Last Writer Standing, by Lindsay Bandy

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In the coming weeks, Lindsay and Lori Ann will be sharing some of their favorite past blog posts. This post by Lindsay originally appeared on the blog in August 2015.


What does late-night comedy writing have in common with writing for kids and young adults, you ask? Ah, very much indeed.

On Wednesday nights, my husband and I enjoy getting the kids to bed and watching Last Comic Standing for some grown-up laughs. In this stand-up comedy competition, the comics  write and perform their own short sets and vie to be the last comic standing at the finale (and win stuff). Whenever I watch a talent competition, I prick my ears up at judging time. What can I apply to my own art and craft, so I can impress my own panel of editorial “judges?”

So here are a few pointers to apply from Last Comic to your writing:

  • Bring it Back Around. The most successful stand-up acts tend to come full circle. The last joke ties in to the first joke, making it even funnier. A good picture book will also give this sense of completeness, tying the first and last lines together. Like the short sets on Last Comic, you don’t have a lot of space in a picture book. So think ahead and tie the ending in to leave a lasting impression!  Novels should do the same by providing a scene in the beginning that will be mirrored somehow in the end to reflect a character’s growth. This could be emphasized through a repeated line, a repeated situation with a different reaction/outcome, etc.
  • Stay in Character. You never know if the screwball people up on stage are playing “themselves” or a character, and if they’re doing it right, you shouldn’t know. Every joke, every word, every expression, every movement has to stay in character. In this way, comics are writers and actors….and in a sense, as writers, so are we. Especially if we’re writing first person!!
  • Know When to Use White Space. Sometimes it takes us a sec. A good comedian knows when to pause and let a joke sink in. Sometimes they punctuate a pause with a funny look or a sip of water. It’s all part of their strategic pacing and presentation….and it needs to be part of the writer’s as well. Use paragraph and chapter breaks wisely. Similarly, composition in the artwork of a picture book can utilize white space very effectively. Using stand-alone lines in a novel draws attention to the sentence. The white space, like the strategic pause, sets your joke – or your dramatic realization, stare of jealousy and rage, sudden and tragic death, or that look of love and longing – apart. It makes the reader take note. It gives them a sec to process it on their own, so you don’t have to dump lots of extra words around it to tell them it’s important.
  • Hook AND Reel. Start with a bang! Hook ’em. But don’t fizzle. Reel them in by building upon your hook….increase tension and don’t let it sag, or your reader will swim off in search of new bait. Your hook is a promise, so keep it!
  • Get the audience reaction. Oh, this is hard with our writing! We sit at a desk or curl up on our couch with a laptop and feline and cherish our words. It’s us and the words, and we’re a happy couple. And then, it’s time to go public!! Introduce them to the family….change the Facebook status to in a relationship with XX Story and wait for the comments.  The first time I met with a critique partner, I was terrified! I bought a special, decorative folder just to make sure I looked like a real writer. I was sweaty. I took a few Tums. But guess what? It gets easier. And the reaction and advice is priceless. Sharing a part of yourself with another human being is wonderful, if terrifying! So, if you want to share your words (ex: be an actual, bona fide author) you’ve gotta start sharing. Ain’t no other way. And you’ve got to be prepared for the crickets….because if nobody’s laughing, you need to curl up on your couch again with a carton of Ben n Jerry’s, and write it again. Share it again. Write it again. Share it again. And again. And again….Until you’re the last writer standing, because you kept putting your butt in the chair and standing up again.

 

 

Posted in Writer's/Illustrator's Toolbox, writing craft, Writing Tips | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Spring Call for Blog Submissions: We Want Your Posts! by Lori Ann Palma

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It’s been a while since Lindsay and I put out a call for blog submissions, and now that we’re already into spring and summer is on the horizon, it feels like a good time to remind our readers that we’re looking for posts from your perspective.

