Blog Archives

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!

Linda Whalen: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

LINDA WHALEN

 

I first met Linda in the Picture the Books 2017 group…what an awesome array of authors and illustrators! I’m thrilled with the quality of books that are debuting this year!

Linda Whalen lives with her husband on a plot of land in Northern California. Born a city kid, she married a farm boy from the mid-west and fell in love with country life.  Surrounded by family, pets and bunches of wild creatures, life is never dull. After working in, and then owning her own child-care facility, Linda is now pursing her passion of writing for children. She also enjoys time spent with her art supplies.

Maybe Linda will one day illustrate her own stories…we’ll have to ask if that is a goal of hers.

Just a reminder that Linda is giving away give a copy of LITTLE RED ROLLS AWAY. If you want to see my review of it, click here. Make sure you leave a comment below. And if you haven’t already joined my email list, please click on the sidebar logo. I promise not to send you any junk…just good stuff.

 And now, let’s give a big Will Write for Cookies welcome to Linda!

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

 LINDA:

There were no funds for books in our household when I was growing up. But I did get an understanding that books were important because my mother had a set of The Book of Knowledge that were very dear to her and I wasn’t allowed to touch them. She also had a book that was a collection of children’s stories which she read to me occasionally. I still have that book and read it to my children often. When I was eleven she bought a set of World Book Encyclopedia and I loved flipping the pages and reading about all sorts of things outside of my little world. I still have the set and every yearbook that goes with it. The fact that someone actually wrote what I was reading didn’t sink in until I was a teenager.

book cover

Once I started reading books I couldn’t get enough of them. To quote my husband in our early years of marriage, “you always have your nose stuck in a book.” He’s used to it now.

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

LINDA:

Gag the internal editor! I was like so many new authors who think that the words you put on that blank piece of paper had to be perfect in every way until at a conference, I heard a speaker say “write crap, then edit.” It took a while for it to sink in but it really does release the creative side of writing to just let go and write what comes to mind. Believe me there is a lot of editing going on when I’m done.  Then there’s editing after critique and editing after the sale. So just let go and go with the flow on the first draft.

ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook? And when do you find time to write?

LINDA:

I resisted writing on anything electronic. I love the feel of a pencil in my hand however, I’m much faster on the computer and can get the words down in a hurry. When writing by hand I sometimes have a hard time reading my own writing when I’ve rushed to get an idea down. Now I do both. I print out what I write electronically, grab a pencil and cuddle up somewhere to read and tear apart what I’ve written. I never clean my car or purse out completely, I need those scraps of paper to scribble down ideas when I get them.  Of course, I do pull over and stop if I’m in driving. On retreat or vacation when life isn’t whizzing by I like to write outside if my allergies will let me. I’ve found the balcony of a cruise ship is wonderful place to let your mind go where it wants. However, that doesn’t happen often so wherever I can find the time and space, I write.

workspace

ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?

LINDA:

I’m working on setting aside a specific time to write (like a job…eek!) My life is way too crazy for that but I’m trying. If I haven’t taken the time to write for a while I get a little itchy to do so, it’s the same way with art. My daughter has said to me, “Mom, I think you need to go write something.” Maybe I get a little grumpy when I ignore my creative me. So, I guess I prefer letting the muse strike.

art space

ME: Why do you write for children?

LINDA:

Children have always been a big part of my life both personally and professionally.  I love reading stories to children and seeing their emotions dance through their eyes as they listen. What better way to connect with that dance than to write the words.

 Words written to bring joy, warmth, spark the imagination, sooth, and teach while entertaining young minds, cross all boundaries of color, gender, or wealth.

My husband while not an avid reader read bedtime stories to our children and often the words would spark his imagination and he would go off script and weave other elements into the story. While the author might not appreciate this, I think getting a reluctant reader to read stories to children is a great way to spark their imagination and interest to read more.

WOW! Linda…I love your reasons! And I know everyone joins me in thanking you for sharing those insights.

And now for one of my favorite parts of Will Write for Cookies…the treat recipe!

cookies

Coconut –Oatmeal Cookies

1 C. butter

1 C. brown sugar

3 eggs (well beaten)

2 C. Flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 C. shredded coconut

2 C. oats

1 C. chopped nuts (optional)

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy
  2. Add eggs. Mix well
  3. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamons.
  4. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture blending well.
  5. Add coconut, oats and nuts.
  6. Drop rounded tablespoons on greased cookie sheet.

Bake in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Now, that’s what I call an oatmeal cookies that begs to be eaten! Dear friends, to find out more about Linda:

Website: http://www.lindawhalenauthor.com

Twitter:  @lindacwhalen

FB: Linda Whalen

LITTLE RED ROLLS AWAY on Amazon

book cover

Please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway for a copy of LITTLE RED ROLLS AWAY.

And a BIG thank you to everyone who has been spreading the word about the #50PreciousWordsforKids Writing Challenge. Don’t know about it yet? Click on the link in the sidebar to get all the details…or email me at viviankirkfield@gmail.com…it’s going to be AWESOME!

 

Have a beautiful weekend, dear friends. Anything special planned? Our son is flying in from Chicago on Sunday to spend the night because he has a business meeting in Boston on Monday. Yippee! We love spending time with him!

Jessica Petersen: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway Prize Package

 WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

JESSICA PETERSEN

Choo-choo! Will Write for Cookies is coming down the track…with another 2017 debut picture book author as our engineer.

