I love being a part of a writing critique group. Who else is going to constructively tell me the chapter I spent a month writing, sucks? (And besides my mom), who is going to put those hard-earned smiley faces next to certain sentences and paragraphs that were funny or well-written? My critique group, that's who. Plus, it's much wiser to have a trusted group of fellow writers tell me that my plot has pacing issues, my characters are flat, or that I misspelled an agent's name on a query, instead of a big, fat rejection letter telling me. I've been with the Raintree Writers since it began in late 2003 and I wouldn't trade them for anything. When I wrote the acknowledgments page for my books, it was with great honor to include each of their names, because after all, I wouldn't have gotten that far without them. Of course, it would have been really cool to be able to write, "And a big thank you to Stephen King. This book could not have been possible without his invaluable input." Does Stephen King even have a critique group? Hell, does he even need one? This got me thinking . . . (as much as I love my group) who would be my fantasy critique group? Sports enthusiasts have their Fantasy Football; us writers have our Fantasy Critique Group (or maybe I'm the only one). Here's my picks:
1.) J.K. Rowling. And no, not because of her lovely British accent (although I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't be mesmerizing to hear her read her submissions aloud), but because I would hope that a even just a tiny bit of her badass creativeness would rub off on me. Plus, it wouldn't hurt if we became besties and she paid for my son's college education.
2.) Ivan Doig. Mr. Doig is hands down, my favorite author. His thirty-four year writing career has yielded 14 books, including a memoir, many of which, are all set in his home state of Montana. He's arguably considered the dean of western literature. I greatly admire (green with envy, actually) his clever, witty, and original prose that makes me stop and re-read lines several times, just because they're so damn good. His characters are so well developed, you almost forget they're fictional.
3.) Erik Larson. I love true history and fiction, and Larson satisfies both itches for me with his nonfiction works like The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts, that read like fictional thrillers. Larson makes it look easy, so he'd be a great addition to my fantasy critique group.
4.) Tina Fey. I'm pretty sure nothing I write could be nearly as funny as what she'd come up with, but hopefully by osmosis, I'd glean at least an ounce of her wit. Crack open a bottle of wine and we'd be done for. Bossypants kept me laughing, so I can only imagine what working with her would be like.
5.) Kurt Vonnegut. Every group needs a smartass . . . and a satirist . . . and what the heck, a pacifist intellectual. I'd also love to have him explain all the parts I didn't quite "get" in Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions.
My list could go on and on. There are a tons of authors I would love to have sitting around my kitchen table, brainstorming ideas and telling me how fabulous I am at eliminating passive voice. (Again, it's a fantasy, right)? I also wouldn't turn Davis Sedaris away if he showed up with a six-pack and fruitcake.
Who would be in your fantasy critique group?