If you’d like to make 2017 the year you expand your reach and wish to contribute to Eastern Penn Points, we’d love to see your post! Our themes are as follows:

  • May:“Bring May Flowers” Share your biggest triumph with writing or illustrating (finding a work space, finishing a draft/piece, publishing your work, getting an agent, etc) and what you learned along the journey.
  • June: “Summer Reading”What’s the best book you’ve read lately and why? A book on craft that you found inspiring? A summer sizzler that taught you to relax and enjoy quiet reading moments? A picture book that inspired reading or art-making in your child or class? Tell us about it!

If you have a great idea for a post but don’t feel it fits with the monthly theme, send it anyway! The themes are a guide, but they are not a rule. If you have an idea but you aren’t sure it’s right for the blog, send me an email (lu_lat@yahoo.com) and we can chat about it.

Because we know your time is limited, it’s important to let you know what you get out of submitting blog posts to Eastern Penn Points.

Save Time, Make Friends
Maintaining a blog is hard—if you run your own, then you know this is true! Coming up with ideas for posts, finding copyright free images or developing your own, plus keeping to a regular posting schedule can be overwhelming. By submitting an occasional post or a scheduled series of posts to Eastern Penn Points, you get the best of both worlds. Your thoughts about writing and/or illustrating reach thousands of people, and you don’t have to do any of the formatting or blog management yourself. To give you an example, I started out by submitting two posts a month, which was not only manageable for me, but also provided me with a chance to expand my reach on an established blog. It’s allowed me to connect with more people, which is always the best return for my time investment.

Build Your Online Presence
If you’re a writer or illustrator with the intention of querying agents in the future, or you’re currently querying, having a few articles on our blog gives you an online presence. Most agents will Google your name prior to offering representation, and while you don’t need thousands of followers on every social media site out there, it does help if you have a small platform to build on.

Fill In That Empty Bio
Blogging for Eastern Penn Points also provides you with a short bio to place in your query letter—you can say you are a contributor to the Eastern PA SCBWI blog. If you have no other publishing credits to speak of, this is a huge benefit because it shows you are active within a community of children’s writers and illustrators.

If those reasons haven’t convinced you to join us in the blogging fun, here are a few other points to remember:

  • Posts don’t have to be long…500 words will do it, with a maximum of 1,500.
  • If you can’t commit to one or two posts a month, that’s okay! One post every few months, or even less, works for us. We’re not going to hassle you!
  • Your perspective matters. Even if you think we’ve written about it before, your contribution is unique because it’s from you.

I hope you’ll start thinking up some blog ideas, because Lindsay and I would love to hear from you! Submissions can be emailed to me at lu_lat@yahoo.com, and you can look at our Submissions page for more information.

Happy writing!

 

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Practical Advice: Getting Beyond the Middle of a Draft, by Lori Ann Palma

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In my past blog posts for Eastern Penn Points, I’ve talked about fear as an obstacle to writing, and while this struggle is still high on the list of creative troubles, it isn’t the only concern. After attending the recent SCBWI EPA Pocono Retreat, I found that the talented group of writers I spoke with had no trouble writing and creating; what they—and I—predominantly struggle with is getting through the troublesome middle of our projects.

Whether you’re writing a first draft or editing your work, it’s easy to get stuck in the middle. The initial steam that propelled you forward has burned out, and that’s exactly how you feel—burned out. You have an idea, but you don’t know where it’s going, why it’s going, or how to get your characters moving. The finished product seems very far away, indeed.

As I’m struggling with this myself, slogging through the first edits to my work-in-progress, I feel as if I’m staring at the pages, accomplishing nothing. There are problems I need to fix, and yet it’s like I’m stuck in mud, half-heartedly struggling to get out, but growing more tired and disinterested in freeing myself. Simultaneously, I feel the weight of the ticking clock and the pressure I put on myself to finish something I’m proud of. If you’ve been where I am, then you know it’s a terrible feeling!

So, what’s the solution?

