SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Critique Groups

In 1972, Jane Yolen began the New England Region’s first SCBW critique group at the Hatfield Public Library in Hatfield, Massachusetts. During the 25 years that Jane led the group, aspiring authors and illustrators regularly drove an hour or more to benefit from Jane’s guidance and wisdom. As a result, Jane played a vital role in launching the careers of many noted authors and illustrators.

After Jane resigned as the critique group’s leader, the remaining members adopted a system of rotating leaders, which included Peg Davol, Nancy Sippel Carpenter, Nancy Hope Wilson, and others. The Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild (WMIG) also developed as an offshoot of Jane’s highly-regarded critique group.

Our region’s second critique group was established by Sue Burgess in 1980. This group, which met at the Boston Public Library, included former members of the New England Authors and Illustrators of Children’s Books. Sue created a third critique group at the Westwood Public Library in Westwood, Massachusetts, in 1981. Around the same time, she began encouraging other writers in eastern Massachusetts to create additional critique groups.

In 1983, Barbara Burt and Linda Tishler established a critique group at the Concord Free Library in Concord, Massachusetts. It is the longest continually-running SCBW(I) critique group in New England, and possibly in the nation. In the same year, Susan Banta established the first SCBW New England Illustrator’s Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts. By 1985, the New England Region boasted seventeen critique groups.

When the region was re-reorganized in the early 1990s, the Executive Board included a Critique Group Coordinator to serve the region’s thirty critique groups. Over a 7-year period, first Linda Shaughnessy and then Kay Kudlinski worked hard to expand and support the mushrooming number of critique groups throughout New England.

When Jan Kozlowski became the Critique Group Coordinator in 1998, she realized that members needed more information about starting, running, and maintaining successful groups. She developed a collection of articles called The Critique Group Starter Packet, which is now available for every new critique group leader. Jan also oversaw the formation of our Region’s first online critique groups in 1998. In 2008, she introduced an email listserv for critique-group leaders and oversaw a series of workshops at which critique group leaders could discuss common problems, learn from each other’s experiences, and develop a community.

In 2005, Regional Coordinator Marilyn Salerno began inviting critique group leaders to apply for grants to fund small, local workshops. She hoped the funds would provide members with opportunities to hone their craft, improve their marketing skills, network, and plan writing and illustrating retreats. Over the next 12 years, between fifteen and twenty workshops received funding. The programs listed below are among them.

2005
“Gems from the Slushpile with Emily Mitchell, Associate Editor, Charlesbridge Publishing,” Concord Free Library, Concord, MA, Joannie Duris Coordinator

“Finding True North with Author Anita Riggio,” Holliston Public Library, Holliston, MA, Marilyn Salerno Coordinator

2006
“Fairfield Writers Group Middle Grade/YA Novel Workshop,” Courtyard Marriott, Shelton, CT, Amanda Marrone Coordinator

“The Art of Critiquing with Author Jacqueline Davies,” Story Spinners Critique Group, Cranston, RI, Linda Crotta Brennan Coordinator

2007
“First Pages, First Impressions with Randi Rivers, Associate Editor, Charlesbridge Publishing, and Erica Zappy, Associate Editor, Houghton Mifflin Children’s Books,” Concord Free Library, Concord, MA, Joannie Duris Coordinator

“Meet Erica Zappy, Associate Editor, Houghton Mifflin Children’s Books,” Memorial Hall Library, Andover, MA, Marianne Knowles and Jeff Ashworth Coordinators

“Writer’s Camp and Schmooze,” Poland Spring Campground, Poland Spring, ME, Tamra Wight Coordinator

“Meet Illustrators’ Agent Jeff DiNardo,” Rivier College, Nashua, NH, Ann Marie Divecchia Piantedosi Coordinator

2008
“Writer’s Camp and Schmooze,” Poland Spring Campground, Poland Spring, ME, Tamra Wight Coordinator

“The Write Sisters: Build, Maintain, and Ignite Your Writers’ Group,” Barbara Johansen Newman’s home, Needham, MA, Jan Kozlowski and Barbara Johansen Newman Coordinators

2009
“How Critique Groups Change and Evolve with Kathleen Kudlinski,” Liz Goulet Dubois’s Studio, Hope, RI, Jan Kozlowski and Liz Dubois Coordinators

2010
“Illustrator Group Studio Tour with Artist Rep Lilla Rogers,” Lilla Rogers Studio, Arlington, MA, Ann Marie Piantedosi Coordinator

2013
“From the Ground Up: The Birth of a Picture Book Publishing Company with Amanda Broder of Ripple Grove Press,” Concord, MA, Joannie Duris Coordinator

2015
“Courtyard Critiques Writing Retreat,” Dedham, MA, Amitha Knight Coordinator

2016
“Portfolio Review with E. B. Lewis,” Weston, MA, Sarah Brannen Coordinator

“Critique Group Writing Retreat,” Bridgeton, MA, Francine Puckly and Dawn Stewart Coordinators

 

In 2010, Jan stepped down from her position as Critique Group Coordinator and Stacy Mozer filled the position. Stacy developed a number of new tools for members, including an open group list that is continuously updated and an online form that members can use to request a group when none is available in their area. She also replaced the email listserv for critique group leaders with a Facebook group in 2014 and started having critique group leaders meet for dessert and conversation at the annual New England SCBWI conference.

When the SCBWI New England region was reorganized in 2018, the position of Critique Group Coordinator was changed from an Assistant Regional Advisor role to a volunteer role. In an attempt to make the position more localized, the Regional Team decided create a three-person team with one member from each sub-region.

In 2019, the region replaced the Critique Group Leader Grant program with a new, more targeted initiative called Shoptalks, which benefits PAL members as well as critique groups and local community members interested in children’s literature. For these programs, critique group leaders fill out an online form specifying the type of local PAL member they have in mind (author, illustrator, genre, etc.). After the Regional Team identifies a suitable speaker, the critique group leader works with the PAL member and their local library to schedule a date for the presentation, which is free and open to the public.

New England SCBWI currently has more than seventy-five critique groups scattered throughout the six states and cyberspace.

 

Critique Group Coordinators

  • 1991-1996 Linda Shaughnessy
  • 1997-1998 Kay Kudlinski
  • 1998-2010 Jan Kozlowski
  • 2010-2018 Stacy Mozer

Critique Group Coordinator, Northern New England
2018-          Sally Wilkins

Critique Group Coordinator, Central New England
2018-         Rajani LaRocca

Critique Group Coordinator, Southern New England
2018-         Cindy Rodriguez