From the Back Nine: Critique groups

  • Wednesday, August 2, 2017 1:30am
  • Opinion

I’m not much for joining in. I’ve never been to a quilting bee or a hootenanny. My last square dance was 57 years ago. I don’t know for a fact, but I’m pretty sure joiners are friendly folk who don’t tell each other they suck.

Writers do. We flock together for the express purpose of critiquing each other’s work. It is the same streak of sadomasochism that makes us want to be writers in the first place.

The problem with critiquing a writer’s work is that you might as well critique her heart, mind, waistline or children. Even the gentlest “You suck but only a little and only just this once” can hurt like the very devil. And, big surprise here, not all writers are gentle. Some might say something like, “Disappointment is one of your books under the Christmas tree.” Now you are not only hurt but angry.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

In truth, it isn’t always possible to be kind no matter how hard you try. My first critique group was a bevy of hard-to-spell personality disorders. At least two of them were passionate about their manuscripts which were, I’m sorry to say, pure crap.

Even Thumper would have had trouble finding something nice to say (saying nothing at all is not an option in a critique group). Maybe something like, “Have you considered medical school?”

The real problem in the group was Alpha Male. One meeting, I suggested one of his phrases was a bit esoteric. His eyes took on that disturbing you-harpies-are-all-alike look. He threw his pages in the air and snarled, “Do you really think it is the writer’s responsibility to dumb down his work to match the lowest of the readers?”

All righty, then. Having achieved the status of “the lowest” I figured I had little to gain from reading his stories and he had little to gain from reading mine. Clearly the group would function better without me and vice versa.

So I left.

Oddly, none of the members sent me a thanks-it’s-been-great-wish-you-all-the-luck-in-the-world email except, you guessed it, Alpha Male who wrote “I’m sorry that you are resigning from our group. Your comments were generally among the most insightful and helpful.”

I believe that may say more about the rest of the group than about me. Anyway, it is one more example of how difficult it is to really understand an Alpha Male which has been a failing of mine for seven decades.

As time went on, I joined another group and then another. Thus far, the one I’m in now may argue, snipe and adjudicate, but we have refrained from throwing pies or cat calls. Not that it couldn’t start any day now.

Something for me to look forward to, here on the back nine.

Linda B. Myers is a founding member of Olympic Peninsula Authors and writer of such books as “Fun House Chronicles,” and the Bear Jacobs mystery series. Her newest novel, “Bear At Sea,” published in March, is now available at Contact her at or

More in Opinion

Think About It: Lost in space

Even our cats are crabby — although I fail to see any… Continue reading

Guest opinion: Dems topping GOP in primary election

The Grand Old Party endured a good old-fashioned butt-whupping on primary night.… Continue reading

Water Matters: Drought by the numbers, 180 and 120 cfs

A cubic-foot-per-second (cfs) is a measure of stream flow equivalent to about… Continue reading

Guest opinion: Teacher compensation is on the rise

Teacher salaries are soaring … as the Washington Education Association predicted they… Continue reading

American giving surpassed $400 billion

Believe it or not, there is good news to report these days.… Continue reading

Think About It: Gifts of grief unbounded

Breaking news interrupts the newscast — as it often does — and… Continue reading

From the Back Nine: The Long Haul, Surviving As a caregiver (part two)

This is the continuation of my thoughts on surviving as a caregiver,… Continue reading

Dungeness River Management Team celebrates three decades of collaboration

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the Dungeness River Management Team has… Continue reading

Guest opinion: Firearms and … warning labels?

Back in 1965, with mounting evidence of the ill effects of smoking,… Continue reading

Think About It: Build it and they will come

And they have. But first, husband Paul and I are celebrating the… Continue reading

Guest opinion: Cooperation key to salmon recovery

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson didn’t have to take the culvert case… Continue reading

Watter Matters: History matters

In my last column I indulged in banter about the passage of… Continue reading