Friday, January 23, 2009

Cluck, cluck, cluck. Another Dennys' Chick!



And we're baaaack. At the scene of the crime--Denny's--to meet another one of my awesome critique partners. By the way, I discovered that I loved inserting little blue edits in Kathy's post. So....I'm going to continue the tradition with Sandy's post! Okay, Sandy Chick, take it away....

I’m Sandy Levin, the oldest Denny’s Chick (Note from Barrie: but still very very cute) and the last to join this wacky bunch of writers. I’ve been writing most of my adult life, but I focused on romantic suspense about ten years ago. Since then, I’ve completed four manuscripts but remain unpublished. I’ve started a number of other novels in different genres and tried my hand at non-fiction, but my muse has gone into hiding. Denny’s Chicks have been very supportive of me in my dry spell. This past year I’ve been plagued with a series a health problems, so my writing has been limited to blogging at Peaceful Heart Stained Glass. When I’m not blogging, I’m teaching yoga and creating stained glass. I find that practicing yoga and meditating while creating beautiful stained glass works of art keep me stress free.

I love being a part of this group. While we are all friends, we are all professional when it comes to writing and critiquing. Here’s a sneak peak into how we operate.

How Kathy's handwriting looks. For real!

A few days before our designated face-to-face meeting, we email our pages to critique. Sometimes it’s as little as a page, but most times it’s a chapter or two. It’s important to set enough time aside to review everyone’s work, so we do email in advance if we have a large number of pages or a deadline looming. Some of us like to have comments sent via email, so we can compare notes to our current version. Some of us write comments on printed copies (what better thing to do at your son’s water polo practice or daughter’s play practice, although some of us have neater chicken scratch than others :-) (Note from Barrie: Kathy is BY FAR the messiest. No doubt she was a doctor in a past life.) We always print on the back side of used printer paper (Denny’s Chicks love to recycle). The first one to arrive finds the quietest booth in the restaurant. After ordering our skinny breakfasts, we take a few minutes to chat about our families, (Translation from Barrie: we gossip) then it’s down to business.

We try to divide our time so that everyone gets verbal feedback. The nice thing about our group is that each of us seems to notice something different when we critique. Barrie is the GMC (goals, motivation, & conflict) queen. If the scene doesn’t have it, Barrie’s on our case. (in a supportive, saint-like way) Having been a newsletter editor in my pre-novel writing days, I tend to notice incomplete or disjointed sentences, odd spellings, multiple uses of the same word. Kathy picks up on continuity and can always suggest how to make a passage funny. Kelly seems to notice everything else.

So as we review our work, we not only point out what we think are flaws and make suggestions on how to improve it, but also comment on what we liked about the work. If we don’t all bring pages, we might spend some time plotting ideas for our next chapter or discussing GMC. Our meeting normally lasts about two hours.



After filling our stomachs and reviewing our pages, it’s back to the computer . Writing is not the easiest profession in the world, but it is very satisfying. (Tres, tres true!)






Sandy, Sandy, Sandy! You didn't say that you're a stained glass artist EXTRAORDINAIRE!

And that, dear bloggy friends, is Dennys' Chick Sandy Levin. Isn't she just too adorable?

51 comments:

Sepiru Chris said...

Barrie,

This series is both entertaining and revealing; mind you I suppose the point of critiquing is exposing...

Tschüss,
Chris

PS: Denny's Chick Sandy, is the diamond head of your stained glass meant to be indicative of the diamond shaped head for stable, strong stained glass formation, or is it also meant to refer to the brow chakrs, ajna?

Barbara Martin said...

Kathy, don't listen to what anyone says about your handwriting: messy is the sign of a brilliant mind at work.

Beck said...

All of the best people have messy handwriting, really.

Keri Mikulski said...

Thanks for sharing! :)

Sheri said...

I just caught up and met two of your critique group members! What a great idea merging the tow worlds. I loved reading both postings. Sounds like you have a great and supportive group. I don’t know how to do this any other way. I've been with my group for two years this April, and it's so true, when you find people you click with, respect, and tell the truth to, it's a bond that is rare and special.

Thanks for sharing!

Martha Miller said...

what a wonderful idea to meet and crit regularly like this! i love this handwriting - it looks like the backside of an embroidered square before threads are snipped...

JaneyV said...

I love your crit group and only wish I knew other writers nearby. I love the way you guys manage everything; it seems like the Denny's Chicks Crit Group is quite the well oiled machine.

Sandy, I am brilliant at deciphering hieroglyphics normally but your writing has me stumped. I thought it was one of those magic eye pictures at first! You must be fantastically creative!

Jade Lee said...

