On and off over the last several years, I'd been keeping my eye open for a local critique group. In my head, it was a handful of writers who met every month in a bar somewhere and spent a couple of hours sharing feedback on each others' works. We'd each credit the others in the Acknowledgement pages of our novels and move on to the next round of drafts (and draughts). But I never found the secret bulletin board where this group was posted, and it lived only inside my mind.
This past January, I discovered Meetup.com, which for perhaps apparent reasons I had previously dismissed out of hand as a site for finding discreet partners. Turns out it's nothing like Adult Friend Finder, and you can instead discover groups that knit, hike, and even critique each others' writing. However, there were no writers groups that met during non-working hours. So I started my own. Instead of a bar, I scheduled the first meeting in a coffee shop. Five other writers showed up, which surpassed my expectations, as I'd imagined the horrible awkwardness of sitting across the table from one other person, much like a "party" I hosted one night years ago.
We laid out some basic ground rules about how much was reasonable to expect each other to read each month (in the neighborhood of 10-12 pages, double spaced) and what was the best way to share our work (we settled eventually on emailing it around to the group). It was decided that the coffee shop was too loud for us to all hear each other easily, and we searched for a new home, eventually settling on a somewhat centrally located library with reservable rooms.