Posted by Eileen Astels Watson
I have heard plenty about writers' groups and critique partners through the years, so when I was presented with the idea of getting involved in a local Writers' Collective run as a program through our library, I squinted, wondering why the weird name.
Turns out it's called a Collective for a very good reason. It's basically like working with a critique group only in person, but none of you have each others email address, phone number, or even full name, so you keep the "stranger" aspect intact. The Collective takes the personal aspect out of the whole process. With the exception of meeting in a designated room to discuss your submitted work once a month, you don't interact. For me, turns out that "strangers" who are also writers, prove to be the best no-nonsense, here's-how-it-is, critiquers. As a result, I'm all for Collectives now.
If your library doesn't have such a program, and you're in desperate need of a slap upside the head regarding your writing, beg, plead, and/or petition to your library's events planner to start working on such an opportunity for writers in your area.
Here's the just of how our events planner runs this program.
Each collective has a minimum of five, and a maximum of eight participants. Rooms in each of the library branches are booked from 6:30 pm to closing on the fourth Monday of each month for a "neutral" meeting place. The events planner is the staff liaison between the Collective members, so not getting chummy with one another is totally doable. You have no interaction other than at those set meetings.
The week before your scheduled meeting you send in to the events planner your five page double-spaced submission, with each paragraph numbered (turns out that although this is a pain to do, it works wonderfully in the round robin critique time), or a maximum of 2 poems, with just your first name and last name's initial on the top of each page and in the document name. The staff liaison then sends the submissions out to each member of your Collective to look over, critique, and bring with them to the monthly meeting.
I've got to say, that the single most blessing of this type of Collective is the DISTANCE we have from one another. That may change over time, as we become familiar with one another in those concentrated meetings, but I hope that's a long time coming. No one in my group was mean spirited, or belligerent, but they were HONEST and FORTHRIGHT with their assessments and told it like it was. They shared openly what bugged them about each others piece of writing. They threw in some niceties of course, too, but I glossed over them, and just clung to the eye-openers they passed along. Talk about seeing through unbiased eyes. There is no greater way to learn if you're serious about honing the craft than through the eyes of strangers who are also writers.
What about you, have you ever been involved in a Writers' Collective? If so, what did, or do you find the most beneficial? How does yours run?
Surrendering to Him,