Network News: News from Central East

Critique Groups Update
By Helen Moss, Central East Co-coordinator

Earlier this year we decided to branch out by setting up our first two Cambridge-based critique groups, one for Middle Grade writers and the other for Picture Book writers and illustrators. Armed with the SCBWI Book’s guide to starting a critique group and lots of enthusiasm, three brave volunteer stepped up to the plate. They have kindly provided an update of how each group is going so far.
If you are interested in joining either group please do let me know. As numbers increase we may look to start further groups. Both groups are primarily face-to-face rather than on-line, so at the moment will only suit those within travelling distance of Cambridge. We hope to be able to set up groups in other parts of the network area soon.

The Middle Grade Critique Group

The Middle Grade Critique Group is led by Janet Bingham, with unflagging support from Kate Davis. It has six members, with two others hoping to rejoin after the busy summer period.  Most of us live in and around Cambridge, and we hold monthly meetings, alternating between face-to-face and online (emails).
Our first meeting was on 19th March at the familiar and friendly CB2 cafe in Cambridge, where we had a lively discussion about what “middle grade” means. It turns out that there is a wide target-reader variation within the group, embracing the extremes of the 6-12 age range.
The group’s hardest task so far has been finding the best balance of critique submissions and responses, and we are currently trialling a rotational schedule as a flexible basis for our efforts. We’ll discuss how that’s going at next month’s meeting at CB2.

The Picture Book Critique Group

The Picture Book Critique Group is led by Evi Gstottner and is still in its early stages. We had our first meeting in April and from the fourteen people who are on the email list, five were able to attend.
We have now decided to meet bi monthly every Thursday evening.
On that first meeting we had a mix of lovely and exciting work presented by equally lovely and talented people. There was a positive atmosphere amongst the group and everyone seemed very encouraged at the end of the meeting. Also the feedback afterwards by those who attended was very good, affirming the purpose and value of such a critique group.
Our next meeting will be on Thursday 18th of June from 7.30 - 9.30pmat CB2 upstairs in the library room.


Janet Bingham is a published picture book writer just dipping a toe into 7+ material, so she’s very pleased to be involved in the Middle Grade critique group right now. She is currently working on her first MG book-collaboration with the company Working Partners Ltd, which mercifully does the hardest part, the plotting.

Janet Bingham

Evi Gstottner is an illustrator with an MA in Children’s Book Illustrations and a background in Fine Art. She says: "I spent my childhood in Austria surrounded by beautiful and dramatic landscapes and I still have an enduring fascination with mysterious castles and secret gardens. Some other things that inspire me are elaborate patterned papers, old delicate lace and all that glitters.
For picture book illustrations I work mostly in watercolours. Recently I started experimenting with other mediums such as collage, acrylics and digital media. My work is very decorative and I like creating fine detailed pictures. I love stories that are magical, whimsical and of course have a happy ending." 

Evi Gstottner

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