Are You Critique Group Savvy? When Jen Garrett Speaks…PLUS Critique Giveaways

Today, dear friends, I’m bringing you a truly special post – thanks to author Jen Garrett. We were chatting the other day about how important it is to have good critique partners and how difficult it is to find them sometimes.

Jen graciously agreed to share some of what she knows about critique groups. And she knows alot. JEN Garrett writes for, about, and around children all day. But sometimes she finds time to do the dishes at her home in Northern California. She also finds time to be the SCBWI Critique Carousel Coordinator for her region, query agents, and read mountains of books. How? We don’t know. You can find more about her at http://www.lexicalcreations.weebly.com

Welcome, Jen! Thank you for stopping by Picture Books Help Kids Soar to chat with us. And before I turn the platform over to you, let’s tell everyone about the giveaway that accompanies this post. Jen has agreed to donate a picture book manuscript critique…and I will donate another. So TWO lucky winners will be chosen and announced on another special post next Monday, August 31st, when I interview Moose, the dog in Maria Gianferrari’s Hello Goodbye Dog. To be entered in the giveaway, please leave a comment and tell us how you feel about critique groups.

And now, take it away, Jen!

Five Ways to Find Your Critique Group

Critique groups come in all shapes and sizes. Some are online, while other groups meet in person. Still others have a combination of online and in person interaction. Finding the perfect one for you takes preparation, determination, and a little bit of luck.

Writing Events

#1 One of the best ways to find a critique group is to meet other writers in person and exchange info. Where can you meet local writers? At local writer events, of course!

Writer events are often advertised in local newspapers and community magazines. You can also ask at the public library, college campus, or look for neighborhood bulletin boards near where you live. An online resource for finding these events no matter where you live is Meetup.

If you can’t find any events in your area, consider hosting one yourself at your local library or a local restaurant. Bring business cards when you attend to make connections with. I found my picture book critique group through a writer’s event. Actually, they found me!

Join Organizations

#2 Organizations such SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), CBI (Children’s Book Insider) and other writing organizations often host events that are not widely advertised. Consider joining and/or attending sponsored writer’s conferences and events. If attending the conference provides you with amazing opportunities – such as finding a critique group – then joining the organization will likely benefit you even more.

Online writing organizations such as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and WriteOnCon (Writers Online Conference) provide forums for finding critique groups in your genre.

Hone Your Craft

#3 The more you hone your craft by taking classes and attending webinars, the more you’ll rub shoulders with like-minded writers. An added perk to such courses is meeting fellow classmates who are also serious about honing craft. Don’t be afraid to exchange emails to connect outside class!

Many agents, editors, and authors host online courses and webinars.  Here’s a handful of my favorites.

  • Children’s Book Academy
  • Institute of Children’s Literature
  • Writing Blue Prints
  • 12 X 12 Writing Challenge
  • Kid Lit Writing School

 

 Get Social

#4 Connecting through social media is another great way to find critique partners. Some Facebook groups are associated to specific challenges – such as Storystorm and ReFoReMo (Read For Research Month). But others – Subitclub and KidLit411, for examples – also have “Manuscript Swap” and “Critique Match Up” groups you can join once you’ve been an active participant in their main group.

Make a Comment

#5 Scroll down on your favorite blog posts, and see who else has commented. I’ve seen people connect through blog comments, but with this idea comes a warning: be careful not to ask for a critique out of the blue. Connect first and make sure they are open to exchanging manuscripts.

Bonus suggestion: Once you find a critique group, don’t be afraid to keep it on a trial basis for a while. If it’s not working for you or if your writing focus changes, then be honest and exit graciously.

LINKS:

Meetup 

SCBWI 

CBI

NaNoWriMo

WriteOnCon

Children’s Book Academy 

Institute of Children’s Literature 

Writing Blue Prints 

12X12 Writing Challenge

KidLit Writing School

Storystorm 

ReFoReMo 

SubitClub

KidLit411

WOW…Jen, thank you so very much! I know this post will be helpful to all of our writer friends…I’ll bet plenty of them are bookmarking it right now.