Since I’m living this right now, I want to share my plan of attack:

Take a break: This one is self-explanatory. Step away from the work to gain perspective, but use that time wisely. See below…

Interview yourself: When I’m not sure of the reason I feel stuck with a story, I ask myself why and then try to answer honestly. During this Q & A, you might find that your story bores you, or the scene where you’re stuck bores you, or your characters aren’t interesting. Perhaps this project isn’t true to you—it’s writing to a trend you don’t really care about, or it’s just that you’ve wandered into a storyline you don’t want to explore. This interview might happen on paper, within your own mind, or with a writer friend, but don’t skip the investigative work. There’s a reason you’re stuck—diagnose the problem as best you can.

Return to craft: It’s time to hit the books! Like doing research on how to treat an illness, find craft books that address the issue you’re having with your WIP. Reading up on plot structure may guide you toward an element that’s missing in your draft, such as action, drama, or twists. If boredom is an issue, read up on how to build dynamic characters, or punch up the amount of evil in your villain. Regardless of your issue, there are tons of resources out there to help.

Read: Now that you’ve researched, look at real world examples. Pick up a book that has a similar plot to your own, or re-read a book in your same genre that inspired you to write in the first place. If dialogue is your sticking point, choose a book that zips along with feisty exchanges. If your characters feel flat, look at fiction with an ensemble cast of stand-outs. Make notes, mark pages, underline passages (if it doesn’t pain you to write in books!)—just begin stockpiling examples that SHOW you how to fix the issue.

Make a plan: Now that you’re armed with information, from both craft books and fiction, make a plan for how to treat the problem you’ve diagnosed. A simple way to do this is to bullet a list, but any method will work as long as you clearly define your next steps.

Go back to the middle and TRY: The only way out is through, so return to your WIP and see it anew. Try out some of the things you’ve learned and return to your examples. Be willing to scrap some boring scenes or characters, or add new characters. Keep trying until you find the spark again that gets you over the middle and toward the finish line.

This is my plan of attack, and I hope it works for you too!

Posted in Practical Advice, writing craft, Writing Tips | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Pocono Recap and New Logo Reveal! by Lindsay Bandy

The return to real life after the Pocono Retreat (laundry, sibling squabbles, HVAC repairs, oh my!) is always a tough one, and this year has been no exception. Now that I’m home and my children are back onto their normal bedtime and tooth-brushing routines, I’m reflecting on the best moments of the weekend, and I hope you will, too! Use this post as a little fill-in-the-blank guide to sharing about your weekend in the comment section. And if you couldn’t join us this year, but enjoyed the retreat in the past, feel free to share a thing or two that stuck with you.

BBThe first highlight to share with you is OUR NEW EPA SCBWI LOGO! Thanks to all the amazingly talented artists who submitted and made the logo decision reeeeally hard! After voting by secret ballot at the retreat, we’re happy to announce that Beth Bogert’s logo was the winner!
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Do you like it?! Be sure to tell Beth!

And now, here are my Best of Pocono 2017 Moments…..

Favorite Food of the Weekend: The food!!!! I don’t have to cook it, which is miraculous in and of itself. And I have a very good theory that a socializing introvert burns at least double her usual calories (don’t look up any data on that, please.) So…my favorite? While I was delighted by the surprising cream puffs filled with ice cream (!), the chili and cornbread, and the luscious salads, I have to say my favorite single dish was the grilled cauliflower. I’ve never enjoyed cauliflower so much in my life – well done, chef. Well done.

-Hardest laugh of the weekend: I happened to overhear someone saying they wanted to win the “Shriveler Subscription” instead of the “Scrivener Subscription” in the silent auction. Rest assured, I will NOT be outbidding you on a Shriveler! (Ps. To the person who said this, I totally know you just got tongue tied. Thanks for the giggle!!)

-Most emotional moment of the conference: Listening to author/illustrator Kelly Light discuss her very personal road to publication. We were honored to have you join us, Kelly, and we cheer you on towards many happy endings ❤

-Scariest moment of the weekend: When my phone overheated on the Turnpike and I couldn’t get my GPS to work for a bit. Either that, or anticipating my critiques. Both were pretty terrifying, but both worked out just fine in the end.  I did not get lost. And I did not cry. SCORE!

