And then it happened. While we were at the writer's conference in Eureka Springs, we met two lovely ladies who live in the next city over from us. We kept in contact after the conference, and the next thing I know, we have an in-person critique group.
It's only been a month since the conference, so we've just met twice. But let me tell you, it's awesome. There are some great advantages to meeting in person vs. through email.
1) Social time! I get to leave my house and have fun.
2) Speed. In half an hour, we go over the same amount of stuff that takes a week for my online critique group to do.
3) Immediate feedback. As soon as I finish reading, they're ready to give me feedback. Right away, while it's fresh on our minds, I learn what worked and didn't.
4) Learning. While I listen to the other critiquers give their feedback, I learn something. It helps me be a better critiquer and a better writer.
5) Food. We meet at a frozen yogurt place. It's a great way to start the evening.
I know it's hard to get a real live critique group going, but it's worth the effort. Part of the trouble is finding other people serious enough about their writing to commit to meeting with you. But if you find them, take the time. It's necessary.