Tamara And The Three Critique Partners

Posted by Tamara LeBlanc | 5:00 AM | 12 comments »

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there lived a woman named Tamara. Though she had a huge assortment of shoes, ate double stuffed Oreos like they were going out of style and had plenty of free time to write romances, something was missing. Her stories were falling flat. Her worlds were boring, her prose choppy and her spelling atrocious. So she tugged on her favorite platform Mary-Jane's and pocketed a zip-lock full of black and white cookies and a thermos of milk. She then hoisted her laptop into her arms and made the decision to leave the safety and comfort of her thatch roof cottage in the middle of the woods.
The wide open countryside was a frightening prospect. Could knowledge and inspiration come from such a daunting place? And what if she encountered Big Bad Doubt on her journey? Or worse, what if she ran into the Wicked Pessimist of the West? How could she defeat these villains? How would she survive their influence all alone? Insecurity nearly forced her to turn back, but taking a deep breath and placing one stiletto in front of the other she continued on despite her mounting fears.
Her first encounter with civilization was a small, shining kingdom called Borders. The red and beige castle was a treasure trove of the written word, but best of all, there was a tavern inside. Tamara's pulse raced. Had she finally reached Camelot? With a cautious smile on her face, she asked, "Grande decaf, mocha latte, extra whip, please?" When the friendly barkeep smiled back and said, "Coming right up," she felt sure she had found the promise land. There was so much to see, so many villagers in the bustling tavern. But finding a quiet corner table, settling in a comfy chair and opening her laptop, Tamara decided to get to work. She had come here with a purpose and refused to be distracted from her goal. For some reason, the kingdom of Borders helped her concentrate. Maybe it was the enticing scent of pastry in the air or the new release CD playing in the background. Whatever it was, the tavern encouraged her muse.
Tamara banged away at the computer keys, prose flowing like espresso, heart thundering in joyous time with the coffee grinder. This is Camelot, she thought as she bit into a warm cinnamon scone.
Until...Three witches took seats directly behind her. The ghoulish trio wore black gowns that billowed on the chilly central air currents. Their cackling voices pierced her concentration. Their obnoxious laughter frightened Tamara's muse into the darkest corners of her mind. Once or twice she turned to give the threesome a scathing glance. But her menacing expression had no affect on the demonic beings."Shut up! Stop yapping! Can't you see I'm in the process of writing a romantic best seller you bunch of yammering @#*%@&@'s?" Tamara wanted to yell these words out loud, but she refrained. After all, she had been raised by fairies and shouting expletives at strangers wasn't exactly fairy like behavior.Instead she sat there, trying desperately to block out their noise.
Until...She actually started listening to what they were saying. How could she not? They were louder than a pack of Hyenas for goodness sake! In between bursts of laughter, Tamara was able to pick up a word or two. "Character. Hero. Heroine. Love," they had said. Is this possible? Are the witches talking about...romance writing? Tamara leaned back in her chair. She cocked her head to hear better. She had to be sure. Were there others like her? Unpublished authors battling doubt and pessimism in an attempt to see there work in print?Her curiosity piqued, Tamara took a deep cleansing breath, wiped the whip cream mustache off her face, clicked her Mary-Jane's together three times for luck and then did the unthinkable. She spun around in her chair and faced the witches head on. Only they weren't witches at all. They were three stylishly dressed women. And they smiled with sincere warmth and introduced themselves. Connie, Pam and Mama Mary. Their voices had changed from the bleating of crones to the delicate tinkle of bells. "We're writers," they sang as one. "Romance writers and we meet here each Thursday to critique each others work.
"Could it be? Is that the sunlight breaking through the clouds? Are those happy woodland creatures congregating at my feet?
"I'm a writer too," Tamara said, her scowl having morphed into a brilliant smile."How wonderful," Connie commented. "That's great," Pam chimed in. "What a coincidence, Kido," Mary intoned. Tamara bombarded them with questions and to her delight they informed her of a magical world called RWA. Romance writers of America? Is it for real? Are there really thousands of unpubs, grouping together in support of one another? Are there really published authors willing to take time out of their busy schedules to help...me? Can I truly meet a real life editor and agent?And were these three women, no... Literary Knights, actually inviting Tamara to be a member of their round writing table? Damn skippy, Lancelot!
Three strangers took in a novice and shared a fabulous new world, full of knowledge, wisdom and most importantly, determination.With their help Tamara realized that what her story needed were seasoned combatants with a common goal, publication. Pamela, Warrior of World Building helped her to construct amazing scenes utilizing all of the senses. Constance, Warrior of Prose guided her novel's rhythm, tightening sentences and dialogue. And Momma Mary, Warrior of Grammar did the job of making her actually appear literate. She in turn added something to their novels as well. (Or so she hoped)
Together they have become Novel Knights capable of taming the written word as a team. The foursome roam the imagination, battling insecurity, jousting fear and slaying self-doubt. And with each passing week, as they learn and grow under RWA's wise tutelage the critique group, otherwise known as Three Chics and a Hen, move closer to pulling the sword from the stone. The published sword that is, torn from the stone of perseverance.
As Tamara looks back on that fateful day five years ago, she doesn't remember a noisy tavern, a trio of witches, or their unending chatter. What she does recall are three irreplaceable women, Novel Knights, who smiled warmly, welcomed her into their midst and taught her to believe in her talent.
They still meet each Thursday in the Kingdom of Borders, swilling mochachinos and sweet tea and re-arranging chairs to suit their needs. So if you happen to be there, quietly reading the latest issue of In Touch or immersed in your favorite romance, but are interrupted by a foursome of cackling crones, remember my tale. You might just be sitting next to the best critique group ever.
The End
This fairy tale is dedicated to Connie, Momma Mary and Pam, my dearest friends, my inspirations, my sister Knights. I love you guys.
Happy writing to all.


