Honest criticism

How fortunate I was to meet a group of women on a further education writing course, prior to my MA. We decided that our assessment of each others’ work was more valid and valuable than that of the tutor in the overcrowded evening sessions. The Monday Group we became; Henrietta Branford, a brilliant children’s writer, in whose memory the Branford Boase Award for children’s novels was set up; Sandra Ann Horn, whose many children’s books include award winners, including ‘Tattyboggle’; and Vera Forster who left us with her autobiography, ‘A Daughter of Her Century’. Our priority was the honesty of our criticism, the encouragement and support of each other. Much of what I have written has been through this process.

Over the years, more than twenty, other writers have come and gone. Honest criticism wasn’t for them. Writing is a steely business, singular, absorbing, obsessive. Taking your fragile imagination, words laid out scrupulously¬†on a page for other people to view with a cool discerning eye, takes guts. It’s the only way; to hear yourself read what you’ve written out into another ether is vital; to value or discard other people’s suggestions, to be warmed by any praise.

Jayne Woodhouse, author of the children’s trilogy about Rocky, the greyhound, and Debra Adamson have joined us.

To meet gives a deadline, a boost. Vera used to say; ‘Who has work?’ No gossip was allowed. Yet too frequently we found she’d brought nothing, had ‘lost’ what she’d written into the innards of her computer, or become distracted by Patience’. Which was an encouragement to us in itself!

And that is another attribute necessary to writers; the patience to carry on when no words seem right, the characters are not talking, and the plot is a stalemate. Patience to write and rewrite …

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