-Warmest Fuzziest moment of the weekend: All the hugs! Seriously, there is so much love in our company. As someone who never quite fit into any of the high school cliques, it’s AMAZING to feel so much a part of this group. Susan Campbell Bartoletti said it best when she said that entering the writing community made her feel like “The ugly duckling who found her swans.”

Thank you to all of those friends who hug me, listen to my struggles and joys, and encourage me along this bumpy road. You are my GPS! Thanks for understanding that I sometimes talk to myself, fall asleep untangling plot problems, and use the quiet space of written words to figure out my world. My world is a better place thanks to you!

Share memories here….

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What Being a Writer Has Taught Me So Far…Or How to Become a Circus Performer, by Lori Ann Palma

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I started writing seriously about ten years ago. And I use the word “seriously” to define the time I really attempted to begin a novel versus the twelve-year-old me who thought writing a book would be cool, but promptly gave up when I realized it was hard.

In those ten years, I’ve completed three manuscripts, published one short story, been rejected about a hundred times, and written over 75 blog posts. I’ve experienced highs and lows, and when I take in the entire ongoing experience, I can honestly say that the valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way have made this crazy ride worth every second.

As my writing career continues, I keep returning to these lessons to overcome fear, rejection, and deadlines. They’ve taught me to twist and adapt to my circumstances, which often feels like I’m training for the circus life instead of the writer’s life. Through the hurdles listed below, I’ve learned, and am still learning, how to be a writer who can perform under pressure.

Hurdle #1: Fear and Doubt Are Not My Friend. For as long as I’ve been writing, I still experience fear and doubt. I’ve learned it can happen at any time… before I start a project, in the middle, during the revision stage. Additionally, my reaction varies—it’s been minor in some instances and absolutely paralyzing in others. After years of starting and finishing projects, I’ve come to understand that fear is part of the process. It blooms from my own self-judgment, and once I realize this (all over again), I know I’m only battling the critical thoughts in my head and not actual truths.

  • Lesson Learned: Become a Human Cannonball. The lesson I’ve learned is that writing is the only cure for fear. Like a human cannonball, I now know that I must launch myself into the story, no holds barred, no judgments, and keep going despite my fears. Yes, it’s going to feel extremely uncomfortable shooting at a zillion miles an hour without seeing a landing point, but it works every time.

Hurdle #2: Editing is Way More Difficult Than I Thought. When I first completed a manuscript, I was on this amazing high. I’d finished something! The euphoria quickly evaporated when I read through my draft and realized it was a raging dumpster fire. The beautiful prose I thought I’d written didn’t exist, and the realization was terrifying and disheartening. At first, I didn’t like the editing process because it defied the fast-paced action of words flowing on the page, but what I’ve realized over time is that editing is a blessing. They call it revision because it allows you to make the vision in your mind become reality. Without editing, my characters would be flat, my theme would be nonexistent, and all the potential in my draft would go unrealized.

  • Lesson Learned: The Lion Tamer Has Nerves of Steel. The lesson I’ve learned is that it’s natural to fear the first draft beast. It might growl and take a few swipes, but I have the power to tame it if I’m willing to enter the cage. We may tussle and fight, and I may be frustrated and afraid and overwhelmed, but if I keep at it, we’ll eventually get along, and I’ll put on a better show for my readers.

Hurdle #3: Rejection is the Worst Feeling Ever. Ah, rejection. At first, I thought I’d whisk through the publishing process like a cloud through the sky. Um, no. The truth is that no writer gets out unscathed. When I got my first rejections from agents, it felt like acid eating my insides. I couldn’t do anything except struggle to understand why it happened to me. And my reaction didn’t improve for a long time because I continued to take rejection like a personal hatchet to my writing dream. Over the years, I’ve learned that rejection is inevitable if I continue to put my work out there, and more importantly, I have control over my experience of rejection. I can choose to see the negative, or I can take a moment to consider the positives—I’m working on my dream, I may have received valuable feedback, I now have an experience with a particular agent, or, at the very least, I know that this agent isn’t right for me.

