Monday, September 19, 2022


Writing can be a lonely profession for some, and a frustrating one too. You may not realize it, but joining a writing group might help you. Writing peers inject hopeful optimism and invaluable insights into your solitary journey as a writer. Not only that, you get some time to socialize and relax as well if you meet in person.

It took me a while to find my writing family, but here’s how it happened…

I started writing picture books about ten years ago. At that time, when I finished writing and revising my stories, I sent them out to publishers right away. THAT was a huge mistake! Unfortunately, I learned the hard way when rejections came back quickly.

I felt frustrated and lost. Why didn’t publishers love my stories? Was there anything wrong with my writing? Unfortunately, I had no answers. But I did not stop writing.

An encouraging message from my son

A couple of years later, when I was living in Singapore, I attended the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) where I learned about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It was comforting to know that there were other aspiring children’s writers like me and I wasted no time in becoming a member. My dejection gave way to hope and a desire to connect with and learn from others.

At the SCBWI booth at AFCC, Singapore.

In those days, the local SCBWI meetings were held in person once a month. Socializing was followed by critiquing of manuscripts. Initially, I was hesitant to share my work. But by the time I attended my third meeting, I was ready.

However, that evening, after getting feedback on my manuscript, I was demoralized. Don’t get me wrong. My writing partners were wonderful, but hearing the shortcomings in my storytelling and writing broke my heart. Even though I was the one who had signed up for this, it shattered my confidence. 

It took me a few days to realize that the not-so-great feedback that I had received had given me answers to my earlier questions. I now knew why my work had been rejected by publishers! After extensive editing and rewriting, when I took my manuscript back to the group, my writing partners were enthusiastic about my changes and gave more feedback. As much as I didn’t agree with their comments, there was a lot that I agreed with, a lot that helped me shape my stories and put them on the right track. 

My writing group has guided me in improving my craft and making my work polished and “submission-ready”. Sharing my work with them is like getting my manuscripts pre-screened before submitting to editors/agents. 

My writing partners were an invaluable part of the journey of my upcoming picture book, GIRLS ON WHEELS (Summer 2023). Just like the girl skateboarders in the story who are there for each other whether they fly or fall, my writing partners were there for me, cheering me on during my moments of self-doubt. 

Over the years, I’ve become a part of a couple of writing groups, both in-person and online. Thanks to them, apart from receiving feedback, I’ve also learned how to give feedback: begin with the positive, move on to suggestions, and end with something positive. Not only that, my writing partners and I share information about writing classes, book recommendations, book events, and so on. We celebrate our successes and lament over our rejections and disappointments. We are there for each other when we’re stuck or simply need to vent. My writing partners are my writing “family”.

It is important to remember that a writing group is made up of people who are like anyone else you may know. There may be misunderstandings, or criticism that doesn’t resonate. To keep things going smoothly, it’s essential to be respectful of one another and keep communication channels open. Feedback is subjective, so take it with an open mind without getting defensive. Reflect on the suggestions and let them simmer in your mind before you decide whether or not they are suitable for your manuscript.

Not everyone’s writing journey is the same. Your experience in finding and working with a writing group may be completely different than mine. What’s important is to keep writing and find YOUR writing family. So how can you do that?

1.    Join SCBWI. (

2.    Follow Kidlit411 on Facebook. They also have a Kidlit 411 Manuscript Swap group.

3.     Join free writers’ clubs at local libraries.

4.     Join paid writing groups such as Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 Picture Book Challenge.

5.    Take classes, such as at The Writing Barn, where you may find future writing partners.

6.    Attend local children’s literature events and related conferences for networking opportunities.

They say that “It takes a village to raise a child.” I say that it takes a writing family to nurture and ‘raise’ a picture book.

I wish you luck and the very best for your writing journey.

-Srividhya Venkat

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