The writer's-group meeting yesterday was interesting.
There was a little confusion at the restaurant, which had apparently misplaced our reservation, but it got sorted out and we had our own meeting room, with electrical outlets and everything. My computers don't much like the wi-fi, but since I do my critiques from hardcopy, that wasn't a problem.
An effectively infinite supply of potables was nice to have; several of us enjoyed beer in moderation, I had all the coffee I could want, and there was iced tea and soft drinks for the others. Appetizers and a light meal didn't get in the way at all -- and our waitress was outstanding! Finding appropriate gaps in the discussions of workshopping writers to take orders, deliver food and refill drinks is something of an art.
We didn't make great use of the table; I should have been more proactive in who sat where, to ensure everyone had enough room for papers and laptops/iPads. But it was an excellent room, adequately quiet and with good acoustics.
This first on-our-own meeting was less structured and more social, without a firm time limit for each critique; it worked okay and we probably needed that informality to get re-acquainted, but next time we'll want to be a little more aware of the clock.
I think we got a lot done. The weekly classes called for 2000 to 5000 words of new material; our new meetings, more or less monthly, have an upper limit of roughly 7500 words and several people pushed the limit. It allows for a little more of a narrative to develop, and proved to not be overwhelming to read and critique (Word and compatible word-processors have great commenting/tracked editing tools) in the weeks leading up to the class.
We plan to continue.
And yes, readers, I'm still working on the same novella (or whatever).
Working On A Starship
3 weeks ago