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Critique Groups August 25, 2010

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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Critiquing a manuscript


I’m involved in two local critique groups, one for children’s writers like me and one for writers of varied interests. I met with the second group last Saturday, and we took pictures. Here are a couple. (I’m the writer in the pink top.)  

A critique group meeting

Most of the writers in my critique groups have fewer publishing credits than I do. Still, I rely on their critiques to help me improve my work. Even unpublished writers usually read extensively and can provide insights on what does or doesn’t work in a piece. I’ve read enough books on writing and attended enough writing classes and conferences to discern fairly well what advice hits the target and what misses the mark. Both groups are on target more than off.  

And it’s fun to spend time with others who love language and communicating meaning through stories. As we respond to one another’s manuscripts, we open our lives to all. In the four years I’ve been in these groups, I’ve developed close friendships. I look forward to Saturday morning critiques.  

One caveat about posting these photographs:  The background (a group member’s backyard) looks lovely and it was. But, lest I give anyone the notion that writers need such idyllic surroundings to write, let me just say I’ve written in buses and at bars, on napkins and on notebooks, during lectures and performances, at work (only when I had nothing else to do, of course!–ahem) and totally alone in the middle of the night. Surroundings don’t make much difference. Writing takes me away from all that anyway.  


Homeschool Conference August 4, 2010

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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I worked a table at a homeschool conference in Omaha last weekend, greeting conferees and selling my books. This was the first homeschool conference I’ve attended. It was an eye opener.

Home educators have a vast network of resources available to them. I met one woman who runs a homeschool library. Any homeschooler can check out books from the library, which is stationed at whatever church willing to provide free space for a year. The library is manned by volunteers and uses the old-style pocket and card at the front of books. Patrons sign the card, and the pocket is stamped with the due date. It’s been years since I’ve seen a library using that method of checking out books, but I remember liking it as a child. I could get a notion of whether I might like a book by checking out the names of other students who had checked out the book in the past. I remember coming across my sister’s name quite often, and then I could ask her what she thought of a book before checking it out myself. The woman who runs this homeschool library purchased my middle-grades mystery, The Glass Inheritance, for the library. She said most of her patrons fall into the same age range (8 to 12) as the book’s targeted audience.

I also had a couple of bookstore managers ask me about doing a signing or talk at their stores later this year, and a couple of conferees enquired about workshops/presentations I lead for groups of children.

My biggest impression of homeschooling from this conference is that it’s a growing movement, here to stay. About 15 years ago, I read in a Kansas City newspaper that one-quarter of school-aged children in that city no longer attended public schools. Most of the “gone” children attended private schools, but a healthy percentage attended home schools. Most of the private schools I knew of were religious-based, and all of the homeschoolers I knew were Christians. I worried about sending my children to public schools when so many children from families of faith had already been siphoned from them. Would my children find any friends with similar values? My husband and I ended up choosing private school for our children and have had positive experiences with it. After going to this conference, though, I see how possible homeschooling is and why so many choose it.

About fifty children attended the conference along with their teachers (parents), and they appeared happy, well-mannered, and sociable. Homeschooling gets good results. I expect it to continue growing. As an author, I already target this group and plan to include more homeschooled children in my stories.