Then that first line and illustration. What a perfect way to describe what a door once was: “a colossal oak tree about three hugs around and as high as the blue.” Those few words on one page and a small door on the opposite surrounded by white space allow the reader let the words and the imagery sink in. Three hugs. As high as the blue. Turn the page…there it is! Three hugs around. As high as the blue. Turn the page again, and find out what the foundation once was. And the walls. And so on and so on until…you’ll have to get read for yourself! And I highly recommend that you do.
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It’s interesting to me that today is Absurdity AND Beautiful Day. Perhaps that means that absurdity is beautiful! If that’s the case (and I think that’s a great theory), then I have the perfect book to review for the occasion:
Can you imagine being a chameleon whose worst subject is camouflage? Poor Quincy! But don’t worry, after a few trials and errors, Quincy learns how he can fit in by being himself. The art in this book is beautiful—Barbara DiLorenzo captures all the shades of greens you’d imagine in a story about chameleons, but also all the colors of the rainbow that Quincy paints and dreams about. And her illustrations of Quincy are so expressive! I think I have a crush on Quincy. This book is for anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in, which is pretty much everyone, so if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you do!
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Yes, indeedy, there is a special day just for counting your buttons. As a part-time seamstress, I have many-o-buttons to count, but I think I’d rather read a picture book involving a button, wouldn’t you? Of course you would! I happen to have a book suggestion just for this occasion. I present to you:
A pirate boy sees that his friend’s ship is in disrepair, so he encourages him to trade a button for two teacups, which are then traded for rope, and so on and so on, until the bartering leads to a happy pirate and a happy ending. Steve Light’s minimal text is matched with his signature intricate pen-and-ink illustrations to give the reader oh, so much to take in. The illustrations are mostly black & white with punches of bright blue, but splashes of other colors accentuate the items swapped. Even more to love: adorable map end papers (be sure to look at both the front and back) and a surprise hidden under the dust jacket. I highly recommend you read SWAP!
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If you’re interested in writing for children (or anyone), I highly recommend you join a critique group. I’ve already addressed the WHYs, the HOWs, and the WHO/WHERE/WHENs of Critique Groups. Today I’ll address WHAT things to consider when attending, or leading your own, critique group.
What Rules You Might Want to Consider When Leading/Forming a Group
Each group is different. Some groups set up strict rules, some have relaxed guidelines, others fall somewhere in between. “Rules about what?” you might ask. Rules can be about:
What to Do When Giving a Critique
The purpose of a critique group is to give and receive useful feedback so that all members can learn and support each other. So, when you give comments and suggestions on someone’s art or manuscripts, remember to frame them in a positive manner. Avoid sharing superficial comments (“I like this”). Instead, provide specific feedback about various aspects of the work in an honest, respectful and supportive way. A good rule of thumb is to use the “sandwich” technique:
What to Do When Receiving a Critique
It’s difficult to put your work out there for others to judge, but remember that your critique partners are there to help you become a better writer/illustrator. There are some things you can do to make the most out of the critiques you receive.
I hope I’ve now covered a lot of the Why, How, Where, When, Why, and What questions you may have had about Critique Groups, and I hope you plan to join one if you’re not in one already. Happy writing!
If you’re interested in writing/illustrating for children (or anyone), I hope you’ll consider joining a critique group. I’ve already addressed WHY I recommend them and HOW to find one, but today I’ll talk about the WHO, WHERE & WHENs of Critique Groups.
Who is Included in Critique Groups
Some of the things you’ll want to consider when either starting a new group or joining an existing one is who is/will be included in the group. Is the group for writers, illustrators, writer-illustrators or all? What genre do members write/illustrate (board books, picture books, graphic novels, chapter books, middle grade, young adult, new adult, poetry, non-fiction, portfolios, book dummies or any combination of these)? How many participants are there/do you want in your group (there are advantages to both smaller and larger groups)? You may also want to consider members’ experience and career direction. For example, do you want to form/join a group of beginner, intermediate, experienced, or published writers/illustrators or a combination? Do you want the group to include those who are pursuing traditional or self-publishing? Do you want your group to include only those serious about writing/illustrating or do you welcome hobbiests? If you are “group shopping” you’ll want to look at the description of each group and decide which of these things are important to you.
Where to Hold Critique Groups
If you prefer, or welcome the opportunity, to work with an on-line group, you’ll be able to connect with others from far and wide. You can exchange critiques via google docs, drop box, email, etc. If you prefer an in-person group, you’ll need locate one in your area (see my HOW article for tips) or start your own. If you form one of your own, you’ll need to advertise a general area and a meeting place (I suggest a public place such as a local library, book store, coffee shop, etc.). You can stick to the same meeting place each time or rotate locations. You can also use a combination of on-line and in-person meetings. Your SCBWI Regional Chapter can help you advertise.
When to Hold Critique Group Meetings
You’ll want to consider your schedule and availability when deciding the frequency of exchanging manuscripts and holding meetings. Some groups meet weekdays, weekday evenings, or weekends. Some meet once per month, twice per month or every other month. Some meet on the same day per cycle (for example, the second Tuesday of each month) and others base each meeting on the schedules of its members. When looking for an established group, ask the group leader (if it’s not already listed on an advertised site) when the group meets so you can see if it fits with your schedule. You may want to establish some rules, whether they be strict or loose guidelines. For example, is everyone permitted to submit at/before each meeting or will each take turns? Will there be a deadline of when to submit before each meeting? Consider how much work you produce and how much time you can devote to critiquing others’ manuscripts/art work and what balance will work for you.
Next time I’ll address some “what” questions about critique groups. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below. What other things are important to you when considering the who, when, and where of critique groups?