  • Lesson Learned: Take a Cue from a Sword Swallower. When swallowing a sword, I have to imagine it’s something you do very carefully and thoughtfully. Rejection is the same way. Initially, my brain goes into a shame spiral, as if I’ve done something wrong, but when I take the time to think about it, I can pull myself out of that rut and see all the positive. It still hurts…I mean, sword swallowing doesn’t seem pleasant, but it’s a risk that does come with reward.

Hurdle #4: There Will Never Be Enough Time. I want to finish editing my WIP. I want to write another novel. I want to make tons of art. I want to blog and draft a non-fiction book and write epic tweets and Instagram my life. But…when? It’s impossible to do everything at once without turning into a harried and overworked mess, so I’ve learned that I must prioritize. For now, editing my WIP, my new web site, and social media are my priorities. Everything else has to wait, and that’s okay. For now, I can only do what I can do.

  • Lesson Learned: Professional Jugglers Are Super Smart. There’s a reason jugglers only juggle three or four bowling pins at a time—adding more increases the chances of dropping everything. I employ this same logic. If I juggle three things, I’ll glide along. If I add a fourth, I might not be able to handle it. Prioritizing is key.

Hurdle #5: Social Media Doesn’t Feel Very Social…It Feels Like Work. I’m managing three different social media networks right now, and the learning curve has been difficult. This hurdle is one that I’m still in the process of overcoming. What I’ve learned so far is that each network has its own set of rules, and I must adapt to those rules. I can’t sit back and wait for knowledge to come to me. I must seek it out instead.

  • Lesson (Still Being) Learned: Platform Divers Aren’t Afraid of Heights or Eyes. I think of the old timey divers at the turn of the century who would leap from a platform into a small pool of water, sometimes on a horse, as hundreds of audience members waited to be entertained. They might’ve been afraid, but they didn’t hesitate. Learning social media is like that as well. I’m finding that I have to dive in, make mistakes, and adjust while everyone watches.

Hurdle #6: This Is My Serious Writer Face. I’m not only a writer, but a serious writer who takes my work very seriously because I write serious YA. Ugh…sounds like a bore, right? This is what I’ve learned, too! Nobody wants to talk with someone who can’t lighten up and find humor in the fact that we hear voices in our heads and then write that stuff down. (Take the label of writer off of it, and you’re just weird.) Laughing is so important, and I wouldn’t have learned that without SCBWI EPA events where I’ve met other writers. I now know I can be serious about my writing without having to be serious all the time.

  • Lesson Learned: Being a Clown Is the Best Job Around, Who doesn’t love to laugh? And who doesn’t love to make others laugh? Being a clown doesn’t mean you can’t take your craft seriously…after all, even clowns must go to school. But they also know that fun is meaningful and brings people together. If I’m going to write, then I’m also going to have fun while I’m at it.

 

Now it’s your turn! What hurdle have you experienced, and what type of circus skill have you used to overcome it?

Posted in A Creative Life, The Creative Process, Writer's/Illustrator's Toolbox | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

A Chat with Cynthia Kreilick About “Publishing Local” and Morning Circle Media, by Anna Forrester

MCM logoThere are so many ways to get your stories out to readers – from self-publishing to publishing with one of “The Big Five,” to everything in between.

This spring I had the pleasure of meeting Cynthia Kreilick, who writes picture books and also runs a small, local press in Philadelphia that falls into that “in between” category.

Morning Circle Media occupies a unique niche on the publishing spectrum. Its website explains that Morning Circle “…publishes beautiful, bilingual children’s books that feature the diverse communities of Philadelphia.  We collaborate with the best writers and illustrators in our region to promote an appreciation of culture, language and art.”

I’m delighted to welcome Cynthia to Eastern Penn Points today to talk about Morning Circle Media and her work there.

Anna Forrester: First off Cynthia, can you tell us a little bit about how Morning Circle got started?

