Last night a faithful group of young adult writers ventured through the cold to gather at the Newton Free Library. Our critique group, three men and six women, has been meeting for five years one Wednesday a month from 7 - 9 o'clock in the evening. During the first half-hour we share news, tips, lessons learned. We use the last three half-hour blocks to discuss 20-page submissions from three writers in the group which were sent to us at least a week before the meeting. We have two rules. First, the writer is not allowed to speak during his or her crit session. And second, the first five minutes are dedicated to praise and celebration of the work. My friend Karen Day is our leader, and she's just signed a two-book contract with Wendy Lamb of Random House for two YA novels called Treading Water and Tall Tales. They're fantastic; I feel an immense sense of pride over Karen's accomplishment because the nine of us discussed these books as they were being crafted. Here's a good article by Margot Finke on ex-Charlesbridge editor Harold Underdown's excellent Purple Crayon site about where to find crit groups.