If anyone has questions that haven’t been answered in the post, you are welcome to put them in the comments. Jen and I will try to answer them…or will try to find someone who can. And don’t forget leave a comment, telling us if you are in one or more critique groups and, if you are, how they have or have not helped you and why. There will be TWO lucky winners of a picture book critique…I’m donating one and Jen is donating the other. So please spread the word far and wide…this is a topic we all need to think about.

Have a great week!  Those of you who follow me on Facebook already know that I’m going in for some emergency eye surgery Wednesday morning. I need these peepers in top condition so I can keep writing and blogging. I’ll see you back here on Friday and Saturday when Susanna Leonard Hill will be back in the house with another book blog tour!

Mike Malbrough: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

head shot

MIKE MALBROUGH

Hip, hip hooray for another incredible 2017 debut picture book author/illustrator. Please welcome our Will Write for Cookies guest of honor.

Mike Malbrough was a freelance graphic designer, comic book artist, performer and teacher with a career spanning two decades before beginning his career as a picture book author-illustrator. He is an active teacher and mentor for young artists in his community, and has received several awards and honors for his work with children and teens. Mike lives in Orange, New Jersey, with his wife, two adventurous kids, and a cat named Agnes who hates him.

cat on desk

Mike, I’m so excited to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar!

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

MIKE:

I was always enamored with the work of Mercer Mayer, especially how his creature characters crowded the pages in PROFESSOR WORMBOG IN SEARCH FOR THE ZIPPERUMP-A-ZOO. And of course Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak, Dr. Suess and Ludwig Bemelmans. I also remember the HENRY books by Mark Taylor and Graham Booth always being around.

ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?

MIKE:

That having terrible ideas and writing even worse sentences was just part of the path as opposed to a cosmic sign that you should never write. Putting that stuff down on the paper/ screen is important to getting somewhere as a storyteller.

ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook?

MIKE:

I am constantly in flux, like I am trying to tune in a radio. I gravitate towards whatever gets me somewhere. As an author and illustrator, I interchange disciplines fluidly. Sometimes I can “write” quite a bit by designing a character’s clothes or setting, but there are times when just pounding the keyboard gets me there faster.

storyboard and illustration

ME: When do you write? Set schedule? When the muse strikes?

MIKE:

Early morning at a coffee shop is the best time to plow through a first draft. I haven’t quite exited the world of dreams while having enough caffeine in me to work quickly.

ME: Why do you write for children?

MIKE:

I think of storytelling, and art in general, as a call and response, a dialogue. You “see” certain things in the world and then reflect those back through your creativity to a certain audience. The things that I find fascinating and fill me with a sense of love and wonder radiate strongest in the world of children, and I find that the work that I find most pleasing to do resonates with the hearts and minds of young people.

MarigoldBakesCake_interior_1

ME: Mike, do you have any other tips or thoughts you’d like to share with everyone?

MIKE

My advice for writers: It’s never too early to take it seriously. Also, it’s never too late to take it seriously. And lastly, you should never take it too seriously.

MarigoldBakesCake_interior_2

I LOVE THAT ADVICE, Mike! We’ve got to buckle down and do the writing and rewriting, right? But we also have to find joy doing it and have fun with it…like kids. And it is NEVER too late. EVER!

If you’d like to find out more about Mike and his work:

www.mikemalbrough.com)

Twitter: @studiomalbrough.

Now dear friends, Mike has a very special treat recipe for us. Take it away, Mike.

Kourabiedes

A traditional Greek shortbread cookie, that is dense and delicious. The texture is amazing. Have some with tea!

Ingredients should be at room temperature.

Bake at 300 degrees for 22 minutes. Makes 2 ½ dozen.