Cynthia Kreilick: A midlife crisis. That’s how Morning Circle Media was born. I was really bored with what I was doing, despite a good salary and great colleagues. I was at an age when I knew it was “now or never,” so I took a leap (thanks to a very supportive husband, who could finance my new business).

I had been working in early childhood education for over 20 years before I took this leap. I had a good network and lots of experience reading picture books to children. I had also been writing creatively all my life. This network has paid off. It’s much easier for me to get my books into the hands of early childhood educators because they know me and trust the quality of my work.

AF:  Boredom is definitely a powerful – and important motivator! I’m imagining that your background in Early Childhood Education must have also contributed to Morning Circle’s mission—and that your midlife crisis coincided with some sense of a need in the children and communities where you worked. Could you tell us a little bit about Morning Circle’s focus, and where it springs from?

CK: Morning Circle Media sprang from a desire to write about the things that matter to me: language, culture, and the nature of being human.

I was visiting a lot of early childhood programs, in both urban and rural areas, doing technical assistance and quality improvement consulting. There were lots of books about numbers and shapes and colors and jobs that people do, but I was not seeing books for little children that prepared them for the complexities of life or the gray areas that we grapple with on a day to day basis. Authors and publishing houses were skirting the really vital topics that invite children to experience their emotions…their humanity: aging and death; sexuality; violence; love; faith; sacrifice; betrayal; reconciliation; the quest for identity. And there were very few books that showed people of color in an authentic, meaningful way. Many of my books deal with universal feelings and aspirations. The fact that they are bilingual helps people of various cultures talk about common themes.

AF: Do you feel like the #WNDB movement is beginning to address any of your concerns? (If yes, how? And how is what you’re doing also different?)

CK: Wow! What a great organization! We have similar missions. Morning Circle Media, however, focuses exclusively on creating and publishing children’s picture books. We also feature mostly Philadelphia-area authors and illustrators. Because Philadelphia has so many art schools and so many talented writers, we have an endless supply of fantastic local talent. We love promoting our homegrown authors and illustrators!

AF: As a small, local publisher, what strategies do you use for distributing your books and getting them out there to readers?

CK: We have two main ways of distributing our Morning Circle Media books: teacher workshops and story visits. I have a special certification in the State of Pennsylvania that allows me to do professional development for licensed early learning programs. 75% of our books are distributed at these early literacy and cross-cultural understanding workshops. Each participant receives a free book when they attend a workshop. Our bilingual children’s books are the focal point of most of these trainings. Teachers take the books and the extension activities directly to the classroom.

Our Morning Circle Media Story Visits are popular with Philadelphia early learning programs, the Free Library of Philadelphia and local public and private elementary schools. Programs are required to purchase a minimum of 10 books per Story Visit. Often, programs order many more than 10 in order to give a book to each child in a given classroom or school. Each Story Visit includes a bilingual reading of a particular book and an extension activity that goes deeper into a concept introduced in the book. We do not spend a lot of time putting our books in bookstores or on Amazon. If you’re not actively promoting your books, they’re not moving!

AF: Morning Circle Media’s work feels more relevant than ever with the current political climate growing more complex for immigrants. I wonder: are you interested in hearing from writers, illustrators or educators who might want to submit work or otherwise get involved with Morning Circle Media and its work?

CK: This is an easy answer: Yes!  Morning Circle Media would love to collaborate with Philadelphia authors and illustrators interested in publishing children’s picture books about our local immigrant communities.  We are particularly interested in working with immigrants themselves.

We are also starting to reach out to investors who want to help fund our books and our educational outreach.  We are looking for people who are interested in promoting bilingual early education and cross-cultural understanding. My mother, for example, just funded a cross-cultural understanding event, sponsored by the Free Library of Philadelphia, for Kindergartners at Jenks Elementary School.  My daughter and I read one of our early books, Lucha and Lola, took the kids to a Mexican monarch butterfly sanctuary via Skype, and did a monarch butterfly art project—all in a one-hour class!  This event would not have been possible without the generous donation of my mother. 50 children received a copy of Lucha and Lola, met the author and illustrator, and learned about a very unique, endangered insect.

Thanks so much for this interview!

AF: Thank YOU Cynthia – I look forward to seeing what comes next at Morning Circle Media!


Anna Forrester’s debut picture book, BAT COUNT (illustrated by Susan Detwiler), was published by another “in between” publisher – Arbordale Publishing– in February 2017. Arbordale publishes picture books with science and math themes to ignite a passion for reading and learning.

Connect with Anna through her website or on twitter @annaforr.

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“A Method for the Madness” & Silent Auction Announcement, by Virginia Law Manning, EPA Critique Group Organizer

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I’ve read it takes the average author 10 years to get their first book published. TEN years. But, one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t rush it. You have to do your homework. While there are no short cuts, you can have a plan, and I’m big on plans! Here is my roadmap to submissions:

  1. I get an idea for a story. I write it down. I’ve started using Scrivener to keep track of my picture book ideas. I don’t actually begin writing the story though until I’ve had a chance to let the idea brew and bake. When my idea comes to life with a beginning, middle and end that I think will work, I…
  2. Write my first draft. I revise it but I don’t go crazy. I’ve realized that my greatest weakness as a writer may be my propensity to spend hours tweaking wording in a manuscript when the manuscript has bigger issues. When the first draft feels ready to share, I…
  3. Submit my manuscript to my critique group. The first time around, my critique partners (CPs) are looking at big items. Is there a clear problem? Does the MC try to solve his/her problem? Is the ending satisfying? Then I…
  4. Read the critiques. There are four people in my group. Often in the early stages, my CPs will give me similar feedback because the flaws are more obvious. I revise my manuscript to address their feedback. Then I…
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until either:
    1. I lose interest/become frustrated and need to take a break from the story, or…
    2. I’ve gotten to a version where the comments from my critique partners no longer agree with each other and the feedback seems to reflect my critique partners’ individual tastes rather than my vision for the story. At this point, I may still put the manuscript away so that I can look at it again with fresh eyes in a few months. Otherwise I…
  6. Send it to my alternate critique partners. I have several friends whom I swap critiques with from time to time when I need “a fresh set of eyes” on my work. I may also call in some favors. For instance, earlier this year I asked the educational director of the preschool where I work if she would critique a manuscript for me. Then I…
  7. Look for paid manuscript critique opportunities. Having my work critiqued by editors and agents has taught me so much!!! I know they are expensive, but I cannot stress enough how important they are! Sometimes if I’m stuck on a manuscript, I might get a manuscript critique with an author. While they can’t offer us representation or sign a contract, authors can help us brainstorm our manuscript problems.
  8. After I’ve addressed the editor’s/agent’s feedback, I resubmit my manuscript to my critique group with the editor’s feedback. My CPs can help me identify if I’ve made the necessary changes.
  9. If my CPs give me the green light, I start submitting, but I still keep my eyes open for other paid manuscript opportunities. One reason I do this is because, after working on the story that long, I start getting impatient and with a paid manuscript critique I know when I’ll get a response. This is an expensive indulgence I allow myself.
  10. At every step, I’m always thinking of new story ideas and storing them in my Scrivener file.

I hope you’ll think about what your current plan is and whether it’s working for you. If you don’t have a critique group, please check the EPA website under “Local Critique Groups” to find a group to join.

I really want you to succeed! If you’re going to the EPA Pocono Retreat, I have donated a “Picture Book Author’s Care Package” for the Silent Auction. The care package includes three of my favorite writing how-to books, a book lover’s journal, and the opportunity to have three picture book manuscripts critiqued by me. Proceeds from the Silent Auction go to the Pocono Retreat Scholarship Fund. It’s a win-win-win situation!

I hope to see you at The Barn!

 

Posted in critique groups, Pocono Retreat, writing craft, Writing Tips | Tagged , , | 6 Comments