Event Recap: NW Author Series

Event Recap: Amber Keyser speaks at Northwest Author Series, January 24, 2010

Many writers braved the elements yesterday to attend the writing workshop presented by Amber Keyser: “Don’t Suffer Alone: How to Use a Critique Group to Enhance Your Writing” at the Wilsonville Library. This was the fourth workshop in the 2009-10 Northwest Author Series (http://northwestauthorseries.wordpress.com/), presented by Christina Katz, and supported by the Friends of the Library and the Wilsonville Arts & Culture Council.

Amber’s engaging presentation was divided into roughly three parts. She began by introducing herself , and describing her unusual path from evolutionary biologist to freelance writer of children’s lit. As different as these disciplines appear at first glance, they both, she told the audience, rely on keen powers of observations and a sense of creativity. For scientists, it takes creativity to design experiments, while writers utilize creativity in translating life experiences into a story. And just as science utilizes critiques in the form of peer reviews, writers can also benefit from critiques.

In the second part of the talk, Amber went on to distinguish criticism from critique, and to present a case for the usefulness of critique groups. To criticize is to list faults, while to critique is to analyze what works and what doesn’t, with the goal of offering solutions. With audience participation, Amber listed the main benefits of a critique group:

  1. Motivation
  2. Improve craft
  3. Encouragement and validation
  4. Accountability
  5. Sharing of resources/contacts
  6. Attending conferences/retreats together

While writing is essentially a solitary activity, a writer’s life does not have to be solitary, Amber maintained. She shared that she went through several critique groups that were not a good match for her for various reasons, before becoming part of her current critique group composed of seven children’s lit writers, Viva Scriva. In the final part of the presentation, three members of Viva Scriva illustrated how the group works in action, by critiquing a folktale Amber had recently written.

Writers interested in more of the nuts and bolts of how to form a successful critique group can check out Amber’s website, where she has posted notes from this presentation, including recommending reading. (http://www.amberkeyser.com/uploads/Notes_to_Handout_Critique_Groups.pdf)

The next presentation in the Northwest Author Series will be on February 21, 2010, when Cindy Hudson will speak on “The Nonfiction Book: From Idea to Publication”.

4 thoughts on “Event Recap: NW Author Series

    • Amber, I knew I was in the right place when you shared with us that you were an evolutionary biologist turned writer. I am a mathematician/computer scientist turned writer, and it never fails to raise eyebrows. Would that we could all have a critique group as wonderful as Viva Scriva sounds!

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