Sunday, January 23, 2011

Critique Partners: Take Two

So now that you know how I found my critique partners (See Critique Partners: Take One), let me tell you what is so great about having a critique partner.

Let's be honest.  Most of us think that our manuscript is the most awesome manuscript ever seen by human eyes.  At least for the first 10 seconds after you finish it.  And you would send it off right away to an editor or agent if it weren't for that nagging voice that says, "Wait...wouldn't you like to show that to a friend first?  Just in case you have one minor mistake that needs changing?"

So you show it to a friend, and behold...she has many suggestions to improve your piece.  Then you show it to another friend, and he has suggestions, too.  Some similar, some completely different.

One of the best things about having a critique partner (or two, or three, or a whole group) is that he\she sees the work with a whole new set of eyes.  Often I've read a piece so many times that I intuitively know what a character is thinking or doing, but I haven't expressed that well at all in my story.  A critique friend can see those places for you.  And a different friend can see different things, and so on and so on.

This doesn't mean you change your story with every comment.  You have to take what is said and think about it.  Sometimes for weeks.  Let the comments sink in, then change what feels right to you.  You'll almost never regret it.

Another great thing about the critique experience, whether from an individual or group, is the support you receive.  Even though my face-to-face group has no picture book authors in it, the support and yes...I'll say get from them is far more to me than an editorial band-aid.  They pick me up when I fall and make sure I keep writing even when I feel hopeless.

So go find that perfect critique friend or group of friends.  It might take you a little trial and effort, but it will be worth it.  Quick, before I start singing "Wind Beneath My Wings."

Did you ever know that you're my hero...(too late).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Critique Partners: Take One

Many of you probably know the benefits by now of a critique partner or group, but if you're not convinced yet, let me throw out my two cents on the matter.  This post will come in two parts. 

First, finding a critique's not as easy as it sounds!

I found my first group of critique partners by accident.  A little digging online pointed me to a local SCBWI contact for a critique group 30 miles away.   I took a deep breath and attended the group, fully expecting them to kick me out!  But they were more than patient with a newbie, and I continue to meet with Write/Hear every other week at a local library.  (Here is my shining opportunity to brag about our blog,, which we just posted in the last few weeks.  It's under construction, but we have some great poetry posted!).  It's a group of children's writers with wide interests: middle grade, YA, non-fiction, etc.  Alas, I am the only picture book author in the group, so last year I began trawling the sea of writers looking for good PB partners. 

Again, I looked to my local SCBWI.  This is by far one of the best resources for finding a critique group or partner.  They keep perpetual lists of people seeking to partner with fellow writers, so always check there first.  (The name of the regional advisor can be found on the state link through  He/she will be able to direct you to the person who keeps track of critique groups in your area.) 

By luck, I heard of an online group of writers that had just formed and were looking to add some writers.  I tried this for a while, but it didn't feel quite right. 

So I then turned turned to the national SCBWI discussion boards.  SCBWI keeps updated postings for people looking for partners, and while some find a fellow writer there, I did not luck out.

Then by chance, I ran across a posting on Mary Kole's blog,, where she gave followers a chance to ask for critique partners.  (She repeats this opportunity every so often, so if you're in the market for a partner, keep an eye on her blog, as well as for always great advice!).  I left a post, and several months later, I have two critique partners (and could have had one more, but I felt that I had all I could handle at the moment!).

The one-on-one experience has been great, as I will share in Take Two, but my main advice is this.  Be persistent!  Keep looking and keep trying new formats: face-to-face, online, one-on-one email, etc.  By experimenting, you'll find the perfect formula that works for you.

To be continued...

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Deep Dark Secret

Okay, it's not really that exciting, but my secret is this:  I am one-half of a wanna-be writer/illustrator pair.  At least 77% of this dream came out of the wish that my husband and I could make it in this children's writing biz together.

So I took a leap and started attending conferences.  But there I heard that if you are a writer only, never send in illustrations with your book.  Publishers will pick one for you.  They want to pick one for you.  We worried.  Would we look like one of those I-wrote-a-book-and-my-best-friend's-neighbor-once-removed-drew-the-pictures-for-me kind of pair?

So we made a deal.  I would write first, see if I could get any nibbles, and if I did, just by chance, when the pigs started flying, get a book (or two...or three? have to dream here!) published, my husband would then pop back into the picture and try to illustrate something for me.

We're still waiting for that nibble, but in the meantime, Daniel's flexing his illustrating gifts once again in the hopes we can team up one day.  Here is a picture of the main character from one of my PB manuscripts, The King of Notalot.  What do you think?  Could we carry it off?  I know, I know, don't quit our day jobs...I hear ya!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Snowman Bonbons, Travel, Christmas, Oh My!

I have been gone forever!  My apologies to any who faithfully check my blog.  This is just a "taste" of what I have been doing.  My daughter saw this in a magazine, and we just had to try them of course.  They were good, yes!

We've also traveled to see family in NC. 

But now my feet are planted firmly in front of the computer.  Write you, write!

I've received some additional advice on the same piece I mentioned several weeks ago.  This time from an agent.  Again, yeah!  So that is my goal for this month.  To get that piece ready for NYC. 

I also finished the second book in the Hunger Games series, Catching Fire.  I had heard others say they didn't like it as much, but I have to say it kept me as hooked as the first.  In fact, I kind of snarfed it in two days on our way back from NC.  (Thanks to the husband who willingly drove most of the way!)  I simply love the way Katniss comes across...she's kick-ass tough while at the same time being innocent and naive.  I do, however, want to shake her and say, "Go with Peeta, girl...he'll never do you wrong!"