This month, I thought I’d acquaint you with a critique group I admire. The six founding members: Mike Ciccotello, Deborah Cuneo, Diana Ting Delosh, Barbara DiLorenzo, Patricia Keeler and Jason Kirschner, are all brilliant author/illustrators well on their way to stellar careers in the industry. In addition, they’ve got marketing smarts. In January this year, they started a blog cooperative “Drawn to Picture Books,” or D2PB, whereby they take turns writing about their process and artistic journey under the same blog umbrella. I hope you’ll spend time on the D2PB website, register to receive D2PB updates and check out their individual websites.
I now have the pleasure of introducing one of the group’s members, author-illustrator and funnyman, Jason Kirschner.
I feel a particular connection to Jason’s success, as I witnessed his agent Rachel Orr perusing his portfolio for the first time in September 2014. Then WHAM! KAPOW! KABLOUIE! 18 months later, Sterling Children’s Books released his first book MR. PARTICULAR: THE WORLD’S CHOOSIEST CHAMPION. This spring Jason has created a book trailer, appeared on national TV and in stores, and been interviewed online to promote his book.
Virginia: Jason, congratulations on your success! My son and I are big fans of MR. PARTICULAR. His persnickety character appeals to characters like us who want things just-so. I’m also thrilled that three more members of your group: Barbara DiLorenzo, Patricia Keeler and Deborah Cuneo, have books coming from Viking Children’s Books and Sky Pony Press in 2017. Can you tell us a little about your critique group? For starters, how did you meet?
Jason: We all met at a NJ SCBWI conference a bunch of years ago. As conference buddies, we realized we were at similar places in our careers, and so starting a critique group made sense.
Our group is loosely structured–no rules or procedures. The lack of rules makes it hard to break them. When members want feedback on a project, we share it using Dropbox and send an email to alert everyone to take a look. We tend to write a lot of emails about cookies and other dessert food which is generally off topic but beyond that we seem to do OK.
There are also no deadlines or obligation. Sometimes we’re being asked to review material daily. Other times there are large gaps when no one’s sharing because we’re all slack or busy busy busy. When there’s a lot, it can be a time suck. But, either way, we tend to handle it really well.
Virginia: What do you find the greatest benefit of being in a critique group?
Jason I think the advantage of any critique is having your work looked at with a fresh set of eyes and a perspective that is not your own. If you can get partners as talented as mine, so much the better! I also tend to learn some by critiquing others so it’s really a win/win.
Virginia: Do the different members of your group have particular strengths that assist you with a personal weakness?
Jason: Yes. Absolutely. There are many superpowers at play here –almost too many to name. My obvious one is being particular (couldn’t resist), but you’d never put me in charge of the calendar or time management, or grammar check. It’s not what I do well. We have some members that are great at that. Some are brilliant promoters. We have anatomy experts who can spot those kind of drawing errors and those who are really industry smart. Some are super sassy. I’d like to think that I’m good at finding story logic flaws, and I give a good pep talk now and then. Truly all are talented artists/authors all around.
Plus, we all have different styles and methods so no one steps on each other’s toes. I think what makes it work and what makes it special is that we really believe in each other and have a real desire to see the others succeed.
Virginia: I’m looking forward to witnessing your group’s continued success as well. You’re an amazingly talented group of artists! Thank you for this opportunity, Jason! Is there anything else you want to tell EPA members?
Jason: Keep checking out “Drawn to Picture Books.” We’ve got some exciting posts coming up. We’re learning to make our posts more personal. It can be unnerving to put yourself out there but we hope to show more of an inside view of our individual processes of making books. We also mention cookies a lot.
Virginia: Please remember to sign up to receive “Drawn to Picture Books” updates! If you have a comment or question for Jason or his D2PB cohorts, leave a comment below.
**By leaving a comment, you’ll be entered to win a copy of MR. PARTICULAR signed by Jason!**