With stay-at-home/shelter-in-place orders and the wisdom of social distancing, many of us are feeling isolated. I’m finding myself on Facebook more than usual just for socializing. What I’m personally not missing is my weekly critique group.
About four weeks ago we decided to try virtual meetings because I had moved away. Our first meeting, the others met up at a house and we Skyped with them all sitting around one computer. I was the only remote person. The next week we decided to try Zoom with each in one at home. It worked great and we’ve been using it ever since and have even added two others to our group. It’s great seeing everyone’s faces at once. We just have to be careful not to talk over each other. (I’m paying for Zoom since free is limited to 40 minutes at a time. It’s well-worth the $16 something a month. Zoom lets me set up a recurring meeting which means the meeting starts automatically. Another member also signed up as a backup host.)
We are submitting our manuscripts on Monday and we “meet” on Thursday. After we share our comments on a manuscript, members return the notated copy to the author. Some of us do so via email as we’re using Word’s commenting. Others prefer making handwritten notes on a printed copy and mailing. It’s working well. And no one is having to drive anywhere.
Most of us had participated in Zoom meetings (or webinars) which made us aware of the program/app. But there are other similar options. Here’s what I’ve discovered:
Whereby: the free option allows up to four people to meet at one time. For $9.99/month (probably plus tax), you can have up to 12 participants.
GoToMeeting: You can test it free for 14 days. Plans start at $12/month.
StartMeeting: Also has a free trial—theirs is 30 days. Plans start at $9.95/month.
Google has a G Suite Hangouts Meet: I found it difficult to find pricing and stopped looking.
JoinMe: There’s a free trial. For 5 participants it is $13/month. Prices go up from there. Appears that scheduling is only an option for a higher fee.
I just found this “Top 20 Alternatives & Competitors to Zoom” which will give you more info.
The point is, you don’t have to survive this virus without other writers. If you aren’t in a critique group, maybe now is the time to find one. SCBWI members should check their local regions and the Blueboard. If you’re on Facebook, you can find critique partners or do swaps through Kidlit 411 Manuscript Swap (For illustrators there’s Kidlit 411 Illustrator Critique Swap) or Sub It Club Critique Partner Matchup.