Guest Blogger Elaine Kiely Kearns: It Takes A Village To Be A Writer

bee-hive-clip-art-690775A few weeks ago I was having lunch with a friend who is a writer. Although she isn’t new to writing, she is new to the online writing community and is ready to begin the process of submitting to agents and editors. As we were chatting about submission how-to’s and query letters, I mentioned to her that she really needed to find a critique group.

“How do I find a critique group?” she asked.

Good question. And that question brings me to this post.

I am fortunate enough to belong to a fabulous online critique group, the Penguin Posse. We are a group of seven women kid lit writers from all over the world. We hail from New York, Virginia Beach, Massachusetts, Indiana, Texas, Italy, and Australia. I love these talented, brainiac women. And after a few years of working together, we are not only a fabulous critique group but also friends. And while you definitely need to study your craft and attend conferences, a critique group just may get your writing where it needs to be a little faster.

Writing is a solitary act. But time and time again, studies have shown that people need a support group in order to be successful. It’s the “Hive Mind” theory, and a critique group fills this need perfectly.

From Google:
hive mind
noun: hive mind; plural noun: hive minds; noun: hivemind; plural noun: hiveminds
1. a notional entity consisting of a large number of people who share their knowledge or opinions with one another, regarded as producing either uncritical conformity or collective intelligence. "He has become one of those celebrities whose online presence has made him a favorite of the Internet hive mind.”

So let’s get back to the question. How do you find a critique group?

Find Your Community. The invention of the Internet is a blessed thing for writers. As introverts, we get to be alone (YAY!) and still connect with the outside world (double YAY!)—all from the privacy of our homes. Are you a kid lit writer? You can join the SCBWI and connect with peeps in person at conferences. Or, if you join one of the many online kid lit groups via Facebook, you can make online friends and form a critique group there. The key? Join groups, sign up for classes, participate in monthly challenges. All of these communities will lead you to hive-minded people who could potentially become critique partners. I found my group in an online kid lit forum through Facebook, and I know many other writers who have found successful groups that way too.

Get Involved. Don’t join a community and then never participate! Don’t be a lurker! Comment on posts, ask questions in forums. If you join without participating, you will never feel like you belong. Get involved! Force yourself, especially if it’s outside of your comfort zone.

Do A Trial Run. Not sure you want to commit to a group right away? Many communities have manuscript critique places on their sites. Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 (membership fee required) has a forum where you can post the first 250 words for open critique by her members. has a Manuscript Swap Facebook group (free) where you can privately swap manuscripts without any critique group commitment. Ladies Who Critique is a free site where you can connect with other professional writers who are also looking for critique partners.

And there are many more. All you need is a quick Google search and you are on your way!

Happy critiquing!


unnamed-1ELAINE KIELY KEARNS is a kid lit writer of picture book and middle grade stories. She also scours the internet for golden nuggets of information about children’s writing for the website she founded,  She lives in New York with her husband, two beautiful daughters and a menagerie of animals. Find her online at


Filed under Uncategorized

18 responses to “Guest Blogger Elaine Kiely Kearns: It Takes A Village To Be A Writer

  1. Great advice, Elaine! I never realized how important having a critique group was until I had one. And then two. And then three. And then more. 😉 The first three groups have been going strong for several years…and, as you say, we are more than just critique buddies…we share life’s triumphs and tragedies..and support and cheer each other on. And I truly love having critique partners who live in other parts of the country/world…I think it helps to have my stories seen with eyes that might have a different perspective on life. And meeting quite a few of my online crit buddies at the WOW retreat last month was like icing on the best cake ever!

  2. So glad to be the Australian member of the Penguin Posse 😉 Great article, good critique groups are immensely valuable and a must have for emerging and established writers!

  3. Mary Warth

    Such good advice- thanks for the post! I was lucky to find my critique group through my local SCBWI. I met two of my critique partners on the very first meeting that I attended. We all were looking for a crit group and decided to form one ourselves. We are now an active group of seven. I am so glad that I went out of my comfort zone and introduced myself that first meeting!

  4. Great advice and well-said, E! It’s why I’m so proud to be in your group! xo

  5. Great tips. It’s really a blessing to find a great critique group. Some don’t work out and it is best to just walk away from those. No harm. No foul.

  6. Cindy Williams Schrauben

    The kidlit hive is full of sweet, generous people. Proud to be a part of it.

  7. You are a pro in every sense, my friend. Thanks for all you do for kidlit writers. (And OH the truth of introverts connecting from the comfort and psychological safety of their caves of solitude.)

  8. Great article! Jumping in to add they’re a professional service that matches authors to critique groups and provides a platform for exchanging work. They’re just beginning to offer crit groups where one of the critiquing members is a published author (full disclosure: I’m leading one of these this fall) in the same category/genre.