soup of the day: the writing & critique group survival guide by becky levine

“My new favorite is Lindt’s Excellence Intense Pear Bar. One square of that and I’m writing (or critiquing!) productively for the next hour.” ~ Becky Levine

It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here!

Official pub day for The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Give and Receive Feedback, Self-Edit, and Make Revisions (Writer’s Digest Books, 2010), by the one and only Becky Levine!

Whew! That’s some title, and friends, it lives up to every word, every paragraph, every page. As soon as I got my copy, I dove right into it, and ever since, one thought keeps running through my mind: how I wish I had this book 20 years ago. It would have made my writer’s journey so much easier, with all its great advice and guidelines about how to take one’s writing to the next level.

Yes, it’s that good.

Writer’s essentials by Cunning Stunt.

One always hears how crucial it is to find a critique partner or join a group, whether in-person or online. But it’s not always that straightforward or easy. So much depends on the dynamics of the group — identifying goals, becoming an “expert” in your fellow writers’ genres, and making sure there is a sound level of commitment across the board. We’ve all heard horror stories (maybe even experienced them firsthand), of insensitive critiquers, writers who don’t/won’t listen to feedback with an open mind, personality clashes that impede progress and productivity, and so on.

Throngs all over the world (or kitchen) celebrate the book’s release.

We’ve also read other books about writer’s groups that offer only general guidelines, or address genres different from the ones we’re interested in. And how many emphasize the importance of getting feedback on your work, but don’t tell you exactly how to proceed with revisions once you’ve received those comments?

Becky’s book is easily the most comprehensive book I’ve ever seen on this subject. It’s thorough, highly detailed, well organized, and most important, accessible. Whether you write for adults or children, and you’re interested in fiction, nonfiction, memoir, self-help books, magazine articles, or travel writing; whether you’re new to critique groups or are already well established in one, you’ll find the help you need or ways to improve. I especially like Section II: Telling the Story: How to Critique Fiction. There are separate chapters devoted to explaining how to critique for plot, character, point of view and voice, dialogue, description, and scene structure.

alphabet soup critique group session.

I also like that Becky has addressed some of the more sensitive issues surrounding critique groups. How do you assess the compatibility of the members? What if you’re not getting the kind of help you need? What if someone gets overly defensive about the comments he/she receives? How do you leave a group you’re not comfortable with? Yes, there’s a troubleshooting section on group dynamics! And throughout, there are writing samples, critique examples, and worksheets.

photos by El Gran Dee.

Yay, Becky!! Thank you for coming to the rescue, and helping us “survive” the writing life by sharing what you’ve learned from your 15+ years of critique group experience. And congratulations on publishing a much-needed, relevant, widely applicable tool that should be added to every writer’s arsenal. Happy Pub Day!

Today’s Special: Writer Survival Soup (seasoned with love, hope, stamina, and persistence).

If you’ve got an ounce of writer’s blood in you, you probably noticed this post is laced with a leetle chocolate (by far, the supreme favorite food of creative types). Now, if all I’ve said about Becky’s book isn’t enough to convince you to buy it, let me add that she does mention the importance of chocolate a couple of times in the book. See what I mean? Definitely an expert!

How about dessert?

We’ve got homemade chocolate chip cookies,

photo by desertculinary.

a Dove extra dark chocolate cupcake,

photo by ral_mnl.


and a chocolate computer, just in case:

photo by 5starfoodie.

Now, venture forth to your nearest indie, or click through to your fave online bookseller to purchase this absolutely essential book. If you’re buying the book from a brick and mortar store, don’t forget to smile, then whisper the secret password to the salesclerk: chocolate! Something magical or surprising might happen ☺.

Resident Paddingtons are especially enamoured with Becky, because she was the only one who voted for them (against Pooh) in this landmark 2008 poll.
Visit Becky’s official website and blog, Moving Forward on the Writing Path. She posts regularly about the nuts and bolts of writing, publishing, and promoting. Awesome stuff!

♥ Blog Tour Interviews:

P.J. Hoover
Write About Now (Sherrie Petersen)
The 3 R’s – Reading, ‘Riting & Research (Joyce Moyer Hostetter)

Also check out the Writer’s Digest website for a Q&A with Becky, full Table of Contents, an excerpt from the book, and downloadable worksheets.

Becky’s Launch Party will be held on January 30th at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto, California, at 3 p.m.

♥ Contests:

Still time to enter Becky’s giveaway (win a copy of the book plus chocolate)! Deadline: today, January 15th.

Also, there’s another giveaway at Joyce Hostetter’s blog. Deadline: Feb. 2nd. Hurry over!



published by Writer’s Digest Books (2010), 304 pp.


Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved. 


25 thoughts on “soup of the day: the writing & critique group survival guide by becky levine

  1. Oh my oh my oh my! This is the way to start a day, brimming with goodness. I love my critique group — but your bears know how to do it! What wonderful good news here. You really made me smile. I so look forward to the book!


  2. That’s a the group I’m looking for!
    Or maybe just one of them bears. To critique my book.
    Do you think there’s a Beatles fan among them hat-wearing bears that might “Dear Sir or Madam, would you read (and critique) my book…”


  3. Thanks, Jeannine. Becky did an outstanding job. There’s something to learn here no matter what your status regarding critique groups.
    Regarding the bears, they’ve been so busy critiquing 24/7 that I’ve had to stock up on extra chocolate to keep them going.


  4. Re: That’s a the group I’m looking for!
    If dark chocolate is involved, they’re willing. All are Beatles fans (pre-requisite for living here). A couple are even “paperback writers.”


  5. Re: That’s a the group I’m looking for!
    So funny! I was just thinking the same thing — I’d be delighted to have a bear in my critique group (especially if he brought along all that chocolate).
    Thanks so much for the splendiferous feast, Jama! It’s a book worth celebrating, isn’t it?


  6. That is the cutest critique group I’ve ever seen. Will they let me join? Or Ellsworth? And yes, I have that same tea set (but you knew that, didn’t you?). I’m ordering that book pronto for my workshops . . .


  7. Oh what a lovely and yummy gift of a review for dear Becky. This is marvelous, as is her amazing book. I’m so happy to see it all so well received. What love and time you put into this for her, Jama. You and the bears totally rock!


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