By Shellie Williams

Every other Thursday night at an unidentified hideaway—in Rockville—you’ll find the Rockville 8 laughing and talking about writing and life. Founded by Evie Owens and Lisa McQuay, R8’s current six members (all of whom belong to Washington Romance Writers) are dedicated to achieving writing success through an honest and constructive critique process, sharing industry information and opportunities, and pushing each other to explore and grow. The sticky stuff that holds us together and makes everything else possible is trust. We trust that each woman has our best interest at heart and that makes R8 more than just a critique group.

“R8 has been a lifeline for me,” said Candy Lyons. “I have laughed and cried with these women. They’ve helped me through tough times and through it all, they’ve kept me writing. The road to publication is rough and jagged. You need companions who spur you on and help you persevere.”

Keely Thrall agreed that being a part of R8 has spurred her on.

“I’ve become more confident in my writing and more discerning about what works or doesn’t at both a macro and micro level. I’m a lot more willing to take a chance because I know the group will support me on the leap – and let me know how effective the leap was on the other side,” Thrall said.

So what sets R8 apart? R8 members have what Nichole Christoff considers the best traits of a critique partner: open-mindedness, kindness, and dedication.

“An open-minded critique partner doesn’t have to like your genre or your work,” she writes, “but she should see the structure of your story and want to help you make the most of it.”

On the flip side, Lisa McQuay reminds us that one has to receive a critique graciously.

“There’s nothing worse than seeing someone bristle while you’re giving them your critique.  It makes people less likely to give you an honest one the next time,” McQuay said.

We take ourselves seriously as writers but we don’t take ourselves seriously. Because we’re women of a certain age with a life-time of experience, we know the healing quality of laughter. We laugh so loud—deep, rumbling belly-laughs—that people stop and stare. And that’s OK, because, we are women who write. And laugh. A lot.

Check out the Rockville 8 blog by clicking here and follow us on Twitter at @Rockville8.