by Daka Hermon IMG_1073

“When you decide not to be afraid, you can find friends in super unexpected places.” —Ms. Marvel

I found that to be true at the SCBWI Peer2Peer Critiquenic. What is that you ask? It’s an amazing opportunity to have your work critiqued by your peers.

I attended two years ago and met a wonderful group of writers who provided constructive critiques that kept me encouraged and inspired long after the event ended. Because of that positive experience, I readily agreed to volunteer at this year’s Critiquenic, though it was a huge leap out of my comfort zone. (I prefer to go unnoticed, to stay in the background. If I could have any super power, it would be invisibility.)

Sunday, June 5th, nervous and excited, I arrived early to help set up with the wonderful SCBWI organizers (Shout-out to Nutschell, Sally, and Sue). Sign in sheets and supplies? Check. Table and Chairs? Check. Cute animal signage to indicate the different genres? Check. Attendees? Braving the raging wildfires and the 405 traffic, writers began to arrive at the Skirball Cultural Center with their packed lunches, manuscripts, portfolios, and smiles.

IMG_1069The registration process ran smoothly and the view from the other side of the check-in table was interesting. As I watched first-time attendees tentatively mingling and joining groups, I flashed back to my initial nervousness and fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of rejection. Sharing your work can be challenging and scary, but the reward is priceless.

“You only have your thoughts and dreams ahead of you. You are someone. You mean something.” —Batman

During the critique sessions, I watched groups actively engaged in thoughtful discussions as members provided helpful feedback and suggestions. It was like being surrounded by your very own cheerleaders who understood the struggle and were determined to get you to the top of that pyramid.

As the event came to an end, the excitement was palpable. Attendees stopped by the registration table to express how much they enjoyed the Critiquenic. Not only were e-mail addresses exchanged, but some Picture Book attendees took a photo to memorialize the new friendships and critique group they established.

That is what the Peer2Peer Critiquenic is all about—building friendships, building a strong community of support and encouragement on this writing adventure. Good things happen when you step out of your comfort zone and take a chance.

“You’re much stronger than you think you are. Trust me.” —Superman

IMG_1200Local Los Angeles writer, Daka Hermon, has been an SCBWI member for eight years. She is currently working on several Middle Grade novels.