Pet rocks were a fad in 1975. Scavenger hunts for painted rocks became a craze (in some areas) around 2017. And you can celebrate Collect Rocks Day every year on September 16th. But, being a picture book person, I collected a book about a rock instead. Well, a stone. And a stick. And I wrote a review. And here it is:
If you’re interested in writing/illustrating for children (or anyone, really) then I highly recommend joining a critique group. I’ve already written about the WHY, but today I’d like to share the HOW
!How to Find a Critique Group
1. Writing Associations: SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) and other writing associations have all sorts of resources, including how to find critique groups. In a matter of a few simple clicks you can be directed to a list of critique groups near you. I could write a whole post about the benefits of joining SCBWI, but for now, trust me when I say it’s a good idea. Once you join, you can find a your local chapter’s page. Most chapters have a link for critique groups where they list current groups and contact information, or at least the contact information for the chapter’s Critique Group Coordinator (that’s me for Eastern PA!).
2. On-Line Groups, Blogs, Social Media Groups, etc. There are a whole host of on-line writing and illustrating groups (many free) that offer ways to connect with other writers and illustrators. Examples include Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 Picture Book Challenge (fee required to join the challenge); Facebook groups like Sub It Club Critique Partner Matchup, KidLit411 Manuscript Swap, KidLit411 Portfolio Critique Swap; The Writers Match (free – like matchmaker site for writers); and Inked Voices (fee required). The SCBWI Blue Boards have ways to connect with other writers/illustrators looking to swap critiques or form groups, and I’m sure there are other groups you can find through other social media sites that I’m not aware of. Feel free to post in the comments any other on-line places you know of that offer ways to join or form critique groups.
3. Attend Writing/Illustrating Conferences & Events. Attending conferences, workshops, meet & greets, classes, and speaking events means meeting other writers and illustrators. You’ll often find one or a few people who are looking to exchange feedback on manuscripts, dummies and portfolios. Mix & mingle and ask others if they have a group near you with an opening, or would like to form a new in-person or on-line critique group.
4. Word of Mouth. The more you become involved in the kid lit/writing/illustrating world, the more you will discover. I joined my first critique group by following tip #1. I joined my second group because I heard from a writer friend that two other writer-illustrator friends were looking to join/form a group. And I’ve done on-line manuscript critique swaps because I heard from a friend about someone who was interested in doing that on an occasional basis. Attend events, join on-line groups, follow/friend/connect with kidlit folks on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., listen to blogs, make new friends!
But what if you haven’t been able to find a group in your area (or online) that “fits” (meets in your location on days/times that work for you and in your genre)? One thing you can do is to keep checking back at your local chapter’s Critique Group Listing. Things change often, so you may find an opening later. Second, consider starting your own critique group! It may sound intimidating, but there’s really not much to it, and your local Critique Group Coordinator is there to help you get started.
If I still haven’t convinced you to join or start a critique group, stay tuned for my next post that will address the “who, where, and when” questions you might have. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions or submit comments below. For those seasoned critiquers, I’d love to hear your experiences in finding or forming your critique groups
Are you interested in writing or illustrating for children? Then this post is for you. I’ve already written here about one of the biggest tips that will help you become a better writer. But today I’m sharing another piece of advice: Join a critique group.
Maybe you’ve heard this advice before. Maybe you’re not sure why it’s a good idea to join a critique group. Maybe you even took the advice, but you’re still not quite sure what this whole critique group thing is all about. So, I present to you:
10 Reasons Why Joining a Critique Group is a Good Idea
If you’re still feeling tentative about joining or starting a critique group, stay tuned for my next few posts to address the “how, who, where, when & what” questions you might have. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions or submit comments below.
Yes, indeed, there is an official day to celebrate underwear. Do you know why we call it a “pair” of underwear? Because way back in the 1500s when people wore “pantaloons” (pants), they came in two separate pieces. You put one on one leg and tied it around your waist, and then put the other on the other leg and tied it around your waist. So, if you had two legs, you needed a “pair” of pantaloons. I guess the saying just stuck. Anyway… I thought to help celebrate this wonderful occasion, I would bring you a review of:
What a worthy day to celebrate! And, because friendship is so worth celebrating, I bring you another two-fer:
The color palette is striking, and there’s even a surprise under the jacket (one of my favorite things about picture books!). The bright orange end papers carry through to the title page lettering, which contrasts with the dark blue background. Then I read the text—more love! When I read the line, “Sometimes Tim felt no one noticed him either,” I probably said, “Aw!” out loud right there in the book store. I knew I had to have this book for my bookshelf because I would want to read it over and over, and I was not wrong. I’m sure you can guess this book has a happy ending, but you still might be surprised by the last page. That’s a recipe for a perfect ending. In fact, the whole story shouts “perfect picture book” to me. Run (or pedal or swim) to your library or bookstore and read this touching book.
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First, Higgins takes on two timeless themes (first day of school jitters and making friends) and turns them on their heads by introducing a T-rex main character (complete with pink overalls). Then he has the main character (Penelope) meet with an unexpected problem—her classmates are CHILDREN! (and children are delicious). Hilariousness ensues. And just when you think you know where the story is heading…a twist!. Perhaps some may not appreciate the humor in this book, but I was in stitches. For those hesitant to read this to their little one, Penelope does provide a “no children were harmed in the making of this book” disclaimer on the title page, so give it a chance! Oh, and did I mention there are adorable end papers and a surprise under the book jacket? My favorite! Try not to peek until after you read it once through, and you’ll appreciate it even more.
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Heather is a busy wife and mom of five rambunctious children and one lovable pup They all provide lots of distractions, but oodles of inspiration. Sometimes the pictures and ideas in her head turn into her own children's stories, but she always makes time to read other people's books. Sometimes she reviews them here.