Jessica Petersen started inventing new tricks for old tracks when her son was a train-obsessed toddler. Their adventures inspire her blog, Play Trains! (play-trains.com), where she writes about playing, learning, and reading with kids who love trains. She wrote, photographed, and illustrated OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS in her home in Seattle, Washington, where she lives with her husband, her son, and lots of happy wooden train tracks.

cover

Is everyone onboard? The conductor says relax, sit back, and enjoy the interview.

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

 JESSICA:

In elementary school, Jasper Tomkins came to my school — I’m pretty sure that was the only author visit I ever experienced as a kid — and I loved his whimsical books that anthropomorphize unlikely subjects, particularly the cloud in Nimby and the mountains in The Catalog. Years later, I was so happy to find copies of those books for my son, and in retrospect, I would guess his books were one of the things that started me down the path to bringing wooden train tracks to life in my own book.

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

JESSICA:

Perfection isn’t a goal on the first draft. Get the story down first, then get the story right, and then you can start trying to make the words sing.

ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook? And when do you find time to write?

JESSICA:

You may notice that the very blue walls are the same color as the walls in the playroom in Old Tracks, New Tricks. My office is does triple duty as a writing room, photo/video studio, and play room for my son (he picked out the bright paint color, which I love too). I wrote (and photographed) most of the book there, although I also spent a lot of time drawing strange looks as I tapped out the meter of the verse on coffee shop tables.

workspace

I used to write many of my rough drafts longhand as a way of digging deeper into emotions, but I mostly work on my laptop now. When I’m writing rhyming verse or a lot of dialogue, I hear the words in my mind. They don’t stop to wait for me, so I need to type to keep up with them.

ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?

JESSICA:

I write anytime I can. I used to be much more particular before my son came along. Children can be a great motivator to learn to write anytime, anywhere, with any amount of distraction. My big challenge now is that illustrating and promoting the book have taken up so much of my time for so long that I’m out of the writing habit. But I have another picture book in the works that I’m really excited about, so I’m hoping to figure out how to balance it all this spring.

ME: Why do you write for children?

JESSICA:

I used to work on fantasy novels aimed at adults, but I made the switch to children’s books when my son was younger, about four years ago. I loved the books I was reading to him, of course, but more than that, having him around made me think about what kind of work I was putting out there in the world, about how I could help kids learn about the world and how to approach life in a strong, kind, creative way.

creative ways to use tracks

ME: Jessica, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, librarians might want to hear.

JESSICA:

It can be a long, long journey from the first draft of your first manuscript until the day you see your first book in print. Look at that as an opportunity. Take the time to learn your craft, to build your writing community, to try different styles and forms of writing. Enjoy having the time to go down creative roads that don’t seem to lead anywhere. You never know when they’re going to be a shortcut. If I hadn’t gotten distracted from the novel I was writing to play around with fabric designs, I never would’ve been inspired to draw a sad train track, crying because it was left out of a full circle of happy tracks. (And yes, I’m going to use that to justify creative forms of procrastination for the rest of my life!)

One of my favorite things about Old Tracks, New Tricks is that I’ve been getting to collaborate with kids through the website (oldtracksnewtricks.com), where they can have grown ups submit photos of track tricks and adventures, and I add the faces in the same way I illustrated the book. I’ve been surprised and delighted by the creative ideas the kids are sending in — it’s even more fun than adding the faces to my own photos! I also decorated and painted a set of trains and tracks to look like characters from the book, and I’m taking them to train shows and other events so my son and I can share them with other children. It’s so cool to see my trains moving around the tracks, like they’ve rolled out of the pages of the book and come to life. As an author or illustrator, if you can play and create with your audience, it gives you a chance to connect in a significant, memorable way, for both you and your readers.

ME: I love this advice, Jessica. Especially about finding a way to play and create with your audience…great tip for authors to remember at book events.

You can visit Jessica online at http://www.jessica-petersen.com, on Twitter at @j_e_petersen, and on Instagram at @playtrains. And you can meet the little train tracks at http://www.oldtracksnewtricks.com, or on Instagram at @oldtracksnewtricks.

And now for one of my favorite parts of Will Write for Cookies…the treat recipe!

Coal Cupcakes

cupcake

These are by far the best, most moist and chocolately cupcakes I’ve ever tasted — and I trained as a pastry chef before I got into writing! We use a King Arthur Flour cupcake recipe (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/favorite-fudge-birthday-cupcakes-with-7-minute-icing-recipe), but mix them up with black cocoa (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/black-cocoa-12-oz) so they’re super dark. We started calling them “coal cupcakes” (https://play-trains.com/coal-black-chocolate-cupcakes/) when I made them for my son’s third train-themed birthday party in the row. After making a Thomas tiered cake for the first one and a 3D fondant-covered Thomas cake for the second one, I dropped the ball and didn’t have time to even decorate the cupcakes. But I convinced my kiddo that they looked like lumps of coal, and he loved them. The lucky thing is that they’re so good, they don’t even need icing — perfect for those of us who don’t really like icing very much in the first place!

WOW…we always used to threaten the kids that they’d get lumps of coal in their Christmas stockings…I actually would LOVE to get a couple of these!

Jessica…we want to thank you so very much…I know everyone gained valuable insight from your answers…and we’ll all gain a couple of extra pounds on the scale from your ‘lumps of coal’. Congratulations on a wonderful book and on just chugging along on your dream track! Your vision and persistence brought success!

And now, dear readers, please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the awesome gift package giveaway from Jessica. A signed copy of OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS, a personalized wooden track, and a sheet of decals for a young child to decorate their own.

giveaway

I hope you all have a beautiful week. Storms are ahead for New England…but THE CLOCKS ARE TURNING BACK! Don’t forget DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME is this weekend.

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: