Thankful for Critique Groups (and Why You Need One of Your Own)

 Guest Post by Stacy McAnulty

blogtourlogo copyWriters’ Rumpus is honored to be the first stop on Stacy McAnulty‘s blog tour for her picture book DEAR SANTASAURUS, illustrated by Jef Kaminsky and published by Boyds Mills Press. Every day from now ’til Christmas, Stacy will visit a different blog to talk about children’s books and share cookie recipes–a new one every day! I’m sure if it were possible, she’d share the cookies too. Thanks for stopping by, Stacy!

My house still smells like turkey, so I think it’s fitting to continue the thankful spirit even as we all rush out to shop for toys and gadgets (and maybe even a few books!).  So today, please allow me to shower my critique groups with gratitude. Without them, I would have submitted a picture book manuscript with eleven characters. Without them, I would still be tweaking my query letter. And without them, I probably would have given up on numerous manuscripts and characters, and maybe even myself.

You can join a critique group online or in person. I’m greedy. I’ve got one of each. My online critique group “meets” twice a month on a private blog. My in-person group, which has only three members, meets in living rooms or coffee shops. And along with critiquing manuscripts, we complain about our spouses and children, we exchange recipes, we commiserate.

Which group is better? Both. Neither. I don’t know. I love each of them, and they serve different needs. It’s like having a cell phone and a home phone. Both are useful to me. Sure, plenty of people get away with having just one, but it’s rare to find the person who doesn’t need either.

What you’ll love (and be thankful for) in an online group…

Location. It doesn’t matter if you live in Anchorage or in a pineapple under the sea. You just need Wi-Fi.

Flexibility. You can post or critique during a lunch break, between breast feedings, in the middle of the night.

Freedom. Well, sorta… There’s freedom knowing you aren’t going to run into the author of the manuscript you just trashed at a PTA meeting. (Please note: you should not trash anyone’s manuscript. The goal is to be helpful and improve the writing.)

Clothing Optional. Assuming you’re not Skyping. I do my best work in my PJs and fuzzy slippers.

What you’ll love (and be thankful for) in a live critique group…

Clarity. After patiently listening to a critique (and nodding like a bobble head in an earthquake), you can ask a thoughtful follow-up question and get a deeper understanding.

Hugs. When you sell a manuscript, you get congratulatory hugs. (Well, I did anyway.)

More Hugs. When you get rejected for the thirteenth time in a week, you get pity hugs. (Well, I did anyway.)

Friendship. Not guaranteed, but if these people are reading your early drafts and hugging you, it usually just happens. (I’m super thankful that my critique group is going out for Christmas cocktails next month. Bonus!)

Now, it you will indulge me for a moment. Picture books do not offer an acknowledgement page, so I need to do it here. A million thanks to Laura, Peter, Anthony, Deb, Kristen, Pat, Melissa, Victoria, Megan, and Katherine. You make me a better writer.

And now for the daily cookie. (I’m always thankful for cookies.)

The Nutella Cookie

Find the Nutella Cookie recipe at

santasauruscover-72dpiStacy McAnulty’s debut picture book, DEAR SANTASAURUS, is available now from Boyds Mills Press. She lives in North Carolina with three kids, two dogs, and one husband. To learn more about Stacy, please visit her website at


  1. Stacy, you have lots of company! I’m more grateful for my two critique groups than I can say. Lucky that you said it so well!


  2. Stacy, I, too, am thankful for all of my critique groups and the support of many writers in the SCBWI community. I know I couldn’t do it alone. Wishing you much success with this new title…and many more congratulatory hugs to come in your future.


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