I love being a part of a writing critique group. Who else is going to constructively tell me the chapter I spent a month writing, sucks? (And besides my mom), who is going to put those hard-earned smiley faces next to certain sentences and paragraphs that were funny or well-written? My critique group, that’s who. Plus, it’s much wiser to have a trusted group of fellow writers tell me that my plot has pacing issues, my characters are flat, or that I misspelled an agent’s name on a query, instead of a big, fat rejection letter telling me. I’ve been with the Raintree Writers since it began in late 2003. We’re the fab five and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. When I wrote the acknowledgments page for my book, it was with great honor to include each of their names, because after all, I wouldn’t have gotten that far without them. Of course, it would have been really cool to be able to write, “And a big thank you to Stephen King. This book could not have been possible without his invaluable input.” Does Stephen King even have a critique group? Hell, does he even need one? This got me thinking . . . (as much as I love my group) who would be my fantasy critique group? Sports enthusiasts have their Fantasy Football; us writers have our Fantasy Critique Group (or maybe I’m the only one) . . .
1.) Ivan Doig. Mr. Doig is hands down, my favorite author. His thirty-two year writing career has yielded 14 books, including a memoir, that are all set in his home state of Montana. He’s arguably considered the dean of western literature. I greatly admire (green with envy, actually) his clever, witty, and original prose that makes me stop and re-read lines several times, just because they’re so damn good. His characters are so well developed, you almost forget they’re fictional.
2.) J.K. Rowling. And no, not because of her lovely British accent (although I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be mesmerizing to hear her read her submissions aloud), but because I would hope that a even just a tiny bit of her badass creativeness would rub off on me. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt if we became besties and she paid for my son’s college education.
3.) Jefferey Eugenides. Eugenides is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist who wrote Middlesex, probably one of the best books I’ve ever read (as evidenced by the 5 stars I gave it on Goodreads). I don’t hand out those Goodreads stars willy-nilly. That book earned every one of those yellow, five-point accolades. Everything I learned about a hermaphrodite, I learned from Jefferey Eugenides.
4.) J.D. Salinger. Oh yes, did I mention that your Fantasy Critique group could be made up of dead authors? (That’s why it’s called a Fantasy Critique Group). Granted, he’d probably sit in the corner and not say much, but c’mon, it’s J.D. Salinger.
5.) Fanny Flagg. Holy shit, her books are funny. We’d probably get nothing done except drain some bottles of wine and laugh. She’s most known for Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (which, like most books, is better than the movie), but her other books are just as funny, poignant and damn good reads.
6.) Harper Lee. Room for two Pulitzer Prize winners? Of course. It’s my fantasy group, so anything is possible. Who hasn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird? Seriously? Who hasn’t?
My list could go on and on. There are a hundreds of authors I would love to have sitting around my kitchen table, brainstorming ideas and telling me how fabulous I am at eliminating passive voice. (Again, it’s a fantasy, right)? I also wouldn’t turn Davis Sedaris away if he showed up with a six-pack and fruitcake.
So, who would be in your Fantasy Critique Group?