Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Beauty and the Beast: The story of two professional critiques

I was granted a special learning opportunity having my work critiqued by both the beauty and the beast.
As I checked in for my first professional critique nerves took hold and tears tumbled out. Sally and Cindy, the gate keepers, calmed me and bolstered my spirit. When the bell rang twice I walked in and sat across from the very calm presence of Linda Camacho from the Prospect Agency.

  •  Nice sparse illustrations that children will like (Check, she saw and identified my style choice)
  •   Nice sparse wording (Check, identified the writing style I am working at.)
  •   Cute story with marketable qualities (Check, I am trying to choose marketable topics)
  •   BUT (ok)
  • The page turns need improvement in places (ok)
  • The story needs more adversity and the rule of three (Hmmm, I saw it more as a straightforward growth theme, but ok)
  • “What you have done is not a waste of time.” (Nice to hear)
  •   Brainstorming a fix, I pitch an idea. “Intriguing” she said.

I walked out feeling good and within 15 minutes great about being coaxed into working towards a stronger story. This wonderful experience allowed me to calmly walk into my second critique with dry eyes and walk out knowing that the critique method of agent X was abominable.

It was like a blind date with a very off putting man who at the end said, “If your boobs were bigger and your butt was smaller I would date you again. “
  •   “You’re obviously not an illustrator.”  ( A kick to the face would have left me less stunned)
  •   A missed opportunity (Still stunned)
  •   Overused theme  (Can’t think)
  •   Passive aggressive voice (feeling kind of aggressive myself)
  •    Main character creatively stifled by mother  (the book is about creative imagination)
  •    I don’t know what is going on in your drawings (WOW)
  •   Negative  (you sure are)
  •   Clean = good art / messy = bad art   not a marketable message ( not my message)
    I could not have felt more shredded up and spit out. This was exactly the critique that has frightened me for so long. I am proud to say I never cried or became unwound during the critique. The tears and frustration came later, thanks to anyone who commiserated with me and to Super Hero Sally, who informed me this critique was inappropriate and not a standalone incident for this Agent. 

    Knowing I can survive a horrible critique has given me the courage to facing future criticism. Linda’s critique left me inspired to grow and with a new agent on my wish list.

Saturday, March 14, 2015



Almost a year has passed since I first attended the regional New England Society Children Book Writers and Illustrators conference. Three overworked manuscripts that I tinkered with over 10 years, and a colorful but lackluster portfolio were my body of work. This is not self-deprivation, just honesty that has helped me move forward.
During the conference I noticed women far outnumbered the men. 80/20 would be my guess. As I researched Picture books I found that male authors contributed far more than 20% to the shelf. In fact most of my favorite P/B authors are men. I began wondering why men seem to have a higher success rate.  

My theory: Women write like Moms – Men write like Dads. Simple I know but major. Moms are the nurtures, teachers, instructors and disciplinarians and Dads have a more playful roll with children. (Please do not get upset by these comments I know Moms and Dads are a LOT MORE, and this is not war of the sexes just general observations) 
Six months after the show I had a dream: I was pitching an idea and I said “my general hook for my stories was friendship” A booming male voice said “What the heck are you writing about friendship for?”  Weird, I know but it got me thinking about how my behavior changes when I want to delight children. I am goofy and without self-consciousness. I get down on their level and play. This is what I needed to bring to my work.

As 2015NESCBWI conference approaches I reflect on my professional growth and know that I am closer to publishing because I am producing new work. This year I will have four fresh stories written to fulfill my life’s mission of spreading joy.