Interview with Jo Michaels
I’m a writer and graphic designer living near Atlanta, Georgia, in the USA. I’ve written a number of books over the last year and have many more on their way soon. My completed works include: Yassa (June 2012) a historical fiction novel about young Genghis Khan, The Abigale Chronicles (April & July 2012) a series of fiction chapter books for young readers that’s about a little girl who loses herself in her books (literally), The Indie Author’s Guide to: Building a Great Book (July 2012) a non-fiction book that walks you through how to brand yourself, format for e-reading devices, and create a cover for a print book, Mystic-Bronya (August 2012) a young adult series that focuses on hate, acceptance, and inner strength, and Player (October/November 2012) a novel about relationship games and the people that play them. Yes, I write within many fiction genres.
I keep a blog (or rather, it keeps me) you can visit here: http://jomichaels.blogspot.com and I try to be entertaining as well as informative in my writing. If you like people who tweet about books, promotions, or rants from time to time, feel free to follow me on twitter: @WriteJoMichaels – PSSSSST! Don’t forget to go “like” my FaceBook page http://www.facebook.com/WriteJoMichaels this doesn’t actually mean you like the way it looks, or that you are admitting to being a fan of mine, it just means you want my updates. Don’t ask me, I’m not Zuckerberg.
In addition to writing, I design book covers; my own and for fellow authors on occasion. If you’d like to see some examples, you may visit my Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Jo-Michaels
Or, visit the pages for books that aren’t mine but that I designed the covers for:
Okay, now that I’ve bored you to tears, let’s move on to the interesting stuff for Merlene, shall we?
What writing group/s do you belong to?
I belong to the Indie Author Critique Group on FaceBook. It’s a closed group so authors can feel comfortable ranting or asking openly about things they may not want readers to hear them say. I’m the moderator and an active participant there. I also belong to the Children’s Authors and Illustrators group on FaceBook (another closed group).
What is the structure of this writing group?
It’s an online group where members can go and ask one another for reviews or critique on various components of their books (covers, writing, editing, marketing, etc...). Oddly enough, we’re also a bit of a support group for one another. I find people posting when they’re down and others stepping in to offer words of encouragement and support.
Is this writing group associated with a state or national organisation?
Does this group have affiliations with peak writing associated bodies?
How many members does this writing group have?
There are currently 30 members of IAC and most are pretty active. I’m rather selective about who I approve. CA&I has 1,000+ members.
Does the writing group have a clearly defined goal in writing?
No. If we have a Work In Progress we’d like feedback for, we can ask there (private group) and those who are interested pipe up and agree to do what we need. I am considering a few things for the upcoming months but nothing concrete just yet.
Are there any critiquing guidelines to follow?
No. I’ll be the first to admit I’ll tear your book to shreds if it needs it. I warn folks ahead of time that I’m an honest critic and, if they’re prone to melancholy, they might not want me to read their stuff. However, I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from those I’ve critiqued and love the critiques I’ve received from other members.
Are there any guidelines for people whose work is being critiqued to follow?
No. You send it, we break it down.
Does the group have set guidelines for behaviour, and a process to remove members who are disruptive to the smooth running of the group?
I haven’t posted any rules because they’re kind of unspoken: You may link to your stuff, ask for critique on your book components, vent, rant, rave, wallow in the despair that being a writer brings on, or anything bookish. I remove links posted to outside sales sites because I don’t condone spamming. It’s a group for critiques. If a member is disruptive, I’ll quietly remove them and tell them they can apply to re-join in three months.
Does everybody contribute to each meeting, or do you only hear from the same few people?
We have no set meeting times. Everyone posts at their leisure. I find most members participate when someone posts but the group is usually pretty quiet overall. Releases tend to generate a bit more traffic.
How long have you been a member of this writing group?
About two months for the IAC and a month for the CA&I.
What is your role within this group?
Moderator, peacekeeper, general annoyance for the IAC and lurking member for the CA&I.
What are the benefits to you from attending a writing group?
I’ve met some great new people who have writing styles very different from my own. It’s helped to shape me in ways I never dreamed possible. I love getting a different POV for my stories as well.
Why be in a writing group?
You should join a writing group to get a new perspective. Different people have different ways of seeing the world. There’s really only one thing to do with that: learn from it. Don’t take criticism so hard. Understand it’s someone’s opinion and you have a right to disagree. At least you’ll be surrounded with like-minded folks.
What do you look for in a writing group?
I look for people who aren’t just writers. I need a group of readers as well. If the group is well read, I’m much more likely to join and participate. Indie Author Critiques is unusual because most of the members are not just published authors, but active bloggers as well. Bloggers tend to network well by reading and commenting on other blogs.
Does your writing group give peer critique or general comment?
Both. We do peer-to-peer when we want and provide general comments when asked.
What is the focus of your writing group – writing or poetry?
Writing. Though we have had someone come in and ask for reviews on their books of poetry. I’m working on reading one now. The process is long for me because poetry isn’t my favourite thing to read. I much prefer a good novel. But I said I would do it, so I am doing it.
Can the two be successfully combined in terms of critiquing?
I’m not sure. I think if you have a reader that likes to read poetry as well as novels, yes.
Is there anything you would like from your writing group that is missing at the moment?
More WIPs to look at. I thrive when critiquing and my own work improves because I’m forced to learn something new while recalling what I know.
Have you belonged to any other writing groups?
No. I’m a bit of a reclusive and don’t really play well with others. My faith in humanity has taken a real nosedive the last two years.
Have you had a negative experience in a writing group?
Not yet *knock on wood* but I know other authors who say they were torn apart for the sake of being torn apart. If I make a correction or a change, you get a reason behind my thought process (unless I’m working with someone I know well) and a suggestion to make it better. If you don’t like the work, just tell the author that and walk away.
Do you have any advice for someone thinking of joining a writing group?
Make sure you’re comfortable with the people in the group. If you aren’t familiar with them, find a way to become familiar. Know who you’re passing your work off to and know what to expect when you get it back.
Is there anything you would like to add?
If anyone is interested in joining the Indie Author Critique group, apply. Make sure your profile is public and there are links to your works and blog on your pages. I will make sure you’re a good fit for us and the only way I know to do that is by visiting your work and seeing how you interact with others. If you are, you’ll gain access to a world of strong, supportive writers. I know many groups where the members are fly-bys. I try to encourage participation as often as possible, and I’m a pretty decent slugger to have in your corner.
Thank you for participating
Thank you for allowing me to participate. I hope more writers join writing groups that are a good fit for them.