quick fix,” no formula, or easy pill that a writer can take to get published. You should hone your skills through classes, webinars, seminars, retreats, and conferences. The best thing a writer can do (as so many have said) is write, write, read, and then write more. For critique groups, be sure that you have compatible writing abilities and personalities. To be a good critique member, a writer must be able to check their ego at the door. A good critique partner tells you what is working, but also what isn’t. And while this may be hard to hear initially, it is this invaluable honesty that makes a critique group so helpful.

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