by Eric Wilson
Your heart, mind and soul have just been poured into a written opus of such magnitude that you can scarcely believe the words are yours. Yet you still crave the blessings of others before tossing your works into the vagaries of magazine and book editors. And preferably blessings that aren't biased like your mother's automatic love of everything you do, or your child's approval because of its bearing on his or her allowance.
So you wonder where can you find objective, intelligent opinions. If your preferred genre is science fiction, fantasy or horror, you're in luck. The Critters Workshop was created by Andrew Burt from Colorado State University to provide a forum for established and new writers. Composed of over two hundred members, it's a participatory group devoted to assisting writers through critiques and helpful suggestions.
Members' submittals are sent weekly to the other members, whose comments are emailed to the author and to a secure database that can only be accessed by a password. The atmosphere is supportive rather than competitive. Taking your spite out on an unsuspecting writer just because you had a bad hair day is not tolerated.
Qualifications for membership are short stories or partial novels you want critiqued, access to a web browser, and an email to "Critters" (firstname.lastname@example.org) expressing your interest. Participation is a must. No one is allowed to simply send in their own works without critiquing others on a regular basis.
A number of submittals have gone on to publication. So if you dream of seeing your inspirations sitting next to Stephen King, Tolkien or Arthur C. Clarke, give "Critters" a try. You just may spark the idea that transforms your work into a best seller.