I've often seen writers online asking how they can get a review/critique group together. All of the advice for finding a group IRL is great! Provided there is anyone around who likes to write. And is willing to set aside time to review your stuff with you.
I haven't found any success IRL. There are a few people from church who also write, but every time we try to get together, it falls through. I mean, a critique group has to be COMMITTED.
But I did find great success online. The first online writing group I joined was too generic. The members were poets, short story writers, song-writers, and a few novelists. Guess how many of the novels were getting reviewed? You got it. Zero. I was a member for several months and received a handful of reviews on my first three chapters. That was it. And I was one of those members reviewing every new thing that got posted, just to keep the enthusiasm up.
My commitment waned and I quit going there. I asked friends from playgroup, family members, anyone who would want to read my novel. I got two or three offers. Only one finished the novel. Ugh. This wasn't going well.
And then I discovered writing.com. I cannot say enough good things about this website. Within the writing websites are several different forums that focus on specific things. Many of them are private and you have to apply for membership. But the membership is free!
I could not have finished any of my books without this review group. I joined four: The Young Adult novel group, the Christian novel group, the Novel Review group, and the Novel Focus Forum. I met the most amazing people, learned the most obvious things, and finally had my novel read, from start to finish!
Which brings me to today's spotlight. I met Kurt Chambers in the Young Adult Novel Group, who boots up his computer in England so that we can meet online. Really cool! Meet Kurt. I hope you like him.
Me: Hey Kurt! So, since we all know you're a construction worker, I think we're dying to find out. How on earth did you get started writing?
Kurt: The simple answer to that is, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I knew nothing, and had absolutely no idea of just how much was involved. I worked with children as a volunteer and they were my inspiration. I wanted to write for children. I wrote the first three chapters of my first novel and gave it to the most cynical person I know--my wife. I knew I would get an honest reaction. She read them and turned to me and said, "If you kill off that character, I swear I won't read any more of this." What an awesome reaction! That was enough to convince me I could do it. The rest is history.
Me: How many books have you written?
Kurt: I've written three full novels in a middle grade fantasy series: Truth Teller, The Wrath of Siren and Favian's Law. At the moment I'm working on another two books. The World in Johnny's Back Garden, which is aimed at slightly younger children. The story is designed to give kids an alternative view of the living things around them. And Unknown Reality, a middle grade fantasy novel. I've very excited about this book. It's bordering on sci-fi, mixed with fantasy. It's a strange story, but even in it's infancy it's already receiving banging reviews.
Me: Wow, sounds awesome! That makes me so excited to see all of your series in print! Give me a quick synopsis of your Truth Teller series.
Kurt: How could a modern day girl like Charlotte ever envisage that magic really exists? Even with her own vivid imagination, the place for other realms belonged in a child's fairy tale. Or so she thought, until she stumbled across a hidden curio shop and an even stranger shopkeeper. He gives her a gift that resembles an antique snow dome, but this is not an ordinary globe. The world Charlotte has always known disappears as she's spirited away into a mystical land.
This is the beginning of a lifelong friendship that changes Charlotte's life forever. Discovered by a young elf alone in the forest, she embarks on a journey in search of a group of travelling Entertainers. She encounters heart-stopping dangers and real life monsters, but a far greater threat shadows her every move. Even the strength and skill of her new found companions cannot protect her against a ruthless druid assassin. But in this realm, Charlotte is not the vulnerable little girl she thought she was.
Me: Great! And for those wondering, I have read Truth Teller, the first book in Kurt's series. I said it to him then, and I'll say it again: How is this not published??? Where are you in the publishing marathon?
Kurt: LOL...Interesting question. Unpublished! I would like to think that I'm on the edge of being published. I have my first book edited to a publishable standard. I've managed to scrape together a reasonable synopsis, and my query letter has sparked interest of some of the biggest names in the publishing industry. I'm doing everything I should be doing as far as I know. All I need now is my big break.
Me: Ah, Kurt. You deserve it! So...Brownie Girl Scouts??? Or Girl Guides, whatever you call them over there. How did you end up in charge of them?
Kurt: Working with the Brownies came about by pure chance. My wife used to volunteer helping to to run the Stevenage 17th Brownie pack at the local church. My eldest daughter was a Brownie back then. They asked me if I would come with them on a trip to London as there had to be so many adults per child. It was one of the most awesome days out I'd ever had...lol...I have the mental age of a ten-year-old myself, and I love kids. I started going down on Brownie night to help out and ended up getting enrolled as an official Girl Guider. I loved it so much, it was the best thing I ever did in my life without question. I loved those kids like they were my own.
Me: That's neat. Not everyone can say that they've been a Girl Guider. If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Kurt: This would have to be a toss-up between visiting the pyramids in Egypt, or the Incas mountain settlements in South America. Both would be an awesome experience and a massive inspiration for future stories.
Me: Who would you take with you?
Kurt: My wife, of course. It would be suicide not too...lol...
Me: Good point! How many bedrooms does your house have?
Kurt: Funny stuff! Tamara, you're going to be gutted--
Kurt: --because my daughter has not long moved out...lol...I have a three bedroom house. Houses in England are a lot smaller than in your part of the world. The whole floor area of my home is approx. 23 foot square. In a word, small.
Me: Um, yeah. Like the size of my closet.
Kurt: For the last year or so there has been eight of us living here. Me, my wife, my three kids and my eldest daughter's two children AND her boyfriend. In a word, insane! Now there is just the four of us...Phew! It's like living in another world.
Me: Phew! Glad it's just ya'll again. Now that you're done gutting me, how do you say 'tomato'?
Kurt: I say tomato...lol...I pronounce it as tom-ar-to as apposed to tom-ay-to.
Me: Do you stand in a line or a queue?
Kurt: I have to queue for things here in England.
Me: Do you prefer winter or summer?
Kurt: Definitely summer.
Kurt: Have you ever been to England? Cooooold.
Me: You should try migration. Works for the birds. What is your favorite food?
Kurt: That's difficult, there's so much nice stuff out there. I think I would have to say beans on toast.
Me: I'm so not laughing at you. Yes I am. Beans on toast???
Kurt: I'm a bit of a legend for my baked beans. Seriously, it dates back from when I was at school and everyone used to come round my house for lunch to sample my beans. I guess that makes me the original Mr. Bean...lol...
Me: What's your favorite animal?
Kurt: My favourite animal. Am I allowed two?
Me: Sure, why not?
Kurt: Ludo, my recently departed cat. He was eighteen-years-old when he died this year, and was a significant member of my family.
Me: Oooh! So sorry!
Kurt: I also have to include, Percy, my insane talking cockatiel. He was proper mental. He used to just fly around my house doing whatever he liked. He liked fighting...lol...We had him for years before one of the next door neighbours kids scared him out the house. Very sad story.
Me: Okay, so you like birds and cats, one bird and one cat in particular. Awesome interview, Kurt! You're one of the best! Be sure and let me know when you get that contract!