Critique Groups and Contests? No Thanks. by Charlotte Hubbard – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/ gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Critique Groups and Contests? No Thanks.

Although a lot of writers feel they benefit from belonging to a critique group, I’ve never been one of them. I don’t like group members—especially if they haven’t published any full-length fiction—telling me what they either love or would “fix” about the pages they’ve read because you come away with such a mix of advice, and their opinions often contradict each other! What are you supposed to believe?

Same goes for entering contests. Unless the contest judges are editors of a publishing house looking to acquire new authors, the comments and critiques really don’t count for much, the way I see it. Other readers, no matter how well-intentioned, are just giving their opinions, after all. They have no stake in the fate of your book.

I admit it: I’m a bit thin-skinned and I dislike criticism. Over the years, I’ve come to believe my own gut intuition about which elements of a story I should include—and I believe my sense of storytelling is right for the fiction I create.
Do I get revision letters and requests for changes from my editors? You bet I do. Some of the books you’ve read—including A MOTHER’S GIFT—are different in print from the manuscript I originally turned in. Originally, Leah raised deer to sell to a hunting lodge—and I know an Amish family in Jamesport, MO who actually does this for income. My editor felt some readers would be offended or upset about the fate of these deer, so in the final version, Leah raised cattle instead. I trust my editor’s judgment, so I rewrote those parts of the story. Her sensitivity overruled my authenticity.

Here’s my final answer about critique groups and contests: the only person who gets to have an opinion about my work is the one who signs my checks.

Does this sound arrogant? Maybe it is. But if you’re a struggling writer, maybe that piece of writing advice is exactly what will free you from the frustration and confusion that comes from listening to too many voices that drown out your own. Pay attention to feedback from agents and editors who are interested in your work—because they know the market and your genre’s requirements—but otherwise, shut out the noise of other people’s opinions. What do they know?

For Leah Otto, marrying Jude Shetler is a long-held dream come true. As a young girl, she was captivated by his good looks and talent as an auctioneer. When Jude, now a widower with three children, begins to court her, Leah doesn’t hesitate. Other men may not appreciate her tomboy ways, but Jude values Leah’s practical nature and her skill with the animals she tends, and both enter the marriage with joy and optimism.

Three months later, Leah feels as if her world is coming down around her. Her twin teenage step-daughters, Alice and Adeline, are pushing boundaries and taking far too many risks, while five-year-old Stevie deeply misses his mother. Leah, more at ease in a barn tending her goats and chickens than in a kitchen, struggles with her housekeeping duties.

Then a baby is abandoned on their doorstep, and Leah must search her soul. Caring for little Betsy fills her with renewed purpose and the strength to begin pulling her family together. With Jude’s steadfast support, Leah finds that what she once thought of as a happy ending may be something even better—the beginning of a life rich in love, faith, and unexpected blessings.

Enjoy an Excerpt

As Lenore Otto sat on the bed with Leah, wistfully watching the dusk of late November fill her daughter’s room, her heart was torn. The two of them had shared this evening ritual of talking and praying since Lenore’s husband, Raymond, had died last year. It had always brought her a comforting sense of peace, along with the certainty that she and her daughter would move forward with the plans God had for them. After all the cleaning they’d done and the preparations they’d made to host Leah’s wedding festivities the next day, she was ready to relax—but she needed to speak the words that weighed so heavily on her heart.

Tomorrow, when Leah got married, their lives would follow separate paths. Lenore knew she would be fine remaining on the small farm alone, making and selling her specialty quilts. She supposed some of her qualms about her daughter’s marriage plagued every mother . . .

Lord, I wish I could believe my Leah’s reaching toward happiness rather than heartache.

Before God’s still, small voice could respond to Lenore, Leah let out an ecstatic sigh. “Oh, Mama, it’s a dream come true,” she murmured. “Starting tomorrow, when I marry Jude, my life will finally be the way I’ve always wanted it. My waiting is over!”

Not for the first time, Lenore sighed inwardly at her daughter’s fantasy. As she returned Leah’s hug, savoring these precious moments in the room where her little girl had matured into a woman of twenty-eight, she didn’t have it in her to shatter Leah’s dreams. No mother wanted her daughter to forever remain a maidel, yet during these final hours before the wedding, Lenore thought she should try once again to point out the realities of marrying Jude Shetler. Jude was a fine, upstanding man any parent would be pleased to welcome as a son-in-law, but as a widower he carried a certain amount of . . . baggage.

About the Author:Charlotte Hubbard is the acclaimed author of Amish romance and fiction that evokes simpler times and draws upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi. Faith and family, farming, and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle—and the foundation of all her novels. A deacon, dedicated church musician and choir member, she loves to travel, read, try new recipes, and crochet. A longtime Missourian, Charlotte now lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her husband and their border collie, Vera.

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  1. Lisa Brown says

    I enjoyed getting to know your book; congrats on the tour, I hope it is a fun one for you, and thanks for the chance to win 🙂

  2. Thanks for hosting!

  3. kim hansen says

    Love Charlotte’s books.

  4. What do you find to be the most challenging part of writing? And the most rewarding?

    • Peggy, for me the promotional stuff is a challenge–because these days, you can’t just be a writer. Even when you have a publisher promoting for you, you’re expected to do a lot of social media stuff, as well. The most rewarding thing is receiving a note/email from a reader who stayed up all night because she had to finish my book–or from someone who said my books have helped her through a difficult time.

  5. Thanks for featuring my book on your blog today

  6. You are a new-to-me author and you write in a genre I don’t normally read. All that said, after reading this post today, I believe I will enjoy following your tour and getting to know more about you and your works.

    I see that, in the past, you wrote historical romances (which I love) but have switched to Christian/Amish literature-fiction. That’s quite a leap. What made you leave one genre for the other? It’s like polar opposites but a very interesting leap.

    • Good question, Karen! Waaay back when I was first publishing, those Western romances were all the rage–and the Christian fiction/romance market wasn’t around yet. This may sound crass and commercial, but in order to be a long-time published author, you have to write what you can sell, so once historical romances like that went out of vogue I shifted gears a couple of times and have found my niche in writing these Amish stories.

  7. Rita Wray says

    Sounds like a good book.

  8. Janice Clark says

    I LOVE your Amish related books.. I would love to win this.. I ONLY read good clean books…… Thank you..

  9. Victoria says

    Beautiful cover, thanks for sharing!

  10. Dale Wilken says

    Sounds great.

  11. What an interesting post. As a blogger who reviews books, I value your perspective as an author. For the most part, I enjoy the books I review. There have only been a couple of times where I did not and worked hard to write something positive. I would never dream of telling an author to change their book because it is their story. Authenticity is important to me as a reader. Good luck with your book. I haven’t had the opportunity to read your work yet, but have begun to see them listed. I would like to read your newest! Thanks again for your perspective. I can truly understand it.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful consideration of this topic. And consider this: a book like mine, published by a corporate publisher of long standing, isn’t something you can tell the author to change! Your best option is to give an honest review, because EVERY author is going to receive some comments that s/he doesn’t like–and accepting that fact is part of being a published author.

  12. I understand how you feel!

  13. Great author. Love reading her books!

  14. Loved the interview and the book sounds awesome. Love books about the Amish.

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