On the Premium Green discussion group (for information on how to join this group, check out http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/markets.html ), we recently had a discussion about critique groups. One writer suggested looking to state groups to find a critique group. That was a great suggestion!
I have a lot of experience with one state group in particular. I recently finished serving as president of the Missouri Writers' Guild (http://www.missouriwritersguild.org/). This group has 13 chapters throughout Missouri and Kansas. From these 13 chapters, several smaller critique groups exist--some online but most face-to-face.
But state groups are important not just because you can find someone to read your work, they provide exposure to successful national and regional speakers such as authors, editors, and agents. Hundreds of writers join these groups, which provides hundreds of networking opportunities. The Missouri Writers' Guild (MWG) offers their members an online bio, an ad on the speakers' bureau, their own web page, a quarterly newsletter full of useful information, and contests for published work. I have met hundreds of writers and have felt part of a community since joining MWG, and I still belong even though I live in Illinois. In many state organizations, such as the MWG, you don' t have to live in the state.
Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc (http://www.owfi.org/) is another great state organization. Like the MWG, the Oklahoma group sponsors a yearly conference full of wonderful speakers from all over the United States. This conference is usually held the first weekend of May and in a beautiful Embassy Suites hotel in Oklahoma City--that means a FREE great breakfast buffet with made-to-order omelets and a FREE happy hour with snacks. (You can tell I'm a writer, I'm looking for the FREE stuff.) Every time, I've attended this conference, I've learned a lot, met lifetime friends and contacts, and had a blast. It's probably too late to go this year now, but look into this state organization, and mark your calendars for 2009. Same for the MWG conference, which usually offers one-to-one pitches with editors and agents. Their conference is April 3-5, 2009.
Another way to belong to a state group is to join a national group, and then you're automatically a member of the state chapter. I am a member of the Illinois Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators because I paid my national dues. The IL-SCBWI is a wonderful, active organization, which I am a part of for "FREE" because I pay no extra dues to the state chapter. A lot of national groups are organized in a similar way, so check these out, too.
It's important to connect and network with other writers when you're a writer--not just for critique but for information, education, and opportunity. State groups are great at providing these three important tools. If you are looking for a group, you can do an Internet search on a search engine such as Google (http://www.google.com/) for (State Name) Writing Groups. When I did it for Missouri, Illinois, and Oklahoma, a ton of groups popped up--local and state. And remember, you don't always have to live in the state to be a member. In today's technology age, you can honestly live in Timbuktu and still join up!
The important thing is get connected and soon.