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Polishing Silver

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

It is rare in a writer’s life to find people who truly “get” us. Non-writers just don’t understand the urgent need that overwhelms us, when at a restaurant, to suddenly whip out a pen and begin frantically scribbling on a napkin (hopefully paper). We haunt bookstores like artists haunt galleries and musicians frequent the eclectic music store on the corner. And heaven help our non-writing friends or family when we are out and happen to come across another writer.

But even within the community of writers, we don’t always “get” one another. There are plenty of authors I love to death, personally, but I just can’t get into their stories. Or some whose writing I adore, but I’ve reconciled myself to the fact we’ll never be friends.

Which is why when we do find those writers who fit both sides, we are blessed.

I have worked with quite a few critique partners over the years. My first experience was in 2003 when I met two wonderful women at the ACRW conference in Houston. I had just started writing Happy Endings Inc., my fourth manuscript. The three of us decided to try out being critique partners—and it was wonderful. We each wrote different genres (romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction), and that helped us be able to spot things in each other’s work someone writing the same genre might have missed. Once I started grad school, though, and had the work of fellow students to critique, I had to resign from that first crit group.

In the four writing terms of grad school, I worked with eight different people in addition to two faculty mentors. The classes I took those two years were wonderful and taught me about craft, but it was through the critiquing process my writing really improved.

When I finished, I contacted my pre-school crit partners, but things just didn’t fall into place the way they had before. It just wasn’t right this time. So I prayed about it, asking God to lead me to the right critique group.

Then, through the ACFW forums and discovering each other’s blogs, I met two sisters-of-the-soul. Once we got to know each other and figured out we liked what we’d seen of each other’s writing ability through our blogs, we agreed to try critiquing.

Let me tell you, these women have blown me away, not only by their writing skills and wonderful stories, but by their thoughtful and knowledgeable comments. In Friends for the Journey, Luci Shaw quotes a journal entry where she recounts an idea that came to her while polishing Madeleine L’Engle’s silver candlesticks:

Suddenly I realize I’m dealing with more than “just” candlesticks; I’m coming to think of it as “polishing Madeleine.” Then I notice something I’ve missed before, her name . . . inscribed, faint but dark on two of the four . . . and the idea of the polishing of a friend and a friendship, turns even truer. It’s a variation on the theme of the biblical proverb: “As iron sharpens iron, so the heart of friend with friend.”

Though we may need a kind of corrective sharpening from each other from time to time, polishing is a gentler art. As writers, critics, editors, wordsmiths, we polish each other’s phrases and ideas . . .our roles of writer and editor reverse—often easily, effortlessly. And we continue to luster each other to a shine . . . we have polished each other like silver, with soft cloths, with loving attention.

Erica, Georgiana, and I have only bee critiquing each other’s work for about a month. With most critique groups, that’s not long enough to get beyond the walking-on-eggshells stage. But with this group, it feels like we’ve been together for years. We snark, express our emotional reactions to the scenes, mark where we have questions, or make suggestions where we find something that just doesn’t work.

So today, I just wanted to take the time to publicly thank God for my two fellow silver polishers, Georgiana Daniels and Erica Vetsch. Get to know their names, because you’ll be buying their books one of these days!

  1. Sally Bradley permalink
    Thursday, March 8, 2007 9:39 am

    That’s a really special thing, Kaye. The crit group I’m in has turned into something of a prayer group with writing thrown in.


  2. Georgiana D permalink
    Thursday, March 8, 2007 1:01 pm

    Thanks Kaye! We have a special group, and I’m so thankful God brought us together!


  3. Erica Vetsch permalink
    Thursday, March 8, 2007 3:43 pm

    Kaye, this is a beautiful post and expresses better than anything I could say just what I feel about our group. I am thankful for you and for Georgiana. God is good.


  4. Donna Alice permalink
    Friday, March 9, 2007 12:34 pm

    Have to say that YES, we will be buying Erica’s books one day! I’ve been telling her that for awhile so I feel your beautifully written post gives me MORE credibility! LOL. So here is the thing—when she tells us about her first big sale we have to yell, “I TOLD YOU SO!”
    I’m super happy for my friend that she’s found the two of you for crit partners. Since I write for children, I’m not always the best at telling her what works and doesn’t.
    She is a wonderful friend and it’s through her that I sold a book. (Okay, Erica, I get ten cents a word for publicity writing so I hope the check is in th mail. LOL!)



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