Saturday, March 12, 2011

Westside Writers Schmooze Annual Picture Book Critique Night

Oh, the glories of critique night! 42 of us gathered to talk and read and help everyone get to a better understanding of what makes a great picture book, and for those of us brave enough to share our works in progress, how to make OUR stories the best they can be.

We started off the evening with announcing that Karol Silverstein and Charlie Cohen will be taking over the Westside Writers Schmooze Co-Captaining duties from Rita and Lee starting with our May 2011 meeting! Hurray, Karol and Charlie!!! We can’t wait to see what amazing adventures you’ll be taking us all on.

Lee reminded everyone of the sandwich method of critiquing – say something nice, ask the author if they have specific questions, share your kind constructive thoughts on things that might be improved, and end with encouragement for the author to revise.

Rita advised authors on how best to handle receiving feedback, and ran down some wonderful categories of things to look and listen and read for when critiquing – culled from this wonderful article by Linda Sue Park on "The Give and Take of Critique."

Jeff reminded us that the SCBWI grant applications are due in just a few days (March 15, 2011)!
(It's worth noting March 15 is a "Received by" deadline. Once you identify which grants interest you, click along the left to read more about them and download applications.)

Charlie regaled us with the lamentably true tale of a TV show’s dissing the effort that goes into creating quality children’s books, with an upcoming episode of “Celebrity Apprentice” making writing picture books their timed challenge. Next week, they’ll be doing Celebrity Apprentice timed heart surgery, because hey, it must be easy - everyone has a heart, right? (Though we’re not sure about those Celebrity Apprentice producers!)*

*While the picture book episode is evidently real, the heart surgery one is just Lee’s bitter cattiness, disguised as humor. He hopes you find it funny, too. (Rita assures me she does. Thanks, Rita!)

We also shared that SCBWI offers a wonderful service for local members who are interested in finding--or starting--their own critique group. Learn all about SCBWI Critique Connections Online here at, and/or by emailing

We mentioned the upcoming, FREE Critiquenic that happens in Roxbury Park, in Beverly Hills, on June 4th, where people also gather to exchange feedback on their manuscripts--that have perhaps been revised based on feedback from tonight!

And with talk of getting manuscripts in shape for the upcoming SCBWI Summer Conference and the additional Manuscript Consultation and Intensive Workshop opportunities there (Summer Conference registration begins April 15th!), we launched into our evening of reading, laughter, serious discussion, and baked goods!

With seven or eight people around six large tables, each group had five manuscripts to review. (A few tables had less than five, so Rita and Lee had in advance typed up the texts from three successful picture books so those tables could analyze them as their original editors might have – experiencing them text-only.)

We had a picnic this Sunday past, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Diane Greenseid

City Dog, Country Frog, by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon J Muth

The Quiet Book, by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska.

This is a great exercise to do yourself – choose a favorite picture book (we chose recently published, well-received books whose authors were different than their illustrators) and type it out in manuscript form. You’ll learn a lot from the experience.

We hope you join us next month for our annual . . . Middle Grade/Young Adult Critique Night!

Come share and give feedback on your MG or YA works-in-progress in a warm, open, encouraging environment, and see what your fellow writers have been working on! Manuscripts are NOT required to participate. Critiquing is a great way to learn. If you DO wish to share a middle grade or young adult manuscript, please bring SIX copies of up to FOUR pages (or roughly 800 words, if you write verse) in proper manuscript form (double spaced, normal fonts and margins). Both fiction and non-fiction are welcome.

Please email to RSVP, and mention whether you will be bringing a manuscript to share or not. Thanks!

Cheers and Namaste,

Your Co-Captains for one more schmooze,

Rita and Lee

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your entries on Toxic Words - such great thoughts and a wonderful reminder to watch the words I use - to be positive and kind and use words to build up rather than tear down. :)