 

2 ½ sticks of unsalted butter

1 cup superfine sugar

2 egg yolks

1 ½ tbsp. brandy

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

Whole Cloves (optional)

1 package 10x confectioners’ powdered sugar

 

Beat butter and superfine sugar in a large bowl with electric mixture at high speed for 15 MINUTES, or until light and fluffy. (Should have a white pearlescent look when ready.) Don’t skimp on the time it makes a difference. Scrape side of bowl with rubber spatula occasionally.

Add egg yolks, brandy and vanilla. Add flour, ½ cup at a time. If dough is too heavy, work it by hand. (Dough should be soft but firm.)

Break off walnut-sized pieces. Shape into crescents and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Insert a clove (optional) in each crescent.

 

Bake in slow oven (200 degrees) for 22 minutes or until pale brown. (Color should not change too much.) Remove cookies from oven and place on a platter. Cool. Remove cloves. Dust generously with confectioner’s sugar. (The cookies will look like a mound of sugar.) Store in a metal tin with a tight-fitting lid.

WOW! These look amazing! I think I am gaining a pound every week with all of these fabulous treat recipes. But it is worth it, right?

Please don’t forget to leave a comment today…it will give you an entry into the giveaway of a copy of MARIGOLD BAKES A CAKE. And for another entry, make sure you comment on yesterday’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review of the book.

Marigold_COVER

And, if you have a little extra time, why not hop over to Amazon and/or Goodreads and leave a review for Mike and all of your favorite authors and illustrators. It will mean the world to them!

Have a safe and happy weekend!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Marigold Bakes a Cake PLUS Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends!

We’ve actually just passed the half-way mark in this year of reviewing as many 2017 picture books as we can. Which means we have a whole other half of a year to go. Yes! Six more months of fabulous stories to review.

But first…a word from our sponsor. Oh, wait a minute…we don’t have a sponsor here. But we DO have some prizes to give away thanks to Maria Gianferrari. She offered to give away a copy of Hello Goodbye Dog. And the winner is…

CHARLOTTE DIXON

And that’s not all…Maria also offered to give away a Picture Book Manuscript Critique. And the winner is…

SUNWALKER2013

Congratulations, ladies! I’ll be contacting you soon to connect you both with Maria.

Plus, don’t forget to leave a comment on today’s post and tomorrow’s Will Write for Cookies because our wonderful debut picture book author/illustrator, Mike Malbrough is giving way a copy of MARIGOLD BAKES A CAKE.

Marigold_COVER

Marigold Bakes a Cake

Written and illustrated by Mike Malbrough

Publisher: Philomel Books (July 2017 – Happy Book Birthday!)

Ages: Preschool – Grade 2

Synopsis:

From Amazon:

For fans of Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon… series. Baking the perfect cake is how Marigold spends Mondays. Being messy, noisy, and disruptive in Marigold’s kitchen are how one finch, two pigeons, and three loons spend their Mondays!

 Marigold the cat loves Mondays, for that is when he bakes cakes! With his favorite recipe in front of him, he rolls up his sleeves and gets down to it. He whips up egg whites . . . Easy. He adds a cup of milk . . . Peasy. Then he sprinkles in just a pinch of . . . of finch?! That’s not right at all! Neither are the smidgeons of pigeons or the spoonsfull of loons. Clearly a chase is in order! Yet all that leads to is a spectacularly messy kitchen. And no cake.

 With a recipe comprised of equal parts humor and charm, author-illustrator Mike Malbrough has cooked up a scrumptious laugh-out-loud addition to the great tradition of interruption books. Perfect for fans of Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and David Ezra Stein’s Interrupting Chicken.

Opening Lines:

“Marigold liked everything just so.”

Why I like this book:

  • Great pacing and page turns!
  • Fabulous illustrations!
  • Spot on FUNNY!
  • Wonderful read aloud!
  • And who doesn’t love a cat who can bake?

