Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thumbs up for The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide!

I enthusiastically award Becky Levine’s how-to book The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide (Writer’s Digest, ’10) my high-and-hardy Thumbs Up! The guide delivers everything its cover promises, and then some: firstly, how to choose, join and run a Writing Group but secondly, how to give and receive feedback, self-edit and make revisions, whether a Writing Group member or not.

Where, oh, where was this book when I needed it, not only at the start of my writing career but mid-way through, when my doubts and fears worked overtime to imprison me in my Writing Room?
It’s just what the (Writing) Doctor would have ordered.
Indeed, it’s just what this Writing Teacher recommended last week as I declared my summer Newberry Library Write Place Workshop students Writing Group-ready and fondly bid them au revoir.

Becky Levine is a writer and it shows.
Her published works include both fiction and nonfiction for children as well as nonfiction books for adults. She also reviewed for the Horn Book Guide.
She experienced first-hand the community aspect of writing.
She also realized early on that when armed with the proper tools, a writer can succeed.
Becky’s Survival Guide underscores and maximizes that community mind-set while offering writers a nifty set of editing tools.

The teacher in me couldn’t help but notice the author’s consideration of her audience - writers, especially (but not limited to) writers for children – and the thoughtfully-answered questions they would, could and should have about writing groups and the critique process.
The writer in me smiled at the author’s earnest, positive tone, the clarity of her writing and the focused yet comprehensive presentation of her subject matter.

The book is sectioned to include Writing Group Basics, Critiquing Fiction (for Adult, Young Adult and Middle Grade readers), Critiquing Non-fiction, Critiquing Books for Younger Children, Revising and Self-editing and finally, Maintaining an Evolving Group.
The Fiction section gives each element of narrative – plot, scene structure, character, point of view and voice, dialogue and description, its very own chapter.
Especially noteworthy: the clearly-written hands-on worksheets, the “Show-don’t-tell” critique examples and a representative critique sample that accompanies each section.
[Note: classroom teachers looking for Peer Group guidelines and criticism practices will find much gold to mine.]

E.B. White reminded writers, “Verbs drive the sentence!”
Becky Levine’s verbs say it all: choose, decide, join, participate, submit, evaluate, commit, communicate, read, write, critique, receive, recognize (weak spots) and analyze (the weaknesses).
Actualizing the majority of those verbs ensures survival, but even better, success.

Becky Levine’s website features an inviting photograph of an open road, labeled appropriately “Moving Forward on the Writing Path.”
Writers travel their own plotlines daily, overcoming obstacles, detours, construction and unexpected road closings.
The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide makes moving forward doable, preferably in the company of other writers and appropriately-tooled to write.

As luck would have it, Becky Levine is celebrating the six-month-release of her book with a book give-away!
Alas, the deadline is tonight, Wednesday, July 21.
To enter, visit Becky’s website and leave a comment at her post. She considers the sharing of a happy critique story the frosting on the anniversary cake.

Esther Hershenhorn


Catherine Stine said...

Sounds like an excellent book! I've been lucky to be in a long-time writing group that, despite a few road bumps, is still thriving. We choose our new members very, very carefully, and require a writing sample. Even so, sometimes the fit isn't right. Usually the other person feels the same way too, and bows out. We've seen each other through publishing our first books, and first agents and even through various first awards. Great ride!

Becky Levine said...

Esther, thank you SO much. What a wonderful wake-up review for me this morning. Especially your comment about the worksheets--boy, did I sweat those!

You just made my day. :)

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Yes, this is a phenomenal book. Sort of like an accidental writing lesson, I think.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Yes, this is a phenomenal book. Sort of like an accidental writing lesson, I think.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

It was my pleasure to make your day,Becky. :)
Your book will go a long way to help making the day for - other - writers eager to learn how to build a supportive critique community as well as give and receive criticism.
I love to read author acknowledgements - including YOURS - and often note the names of fellow Writing Group members.
Indeed, that's how my name first appeared in a published children's book!
(Thank you Hariette Robinet!)
As luck would have it, Jane Friedman offers an excerpt from Becky's book in her post today.
Check out


Ruth Spiro said...

So happy to connect two friends!

(If Esther puts her stamp of approval on this book, rest assured it's a winner!)

Esther Hershenhorn said...

And mea culpa.
I gave the incorrect link to an excerpt of Becky Levine's Survival Guide - Chapter One: How to Choose a Writing Group.
Here's the correct link:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.