  1. Edie Ramer // June 2, 2009 at 9:31 AM  

    Tamara, your post gave me a smile. It's great to have fabulous CPs and meet people who are like us.

  2. Sandy Elzie // June 2, 2009 at 10:11 AM  

    Hi Tamara,

    Enjoyed your post. Very creative. I don't know how I would survive without my Critique Partner. She not only critiques my work...and is bluntly honest when I mess up...but she encourages me through all kinds of other life things that ultimately have an impact on my writing.
    It's good to know she has my back. (g)

    Sandy Elzie

  3. Mary Ricksen // June 2, 2009 at 12:40 PM  

    I wish I could find three witches too. But there are no witches living in my area. Ho Hum.
    I have a critique partner but the poor thing is overwhelmed with her own duties and family. So now that they closed Border's I don't have a book store within miles of me.
    Tamara is sounds to me like your muse is out and working like a trooper. Great blog!

  4. Mary Marvella // June 2, 2009 at 1:05 PM  

    I have no idea who those women are. Tamara must have found some more CPs.

    Mama Hen luvs her baby chick.

  5. Cyrano // June 2, 2009 at 2:17 PM  

    Edie, Sandy and Mary R, thanks so much for slogging through my incredibly long post. I just realized it's about the same page count as War and Peace. You guys are sweet to comment.
    Momma Mary,
    You're such a funny bird. I love you too.
    Have a great afternoon ladies!

  6. Mona Risk // June 2, 2009 at 2:20 PM  

    What a lovely blog. Tamara you are one lucky lady to have found your CPs. I have two wonderful CPs. We helpe each other by email as one lives in Canada and the other in England but we managed to meet twice a year for the last three years. Our motto is one for all and all for one.

    Mary R, I can be your witch.

  7. Helen Hardt // June 2, 2009 at 2:46 PM  

    Cute post! I have three local CPs and we meet at Borders, too.

  8. Nightingale // June 2, 2009 at 9:55 PM  

    Arms crossed. I fear critiques--only friends are allowed to tear my babies apart. No, seriously, CP's are primo. Enjoyed your tale Tamara.

  9. Barbara Monajem // June 2, 2009 at 10:25 PM  

    So sweet! Thanks for the story and the smiles.

  10. Cyrano // June 2, 2009 at 10:40 PM  

    Sorry I'm so late replying ladies.
    Mona, how wonderful that you found CP from so far away. It's great you guys get together.
    don't you love Borders? It's got coffee, scones, comfy seats. Everything a CG needs to get the job done.
    Friends are great too. Mine just happen to be my CP and I don't know what I'd do without them.
    Glad you enjoyed it!
    Thanks for stopping by ladies.
    Have a great night,

  11. Judy // June 3, 2009 at 9:43 AM  

    Hi, Tamara! Just got back from short vacation and read your darling post! Very clever, very sweet. I'm happy for you that you found you're three...uh.. witches... LOL

  12. Joanne // June 5, 2009 at 1:03 PM  

    Hi Tamara,
    The kingdom of Borders--I love your post! So clever and inspiring.