I met my husband at a writer’s group run by a published author. The rest of us were still “aspiring” authors, and when I was published with a small digital-first publisher, she basically asked me when I was going to write “real” books. Through chapters within the RWA when I was a member, I had the privileged and honor of being mentored by some published authors who critiqued my work. I took their words to heart. I cherished their feedback.
I can’t think of any specific author, living or dead, that I would love to have as a critique partner. While my work is influenced heavily by my growing up reading horse books and my introduction to fantasy through Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar, I wonder if perhaps her or Larry Dixon might be a good choice for critique partner. Someone who understands the influences I used in my writing (horse books for teen girls most especially) and yet who also understand the nuances of the genre in all of his messy past and present. Someone who doesn’t look down on a “romance writer” and someone who understands that independent and digital-first publishing has its place in this industry.
But most importantly, I’d probably look for someone who has the same philosophy that I do when I edit for my clients. That there is always something to praise, always something to point out that worked well, even as you question and sometimes even dissect other areas that need help. And most of all, that all critiques are designed to give the author a new look at the piece, and you never ever leave them with the feeling that they’re “not good enough” because in the end, all art is subjective. And we’re all good enough to some reader.