RELATED ACTIVITIES

KID-FRIENDLY AND IBS FRIENDLY BRER RABBIT CARROT CAKE

brer rabbit carrot cakePhoto courtesy: http://www.food.com/recipe 

I love inviting kids into the kitchen…it’s fun! And they learn so much. Science. Math. Literacy skills. Geography and Social Studies (where the foods come from).

I’ve made this recipe hundreds of times for my husband…it is his favorite cake. And because he has nothing artificial…it’s great for the kids, too. The recipe is originally from:  Eating for IBS by Heather Van Vorous.

You will need:

1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

3⁄4 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon allspice

1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg

3⁄4 cup granulated sugar

1⁄4 cup packed brown sugar

3⁄4 cup egg whites or 3⁄4 cup egg substitute

1⁄2 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons fresh orange zest

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1⁄2-2 cups carrots, packed finely shredded or grated

3⁄4 cup canned crushed pineapple, with liquid

Sweet Orange Icing

 

3⁄4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 1⁄2 teaspoons fresh orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1⁄2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

For detailed instructions, please click here.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends…don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway and please come back tomorrow for:

Will Write for Cookies

With debut picture book author

MIKE MALBROUGH

 

This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susannah Leonard Hill. Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.

Michelle Eastman Books

Kid Lit Author and Advocate

Hmmmmm

about reading, writing & thinking children's books

Laura Boffa: Write of Way

Giving the way of writing the right of way

PICTURE the BOOKS

A Gallery of New Picture Book Talent

EMU's Debuts

From Deal to Debut: the Path to Publication

Wander, Ponder, Write

A KidLit Journey...

Picture Book House

reviews and stories about parenting with picture books

pernilleripp.wordpress.com/

Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension

Norah Colvin

Live Love Laugh Learn . . . Create the possibilities

Beth Anderson, Children's Writer

Reader, Writer, Miner of Moments

Dan Szczesny

Travel Writer / Journalist / Author

Susanna Leonard Hill

Children's Author

The Stinky Backpack

Traveling the Everyday World

Write One Real Life

Where writing meets faith in the real world.

The Runaway Palate

Food. Travel. Cooking. Random musings. Maybe some historical stuff.

The Reader and the Book

"O Day of days when we can read! The reader and the book, either without the other is naught." Ralph Waldo Emerson

WRITERS' RUMPUS

Authors & Illustrators Wild About Kidlit!

One Good Thing

Teresa Robeson's 365-Day project

Tracy Campbell

Heart for Ewe Publishing

Jilanne Hoffmann

The Writer's Shadow

kidsbook friends

Check out this blog about children's books!

Mary Jo Beswick

Author and Illustrator of Children's Picture Books

Leslie Leibhardt Goodman

Children's Writer

Pattern Me Mommy

My journey from Type A know-it-all to MOMMY! by Anna Redding

READ to KIDS

PB author, poet, writing for kids

Friendly Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales and Poetry Celebrating Magic and Nature for Kids of all Ages

Lauri Fortino's Frog On A (B)log

Sharing and Celebrating Picture Books Since 2009

Stacy S. Jensen

Let's Read Picture Books Together

Reading With Rhythm

book reviews from Rhythm the Library Dog

Nerdy Book Club

A community of readers

Nerdy Chicks Write

Get it Write this Summer!

Laura Sassi Tales

Celebrating writing, reading, and life.

Erika Wassall here... The Jersey Farm Scribe

Author, Freelance Writer, Entreprenur... LIVER of life

Angie Karcher

Writing Children's Books

Chapter Book Chat

A Writer Reviews Chapter Books, by Marty Mokler Banks

The Blabbermouth Blog

Literary Agent Linda Epstein's Yakkety Yakking

The Waiting

Turns out, it's not the hardest part.

Robyn Graham Photography

Capturing Life One Image at a Time

%d bloggers like this: