Austin SCBWI Meeting – Applying the Golden Rule to Critique Partnerships

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Critique unto others as you would have them critique unto you.

Today was the monthly SCBWI -Austin meeting and it focused on critiques – a timely topic given my last post. The speaker was Bradley Wilson, of Yellow Bird Editors.

After the jump you’ll find my notes from the session. I hope they prove useful to you – I think there were some great tips!

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Is the PB Writing Community TOO Positive?

Hear me out here.

As anyone familiar with the writing community knows, its generally a very positive community. Everyone cheers everyone else to victory. We celebrate them signing with agents, shout out book birthdays and generally love to see others succeed. And I think that is wonderful. Truly. It’s almost surreal to see such a positive community of people all centered around creating something special for children.

But.

You knew there was a but, right?

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I Am A Writer?

“I am a writer.”

Does anyone else out there feel like a fraud saying these words out loud? I sure do. And it’s funny that I feel like that because I’ve spent almost my entire life writing in some form. (True story: in 2nd or 3rd grade I started keeping notebooks, just like Harriet. To say they are hilarious to now read is an understatement.)

Perhaps this feeling comes from the fact that I don’t have an agent. Or maybe it’s because my dream of seeing my book on a bookstore shelf sometimes seems so elusive, so distant, that it is hardly worth working toward.

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PB in 50 Words or Less

Ok, since I’m really trying to work on my writing, these contests are actually a great thing for me. They give me a prompt to focus on – or, in this case, a limitation – and I have to create something. Just the kind of thing to get the juices flowing.

Here’s the information about the contest: 50 Precious Words Contest

My entry is inspired by the age-old question of whether or not someone likes someone else.  Click on to read all 49 words (correctly formatted!):

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Superhero Status Quo

I’m on something of a Superhero kick lately, at least in terms of my writing. I’m finding that I want to write stories where the Superhero Status Quo is turned on its head somehow. I have a couple of fun drafts in the hopper and hopefully some of them will clean up into something presentable.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to write and revise, write and revise, write and revise. And I’m starting to wonder – do you ever really feel like a story is “done”. Like it can’t be made any better? I’ve always wondered that about artists in general. When a painter steps back from his/her canvas, how do they decide it’s done, that it doesn’t need one brush-stroke more? Is it confidence? Exasperation? Desperation?

When I get there I’ll let you know… 😉

SCBWI Austin Meeting – Middle Grade or Bust!

I finally attended my first regional SCBWI meeting. Yahoo!

I didn’t really have any expectations going in, other than being excited to attend. (Thank you to my official sponsor, Afrin, for making today’s trip possible. Thanks are also extended to both Infant Advil and Children’s Advil, for teething and RSV relief, respectively.)

The meeting today focused on Middle Grade books and included a panel of three MG writers:

Cory Putman Oakes (Dinosaur Boy)

Jo Whittemore (Confidentially Yours Series)

Mari Mancusi (Golden Girl)

Read on for my notes from the meeting:

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Finding Time to Write

Finding time to write is tough.

But that’s only the beginning.

Because you also have to find time to:

  • Read books ABOUT writing.
  • Read books in your genre.
  • Keep up with the industry.
  • Research agents.
  • Create a web presence.
  • Get on Twitter and follow agents/publishers/editors to educate yourself.
  • Look into contests.
  • Draft Twitter pitches.
  • Revise your writing.
  • Participate in critique groups.
  • And that’s just what I can come up with off the top of my head.

When do you find time to do this? Particularly if you’re at home taking care of kids (as I currently am)?

Two kids under the age of three means…

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Valentiny Contest

Ok, let’s start off by acknowledging that I’ve been gone for…a while. To be fair, I did have a baby during this time (my second) so it’s not like I’ve been on some amazing trip around the world and just forgot about all this picture book stuff ;).

I’ve been reading a lot of picture books (and revisiting a lot of the baby board books from my first – it’s kind of sad how quickly those get shelved, so it was nice to get them back into circulation with baby #2). And I’m focusing on my writing again.

I decided not to do 12 x 12 last year (2015) after participating in 2014 because I wasn’t sure how serious I could be about it and didn’t want to spend money if I couldn’t commit. So this is my year to refocus and see if I can make writing more of a priority. If so, then I can see about signing up for something…but in the meantime there are all kinds of exciting ways to work on writing, like contests.

Enter the Valentiny Contest… (click through to read my entry).

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Tyrannosaurus Wrecks

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Author: Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen 

Illustrator: Zachariah OHora

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

Purchased: N/A (Library Check Out)

Back when I realized I wanted to write picture books I initially stared off writing in rhymes. I quickly realized that rhyming is hard work and it’s a good idea to get a sense of what agents think are “good” rhyming books. This was one of the first books I distinctly remember hearing of as a well-done rhyme (I think this was in a Writer’s Digest Webinar). It took me a while to find a copy but I can finally agree – very well done.

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Stephen and the Beetle

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Author: Jorge Elias Lujan

Illustrator: Chiara Carrer

Translator: Elisa Amado

Publisher: Groundwood Books

Purchased: N/A – Gift from Hipster Sister

Does your kid like to kill bugs? Then this is the book for you! Ok, in all seriousness, this has a good message about respecting all living things and understanding that even small actions have consequences.  BUT it’s kind of a strange book. Which is fine – I mean every bookshelf needs some story diversity. Every book can’t be all rhymes and trucks and fairy tales, right?

But bear in mind that mixing it up comes with illustrations like this…

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