Well, I wondered where the Brilliant Sandy Levin landed for critiquing. I'm her friend from frozen Illinois, and I miss her! But given our weather...maybe I should go out there! Glad you've landed in a supportive, productive group, Sandy!

Jade Lee said...

PS. I have one of Sandy's stained glass people -- warrior 1 woman--right at the top of my office window. She reminds me daily to gird my loins and go forth into a joyous new future!

Jade Lee said...

er...wait...she's warrior 2 pose, isn't she? And here I used to teach yoga...

Suzie said...

When I open the shutters on my living room window each morning, I'm greeted by the most beautiful stained glass: a Sandy Levin Crown Chakra. Happiness.

Great look into how a successful critique group operates. But Denny's? Really? It's been some time since I plowed into a Grand Slam breakfast there, but I don't remember a single item that didn't ooze fat and cholesterol! Oh, great...now I've got the munchies!

brian_ohio said...

Hi Sandy. Nice to meet you. I'd imagine Barrie needs all the crit help she can get! ;-)

And Nice handwriting.

Barrie said...

Brian, Brian, Brian. You know it's a small world. How are you going to feel when you meet me in real life? And I remind you of all these sarcastic comments?! :) Oh yeah, you'll remind me back of all the comments I've made to you!

Barrie said...

Kathy, it's all true. You are a hoot. You are brilliant. Your handwriting is even worse than this example. Love ya!

novelmom1 said...

Sandy and Barrie,

See -- Barbara said messy handwriting is the sign of a brilliant mind. I must be REALLY brilliant. :-) And Beck said all the best people have messy handwriting. Your blog friends are so perceptive!

Kathy

sandy Levin said...

Hi Chris,
Thanks for looking at my website. I created the diamond head series when I was going through my yoga teacher training. It helped me learn the sanskrit names of the yoga poses. At the time, I was wanting something distinctive. I searched the web, but found nothing like the sun catchers I was creating. Why the diamond head? Hmm. My glass supplier had smaller beveled diamonds than circles. As I deepened my yoga practice, I developed the set of chakras. I'm now starting to create OM sun catchers.
Namaste,
Sandy

sandy Levin said...

Jade,

You are too much. It's nice to know that I am remembered. I miss your writing wisdom and critiques. And, Yes, you need to come out for a visit.
Love,
Sandy

sandy Levin said...

Ah Suzie,

Denny's still has all those oozing, fatty cholestrol foods on their menu, but Denny's chicks have ordering down to a science: little oil on eggs, no butter on toast - oh - I forgot, that's Barrie's order - the skinny one in the group :-)

Enjoy the crown chakra, my dear friend.
Love,
Sandy

Anonymous said...

Great bunch of critiquers. I see from the dictionary that the origin of the word is from the Greek "n. use of fem. of kritikós critical, skilled in judging". So it has a feminine origin and roots in skilled judging. That's certainly appropriate for the Denny's Chicks.

Laura said...

How fun!

Sandy Levin said...

to all you bloggers that commented on the handwriting -

It's also a sign of brilliant minds that we can read Kathy's comments, although Barrie has a distinctive chicken scratch too. :-) The hardest part of editing my own writing is trying to remember and read what I scratched into the margins and between the lines.

Sandy

sandy Levin said...

Dear Anonymous,

I like that definition of critiquing-skilled at judging. It's sometimes not easy to say something critical about one's writing without offending the other person. We are also skilled tightrope walkers - knowing how to say "this piece of writing stinks" without being hit over the head.
Sandy

LarramieG said...

A look into another part of your life is fascinating, Barrie, but Denny's should pay for this advertising. ;)

Barrie said...

LarramieG: Or at least give us a free piece of pie!

Sandy: I do believe I've come close to being hit over the head. ;)

sara said...

That stained glass is amazing. What an endearing post! So creative!

sandy Levin said...

Larramie, what a great suggestions!

Barrie, can you print out all the Denny's references and hand them to the manager the next time we meet? Maybe they'll at least give us a free cup of coffee!
Sandy

sandy Levin said...

Barrie,

I thought we were going to tell the world that we only use the softest of foam rubber bats when critiquing :-)

Sandy

sandy Levin said...

Sara,
Thanks for the compliment on the stained glass. It's always nice to hear your art is appreciated.
Sandy

sandy Levin said...

Dear Brian Ohio,

FYI - Barrie is so obsessive with her writing, that by the time we see her stuff, it is pretty polished. Okay, maybe I just love Barrie's sense of humor, but she is pretty fantastic in my book.

Barrie said...

Sandy, I will not be printing out our references to Denny's in the hopes of a free cup of coffee. BECAUSE we've said BAD things about Denny's coffee. If I print the comments, the manager might right them and BAN US FROM DENNY'S!! Then where would we go? Hmm...well, we could start meeting at your house. And you could fix us breakfast. Okay. Maybe I will print them out.

