Critique Group Interview: Bree Despain and THE SIX

Bree Despain's critique group, "The Six"
Photo by Michelle Sallay: http://www.michellesallayphotography.com/

Last week I posted interviews with The Merry Sisters of Fate - Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff - regarding how they work together as a critique group. 

Bree Despain is currently SWAMPED with edits for THE LOST SAINT, the sequel to THE DARK DIVINE. However, when I asked Bree to weigh in about critique groups she was happy to talk about her group, named "The Six." Thanks so much, Bree, and y'all mentally send her some Excellent Editing Mojo. (It Is Capitalized, So It Is Real.)

1. Everyone will have different criteria for a crit group, but what's the most vital thing to have in common?

I think the most important thing to have in common is a mutual respect for each others' writing.  Every one in my group (The SIX--yes, I know we're dorks!) writes YA--but of all different genres.  From literary to historical fantasy, mystery to paranormal romance.  But we all respect each others' writing and can see the value and passion in each others' work.  Also, I think it's good to have a lot of respect when delivering critique.  I once had a critique partner who was great at finding the problems in my MS and usually had very sound advice, but her delivery was so harsh that I didn't end up keeping that writing partnership. 

2. How do you know when you've found it?

I've found most of my critique partners through writing classes or workshops.  After spending a few days critiquing with a group and reading their writing, I think it's easy to pick out the people who you happen to jive with--and respect their writing and the critique they give.  

3. How do you decide what/when to share?

Years ago, I used to only bring something that I thought was already polished and pretty clean because I wanted to impress my critique partners--but now that I've gotten smarter, I bring the stuff that I am struggling the most with because I know I'll get great feedback to help me work through the problem areas. 

4. How do you achieve balance when it comes to meeting needs? Is there a natural ebb and flow? 

I think there definitely is a natural ebb and flow with The SIX.  I know some groups are really strict with their rules and how many pages you can bring, and when you can bring them. But my group is much more relaxed than that.  We are usually in constant contact with each other (can you say DAILY GROUP EMAILS?) so we are usually in-tune with who in the group needs what.  If one of us is under deadline or is really struggling, then we may choose to devote that entire meeting to that person.  We've been known to read an entire MS in a pinch if someone needs it.  We are usually also aware when it's been awhile since someone has submitted work and we'll push that person to send us her latest pages.  We're a big group (there's six of us--obviously) so it's not always possible for us all to submit pages at each meeting. 

4. How did you decide to handle disagreements? 

Friendly debate and discussion.  I don't think we've ever had a fight.  That's why I think respect among group members is the most important factor in a successful critique group.

5. Did you pinky swear at the beginning to leave personal feelings out of it? 

Again--respect!  If you deliver criticism in a respectful way, then there's no need for feeling to get involved.

6. Are you friends first or CP's first or are all things equal? 

We started out as CPs but soon became best friends.  We do a ton of stuff together from conferences, writing retreats, weekly lunches, long email chains, and enjoying being each others' biggest fans.  The SIX are a pretty good critique group, but I think we're awesome friends.  I think (hope) that our friendship is strong enough that it makes the critique that much more meaningful.  If I really respect someone, then their feedback means more.  And if they say something isn't working, then I know it really isn't working.

That being said, everyone in The SIX knows that our meetings start at 6:00, but we probably won't get to critiquing until 8:30 or 9:00.  There's dinner and chatting and laughing butts off that has to come first. 

Thanks again, Bree, and let's cheer her on in the comments section!!!


  1. It's so important to mesh well with critique partners! It sounds like you have a good match going!

  2. Aw fun interview. I love this feature on your blog, Myra!

  3. What a great critique group!!! So....we'll see you guys at 6!?! LOL :D

  4. Great interview. For me, the most important thing for a successful critique group is trust. When I share my writing, I am most vulnerable. I love feeling safe with my CPs, knowing that they can be honest and that I can filter the feedback knowing they have my best interests at heart.

  5. Wow that's a lot of people in one crit group, they must all stay busy! Thanks for the great interview.

  6. Great interview! (And I thought my group gabbed and laughed a long time! :) )

  7. This is so inspiring. I love hearing from people that have formed these communities to help one another.

    Keep 'em coming!

  8. Very nice interview. The Six sound like a very fun and supportive critique group. :)

  9. Aw. That was sweet. Thanks, Myra, and thanks Bree! Good luck with edits! :)

  10. I remember my first critique night with The Six. It started at 6 and I told my hubby I'd probably be home around 8. It was 10:00 before we got to pages. But, man, these ladies know their stuff when it comes to YA!

  11. I'm loving all these interviews, and the critique group ones are really insightful. Thanks, Myra and Bree!

  12. I think being best friends is what makes our group work! Great interview, Bree!
    -Valynne #4 crazy of The SIX


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