Friday, February 27, 2015



by Cindy Marcus

The amazing and inspiring Laurisa White Reyes lead the Santa Clarita Schmoozers this month, sharing her insights and wisdom in the challenging art of revision.  Wow.  Writers walked away with many helpful handouts as well as usable hints on how to approach the intimidating process of revising their novels.  When broken down into Laurisa’s handy dandy three-step process, revising just seemed so do-able, though time consuming.  However, Laurisa reminded us that time consuming is part of the writing journey as can be tediousness, but it’s that kind of dedication that turns a book from lumpy coal to a shiny diamond.  Not only that, revision is really important.  Competition is fierce and it’s important to put your best “word” forward.  

To begin the revision process, you start with Step One.  This is the developmental stage of revision, which involves making sweeping changes like revising plot, replacing character, examining pacing.  After the sweeping changes have been made, it’s time to check for words usage and grammar usage.  A good tip was to use that search bar in your document to find out just how many times you are using a word.  Or go to  The word “was” can be way overused.   The last stage, is proofreading.  Here you check for spelling and punctuation.  Laurisa also shared the most common mistakes to avoid, like its vs. it’s.  (its is possessive and it’s is “it is”).
She wrapped up with her 6-tips for effective revision, like read it aloud, or have a friend or your child read it to you.  And don’t be afraid to seek out a professional.  Editors can be expensive, but you don’t have to pay for their entire services, maybe pick and chose what you think your book will need.  Does it need a sweeping revision or a line edit?  Getting a professional’s eyes on it is always worth it - as are beta readers.

What a great schmooze.  Can’t wait for next month!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Diary of a Wimpy Schmooze Coordinator (AKA The Westside Writers Novel Critique Schmooze Recap)

February 11, 2015—2:57 PM

Man, I am so burned out on this whole annual novel critique thing. If I wasn’t co-coordinator I’d probably just skip it. I mean, it’s fine for young, productive people who still have hopes and dreams; real writers who manage to move from one project to the next instead of working on the same stupid book for more years than I even want to admit. Am I really going to bring those same 4 pages? Sure, I’ve done some revising since last year but really, what’s the point? Those pages have been polished so many times it’ll just be everyone saying how much they like them, and I’ll puff up, start pontificating and forget that my real problems are later and structural until I get home and realize what happened and start to hate myself for the whole big ego thing… On the other hand, if I don’t bring anything, I’ll really feel like a loser who can’t even put himself on the line when he’s asking everyone else to—I mean what’s wrong with me? What’s WRONG with me?

Maybe I’ll call Karol and tell her I’m under the weather….

February 12, 2015—12:32 AM

That was great! I’m so glad Karol didn’t let me wuss out (though she didn’t have to be so mean about it). First of all, there were so many new writers there. Of the 26 people attending it seemed like a third of them were newbies. And then, at my table at least, they were all really talented. Everyone had different and amazing stories (many with a strain of animalism that was fascinating), and everyone really listened, hungry for useful criticism. Even better, the comments were all pretty deep and thoughtful. As for my stupid pages, it kinda started out like I said, with me pontificating. But then I reminded myself to shut up and listen, and I found out about some very clear missteps in my first paragraph that implied my main character was younger than he is. A few Schmoozers had a global idea that, while interesting, doesn’t really work given the nature of the book. Still in all, it was a great and revealing night, and everyone there seemed to find it as much fun as I did.

February 21, 2015---3:00 PM

Just got back from a bike ride and somewhere along Mulholland I realized that the Schmoozer’s global idea was actually terrific and solves some of my structural problems. It doesn’t quite work the way they suggested it, but with a bit of tweaking, it’s freaking brilliant! I don’t know why I thought I was burned out on SCBWI. It’s awesome! 