Crystal Green's Blog said...

Sandy!
Wow--your critique group is amazing. Kathy's handwriting blew me away. LOL.

I should've known you're a yoga person--you always seem so sweet and mellow!

sandy Levin said...

Barrie,
You are always welcome at my house, but I'm not sure you would like my coffee any better than Denny's. I make a mean cup of tea though.
Sandy

sandy Levin said...

Hi Chris,

Sweet and mellow - hear that critique partners? Kelly has taken some of my yoga classes, maybe we should start our critique sessions with a few yoga poses. If we stand on our heads will that make us smarter? :-)
Sandy

Kathy Holmes said...

Barrie - you and your "chicks" are just hilarious!This is exactly the kind of critique group I would love - and I'm not surprised that you are the MGC queen. :)

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I could definitely use someone to tell me how to make my passages funny! Lucky you. :)

Beth Yarnall said...

I love the name of your group. I have been working w/ a critique partner for about a year. Just recently we have expanded from 2 to 6. We are having our first group meeting w/in the next couple of weeks (my CP is organizing it).
Any advice?

Barrie said...

Hi Beth, Well, I would definitely have some rules. Like: how many pages each person can submit. And if you're emailing the material to each other ahead of time, what's the cutoff time for the email to arrive? I'm sure Sandy will chime in? And maybe Kathy?

sandy Levin said...

Hi Beth, Wow - 6 people! That sounds like a lot for a group unless not everyone has pages to critique at each meeting.

I belonged to another RWA group in Illinois and we met once a month to critique pages, but then we limited the number of pages to 2-3 and we read them aloud at the meeting. That is one way to do it, but Denny's Chicks end up reading and critiquing ALL the pages that we write. When we are all writing, that usually means about 20 pages per person every other week, so critiquing 60 pages within 2-3 days before our meeting is a lot to look at.

There are also other considerations - will the pages be a first draft or more polished before being critiqued? If you meet in person to discuss the work, set a particular length of time to address each writer's work - have someone keep track of the time. If you give your comments back online, set a date that you want your comments returned by. And, always allow for the writer who has a contest, agent or editor deadline. Stay focused. Keep the lines of communication open.

Good luck Beth! Happy critiquing.
Sandy

Bookworm said...

Wow...neat handwriting!

novelmom1 said...

Hi Beth,

I think one thing that worked for us was starting off kind of easy on each other and working our way up to being tougher. Part of that was becoming better writers with experience so we came to expect more from each other. But also to learn each others' points of where it's too much.

I learned a long time ago (but don't always use it) to use the "smile" approach to giving critiques. Start off with something positive, mention the negative, and finish with positive. Since we've been together so long and we all know we can write, this is no longer necessary.

Good luck!

Kathy

sharigreen said...

I loved reading this! Thanks! :)

Junosmom said...

I've never thought of having such a group, but now I have!

sandy Levin said...

Critique groups are great fun, friendly and educational. They are the best support group ever!
Sandy

Lady Glamis said...

I've stopped over to your blog. What a fun place! You're lucky to have such great critique partners. Mine are all online since none of them live too close by.

Sandy: I understand about the Muse going into hiding. I just did a post on my blog a few days ago about meeting my muse. I thought it was interesting how many people don't have one, and if they do, how they differ.

So nice to meet the both of you!

gabe said...

Having a critique group that clicks is super. Ours meets only once a month - not often enough.
Love your visuals. And that messy handwriting looks like it would make great wallpaper or giftwrap.

blueviolet said...

This is a fun little series. How nice to meet all of you!

sandy Levin said...

Lady Glamis,

I'm finally getting back on track with an occasional blog message. Mine are very introspective and come from the heart. That's were novel writing comes from too, but for some reason, I'm having a problem writing fiction. I've thought about looking back on my blog and putting a book together called something like "Teabag Wisdom". Of course what I currently have would need to be expanded, but it's perculating.
Sandy

sandy Levin said...

Gabe,

Wallpaper and gift wrap - sounds like a winner. What about using all the marked up pages from critique group in general? I've heard rejection letters look good as wallpaper too. :-)

Keep sending out those manuscripts.
Sandy

alex keto said...

wow, Kelly's handwriting is better than mine.
But good luck to Kelly. That's a lot of perseverance

kelly hayes said...

It's taken about three years, but I've almost learned how to decipher Kathy's handwriting. It's kind of like decoding. I guess it adds an element of intrigue to our critique group.

Bee said...

Barrie - I am fascinated by the Dennys'Chicks! How did you find each other? How long have you been getting together?