Friday, April 11, 2014

Straight Talk from the Library: Cathi Shaw's Take on Critique Groups

Cathi Shaw, author of FIVE CORNERS, is at The Library today to talk about critique groups as part of her virtual book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions. Cathi is giving away a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card (winner's choice). You can see the other stops on the tour here:

My Take on Critique Groups

I’ve wanted to be a writer for my whole life so I’ve done pretty much everything you’re told you should do if you want to be a writer and that includes joining writing groups.

From my first creative writing course as a college student to my last attempt at putting together a writing group in my home town, I’ve found the experience of these kinds of groups an utter let down.

I think there are a few reasons for this. First, and most commonly, it becomes a way to avoid writing. The number of times I’ve pulled an old story out and passed it around because I didn’t actually write anything for the group is truly startling. Instead of spending a few hours sitting around talking about writing I would be better off doing the actually task of writing.

Second, in open groups a lot of the people who attend aren’t very good writers. That sounds snobby but it’s true. Some people who join writer’s groups really need to work on their writing process (usually the revising phase). But they don’t want to be told that. I teach writing so I read a lot of first drafts and in a writer’s group I want to be reading polished drafts not crappy first attempts.

Third, and probably most importantly, people are often there to have their egos stroked. They don’t want constructive criticism; they want praise. I tell my students that you have to decide what kind of feedback you are looking for when you ask for someone to read your work. Do you want a cheerleading section (frankly, sometimes we want exactly that!)? Do you want a copyeditor who focuses on grammar and punctuation (also, very much needed sometimes)? Or do you want a constructive critique of your story? I think writers’ groups work best for the final category but often that’s not why people are there!

So writer’s groups are not my piece of cake. But what I do find immensely helpful is finding a few trusted souls who can give you honest feedback. My writing buddy is Rochelle Dionne. We read one another’s drafts and give copious amounts of feedback to each other. We are brutally honest about everything, which really hurts sometimes. But we also get extremely excited if we like a story. We’ve had long evenings of wine and planning of our stories – just talking about them. I recommend every writer find one other writer you can bond with. Someone you trust and enjoy spending time with. It could be the best thing you’ve done for your writing!


Growing up in a sleepy village untouched by distant wars and political conflicts, it was easy for Thia, Mina and Kiara to forget such horrors existed in the Five Corners. That is until the dead child is found; a child that bears the same strange birthmark that all three sisters possess. A Mark their mother had always told them was unique to the girls.

Kiara’s suspicions grow as their Inn is soon overrun with outsiders from all walks of life. Strangers, soldiers and Elders who all seem to know more about what is happening than the girls do.

After Mina barely survives an attack in the forest, the sisters are faced with a shattering secret their mother has kept from them for years. As danger closes in around them, the sisters are forced from their home and must put their trust in the hands of strangers. With more questions than answers, Kiara finds herself separated from everyone she loves and reliant on an Outlander who has spent too much time in army. She doesn’t trust Caedmon but she needs him if she has any hope of being reunited with her sisters and learning what the Mark might mean.


Cathi Shaw lives in Summerland, BC with her husband and three children. She is often found wandering around her home, muttering in a seemingly incoherent manner, particularly when her characters have embarked on new adventure. In addition to writing fiction, she teaches rhetoric and professional writing in the Department of Communications at Okanagan College and is the co-author of the textbook Writing Today.

Twitter: @CathiShaw

Buy the book at the publisher, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Great book tour Cathi! I enjoyed 'meeting' you :)

    ilookfamous at yahoo dot com

    1. I loved reading your comments at each stop, Elise-Maria! :)

  2. Thanks so much for hosting me, Judith! :)

  3. Great blurb! This sounds like a very interesting story. I would love to read it. I am entering under the name of Virginia

  4. I'm a Librarian and would LOVE to read your books.