Many of you probably know the benefits by now of a critique partner or group, but if you're not convinced yet, let me throw out my two cents on the matter. This post will come in two parts.
First, finding a critique partner...it's not as easy as it sounds!
I found my first group of critique partners by accident. A little digging online pointed me to a local SCBWI contact for a critique group 30 miles away. I took a deep breath and attended the group, fully expecting them to kick me out! But they were more than patient with a newbie, and I continue to meet with Write/Hear every other week at a local library. (Here is my shining opportunity to brag about our blog, http://www.write4kidsinmidmo.blogspot.com/, which we just posted in the last few weeks. It's under construction, but we have some great poetry posted!). It's a group of children's writers with wide interests: middle grade, YA, non-fiction, etc. Alas, I am the only picture book author in the group, so last year I began trawling the sea of writers looking for good PB partners.
Again, I looked to my local SCBWI. This is by far one of the best resources for finding a critique group or partner. They keep perpetual lists of people seeking to partner with fellow writers, so always check there first. (The name of the regional advisor can be found on the state link through http://www.scbwi.org/. He/she will be able to direct you to the person who keeps track of critique groups in your area.)
By luck, I heard of an online group of writers that had just formed and were looking to add some writers. I tried this for a while, but it didn't feel quite right.
So I then turned turned to the national SCBWI discussion boards. SCBWI keeps updated postings for people looking for partners, and while some find a fellow writer there, I did not luck out.
Then by chance, I ran across a posting on Mary Kole's blog, http://www.kidlit.com/, where she gave followers a chance to ask for critique partners. (She repeats this opportunity every so often, so if you're in the market for a partner, keep an eye on her blog, as well as for always great advice!). I left a post, and several months later, I have two critique partners (and could have had one more, but I felt that I had all I could handle at the moment!).
The one-on-one experience has been great, as I will share in Take Two, but my main advice is this. Be persistent! Keep looking and keep trying new formats: face-to-face, online, one-on-one email, etc. By experimenting, you'll find the perfect formula that works for you.
To be continued...