Wednesday, February 4, 2015

[Insert creative and pithy title for the Westside Writers Schmooze picture book critique recap here]

Karol:  Ah, crap, Charlie.  It’s time for another critique night recap.
Charlie:  Um, is it?
Karol:  YES, Charlie.  What are we supposed to do?  I mean, we really knocked it outta the park with our first one in 2012 (
Charlie:  2012!?  Have we been at this for THAT long?
Karol:  Yup.  2013’s recap was pretty creative, too (  But then last year, though the PBC Schmooze with the “illustrators in Residence” gimmick was pretty spectacular, we totally phoned in the blog with a 3-Schmooze recap FIVE months after the fact (
Charlie:  Yeah, but it had that cool gif from The Shining!
Karol:  Focus, Charlie.  What are we gonna do?  How can we possibly phone it in any more than we already have in the past?

Charlie:  Hit up a few Schmoozers to write little blurbs about their experiences at the PBC Schmooze and “call it a blog”…?
Karol:  OMG – that’s brilliant!!
Charlie:  Sloth and avoidance don’t just happen, Karol.  You have to work at them.

GREETINGS lovely Schmooze Blog readership! We present to you now our recap of the Picture Book Critique Schmooze (through the eyes of its participants):

We give you the Picture Book Critique Schmooze through the eyes of the participants:

 I was ready to query. My manuscript had been revised and noted and re-revised and re-noted...and, well, you get the idea. What could my fellow critiquers say except, “Brilliant! I hope you’ve already started querying with such a masterpiece on your hands!”
They will say it’s too long! It’s wayyyy too long! QUIET down voice in the back of my mind! I keep telling you, it’s ready to go!
So, what did my fellow Schmoozers say? It was awesome! ... And long. Wayyyy too long to submit for queries. Then they helped me figure out what to trim so I could keep the heart of my work intact. They gave me the objectivity that I needed after having been with the story for so long.
Since the critique, I’ve been able to cut my manuscript nearly in half. And today, I finally sent out those queries! We shall see how it goes, but at least I know I’ve sent out something that even the voice in the back of my mind is proud of.
Sometimes you just need some really smart people to tell you what you refuse to hear. Thanks SCBWI Westside Schmooze!­­

As my first ever in-person critique, the experience was immensely valuable.

There are obvious benefits to receiving constructive feedback from your peers. For instance, in hearing my story read aloud, I keyed into weaknesses that I’d missed during my own readings (and re-readings). The group called out additional spots needing repair, and together we brainstormed on possible solutions. This process was made painless by the care everyone took to be supportive and kind in their recommendations.

Getting a notebook full of suggestions was great, but the second (and my favorite) benefit was learning where my writing was already successful. My group pointed out exactly which lines were
strong and connected with them. This gave me a glimpse of what good writing can achieve and encouraged me to keep revising.

Perhaps the least obvious benefit is the one you get when you give (rather than receive) feedback. As with reading published picture books, my group’s unique voices and fresh styles inspired me. But something else happens when you not only read but analyze a story. You get better at identifying the differences between writing that sparkles and writing that needs a polish. And this skill kicks in when you sit down to type. Giving critiques evolves your writing.

For these and many more reasons, I encourage everyone to participate in a critique Schmooze.

--Sarah Harroff

My experience at the Westside Writers Schmooze Critique Group on January 14, 2015 was both exciting and rewarding. I was impressed by the strong attendance of writers and the organization of multiple tables for small groups to work together. The instructions provided before we began set the stage for a cooperative team approach.
The critique group I participated in consisted of five writers. Of these, four writers had picture book stories for critique. The feedback that I received was of great value. First, it was supportive of my story and writing. Secondly, it was specific in offering me new ideas to consider. The ideas were aimed at strengthening characters and story content.
I appreciated that the critique group writers were respectful, direct with feedback, and attentive to one another’s work.
--Frank X. Acosta

The January SCBWI LA Westside Writers' picture book critique Schmooze was wonderful.  I have to say that I was impressed and delighted by the stories shared.  This time I was at a table with pre-published as well as published authors and the quality of the feedback was excellent. Our group discussed a variety of animal stories, a fantastical tale in rhyme, and a creative nonfiction manuscript. Everyone was so supportive and everyone was so insightful and supportive.

My own manuscript had already been through several drafts and a couple of critique groups, but the writers at the Schmooze helped me to cut out even more extraneous lines. And voila! There was the perfect surprise ending for my story. It was in the manuscript the whole time, but I didn't see it until the writers at the Schmooze pointed it out. Hooray for the Schmooze!

--Andrea J. Loney 

A few grisly old-timers chimed in as well:

I always find it a useful evening. There was a teacher at our table (can't remember her name,) and she had some very insightful things to say. Also, we had an illustrator (can't remember her name, either,) and I appreciated her viewpoint, too. All in all, it's a great way to get fresh eyes on your work.
--Laurie Young

I had Greg Pincus and Andrea at my table and some other very lovely and insightful people. Off to do another rewrite. This is always a great evening. I just wished I could have heard everyone's book!
--Susan Berger

We had two newbies and two experienced writers at our table. I have to say that I was really impressed with all the work presented that evening. The incomparable Rita read each text aloud with verve and enthusiasm. I agree with Laurie - it's really helpful to writers to have a fresh eye - and ear - review your work.
--Joan Charles

What Joan said! (And thank you!) I was really impressed with the work at our table as well.
--Rita Crayon Huang

Laurie, Sue, Joan & Rita:  Who you calling grisly & old?!?!

Ooops!  Sorry.  We meant “grisly old-timers” in the sense that you’re all creative geniuses who’ve been around long enough to have thick skin and really know your stuff!

Charlie:  Do you think they’ll buy that?
Karol:  Beats me

Time for us to make our getaway!

Join us for the Novel Critique Schmooze on Wednesday, February 11th and until then…

Keep passing the open windows,

Charlie & Karol

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