February 21, 2015—3:37 PM

Ugh! I am so burned out on SCBWI! While I was in the shower, Karol left a message asking if I’d take the lead on this month’s blog (since she’s taken the lead on the last two and she’s busy setting up the panel for next month’s Schmooze).  I meanI love going, I love leading it and I love talking. But why do I have to have responsibilities? And anyway, what’d she do for last month's blog? Just got a lot of people to write in what they thought.  Of course, that required effort too, with emailing and such. Hmm, how can I get out of this…?

Ha!  I know!! I’ll just publish this stupid journal, unedited! And then, at the end invite everyone to tell about their experiences at their own tables in the “Comments” section!  Problem solved! 

Oh, I am good!!  Now it’s off to revise my book, which I’m oddly excited to do—gotta love SCBWI!

 ...There you have it Schmoozers - a scary look into the tortured (yet somehow lovable) mind of one of your "fearful" leaders.

We have an AMAZING Schmooze planned for March 11:

What To Expect When You’re Expecting (A Best-Selling Book To Magically Appear on Bookstore Shelves/eReaders)

             -- A panel of first time authors will take us through the various steps in the publication process, from receiving an offer through the book’s release.

Seriously, you do NOT want to miss this one...or ANY one, really.

Until the, keep passing the open windows,
Charlie & Karol

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Westside Illustrators Schmooze News

Come Join us....
  Westside Illustrators Schmooze!

WHEN: Monday evening, February 16, 2015
                        7:00pm to 9:00pm

WHERE: 445 15th Street, Santa Monica CA 90402
                  A two story Spanish-style private home. 
                 5 blocks north of Wilshire,  between Montana & San Vicente.
                   Free residential street parking!
TOPICS: 'The 2015 Schmaldecott Awards!'
                         Let's study more 2014 books & the
                         actual Caldecott
& Newberry winners
                              !Ceremony and celebration! 
                         Bring in books to share!
                         Scour the library for 2014 books    

                 'Your Website, part 1!'
                         Our Schmooze begins getting you up and running.
                         Discussion of ideas for
improving existing
                                 websites and blogs

Let's enjoy a fun creative evening together
& move forward in our common pursuit
of making a contribution to the world of
children's illustration and literature!

Continuing monthly topics:     

"Doodle a Day "
"Dream Big... Start Small!"   with baby steps!
RSVP if you can ... 
MEETING Monday evening, March 23, 2015
See you soon.... Suzy8-)
SCBWI Coordinator
Westside Illustrators Schmooze

Friday, February 6, 2015

Hollywood Schmooze Discusses Common Core

To write clear prose, without holding back challenging vocabulary and intricate concepts, might be the goal of writers aiming to align their work with Common Core standards.

 At their January meeting, Hollywood Schmoozers listened to and then questioned  Kipp Scholar Academy teacher Annie Calhoun, as she  discussed  California State Education Standards in English Language Arts.

She spoke at the Fairfax Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, 161 South Gardner Street in LA.

Bottom line for writers: our task is to write the best stories we can.

Common Core refers to the standards, or level of achievement, the State expects students to demonstrate in academics, from kindergarten through grade twelve. The California Department of Education (CDE) and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, are overseeing implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Examples of  standards include language such as: student will build knowledge through content rich non-fiction.

Translation, student will read a science text. Student will highlight information called for in a test question, and then write a response, as opposed to selecting an answer from a multiple choice list.

Calhoun suggested that schmoozers go to and  to learn more.

The term smarter balanced refers to the state-led consortium working to develop assessments based on Common Core standards. Go to:  for more info.

According to Annie, Spring 2015 standardized testing will be presented online.

Students will need to be able to: read text on a computer, highlight material within the text that answers  test questions, click and drag highlighted material--as well as their own notes-- and write a response based on the relevant material .  The response may range from one sentence to five paragraphs, depending on grade level.

Annie  Calhoun teaches at Kipp Scholar Academy, a public charter, middle school, in South Los Angeles.

--Jean Perry, Hollywood Schmooze Co-coordinator
--Deborah Fletcher Blum, Hollywood Schmooze Co-coordinator

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