Wednesday, May 23, 2012


The merits of critiquing are numerous. I am currently a member of two critique groups; a One-On-One and a Multi-Member group.  There are advantages to both.

The One-On-One: This is where another author and I agreed to submit twenty pages (completing a chapter if it ends within a couple of pages of that twenty page mark) via email for review of each other's work. We then determine a specified time to have a phone conference to offer suggestions on perfecting the work. We agreed to talk once every week, allowing no longer than two weeks pass without a session. This way, we will each have our complete manuscript reviewed within two months time.

The following critique criteria surface:Punctuation, Grammar, Ease of comprehension for the given age group that we are targeting, Semantics, Story Viablity, Character Depth and Pace. The intimacy of this one-on- one work review makes for a more in-depth critique, which we have both found incredibily useful. Our critique time is morely individually beneficial because our time is divided between just two writers, thus having more time to talk in depth with suggestions as to how to improve the work.

The Multi-Member critique group that I have also committed to is with SCBWI members.  SCBWI is the acronym for the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators. For information on critique groups in your area, visit

We meet locally once a month. Members wishing to submit work for review must email it prior to a submission deadline to be considered. In each meeting, we generally review one chapter from two or three writers, a short story and/or a  poem.  Writer/Illustrators also join us and offer their insights.

While there may be a lot to read and review for one meeting, there are lots of take-withs even if you are not the featured writer in that given month.  It is interesting to be among such talented individuals and to see their novels progress month after month.

A take-with from a Multi-Member critique group takes for in the variety of comments that your work receives. There becomes a commonality in people's view on aspects of your work that either make you want to edit your work further, or you can choose to side with the few that liked the segment that other writers thought needed some change(s). Either way, you come to realize the value of how your work is perceived and how you can make it a better read.

Generally Speaking: Independent of the size of the group there are a few rules to make critique groups run smoothly.  They are:

1.  Read the submitted work and have honest comments as to how to improve the work.

2.  Submit your work within the timeline offered or forgo your opportunity to be critiqued until the following month.

3.  Be kind/sensitive to the writer/author indicating what you like about their work and then go on to talk about what needs to be changed and why. Why a scene worked, or not, etc, with details. It is always good to end with a heartfelt positive comment. After all, writing is hard work, which we are willing to do, but not at the cost of being made fun of because we didn't see the proverbial forest for the trees.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Finding the Voice Inside

I'd like to share with you a book given to me by my friend, Karen Meyers called, Finding the Voice Within, by Gail Collins-Ranadive. Published by Skinner House, this little book is full of spiritually inspiring thoughts to ponder and then invites you to consider a key point and write about it.

The concepts are one page - brief enough to take in on the busiest of days and thought provoking enough to get you started writing even on days that your mind is a blank as the white page you face.

There are 40 chapters (topics) a conclusion and writing samples. Themes range from: Retreat to a Safe Place (One), Realigning Yourself with the Serpent (Nine), Realize the Universal (Nineteen), Reveal Heaven Here and Now (Twenty six), Reconcile Your Worldview (Thirty Seven), Reshape Your Own Naming (Forty).  Very interesting.

Now that I have much to write about...I will sign off here for now and get busy in my personal journal. Enjoy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bread Crumbs

 I can't stress enough about the importance of researching a prospective agent or publisher. I recently shared my aspiring author follies in the post called, Sipping the Wine, and just so you know, I've resubmitted that manuscript elsewhere. I remain on my humbled path to publication.

Because these days are laiden with so many distractions, before and after my day job, I am convinced that investing a block of time to research the best market for each piece of work that I want to submit is the best way to concentrate my efforts.  I began writing a decade ago and now I have several manuscripts ready for publication. Can you tell that I prefer the creative process over the business aspect of novel publication? I'm sure that I am not the only one out there. It is, after all - a daunting task.

You know as well as I that we must eventually get down to business; that part where we query, prepare our synopsis, outline and determine where the manuscript should be sent to - that part, that if we never took time to do, well, our work would never be read by anyone, except perhaps on a blog, facebook, or as a tweet.

During  a recent research session I've found myself getting derailed by thinking, "Oh, this publisher isn't right for ___(whatever the title may have been), but  it would be a good home for ___(another title from my repretoire). See what a time bandit this can be? When you finally get back to considering that alternate work, you have to pour yourself over those same pages and hope to find that opportunity again. It is painstakenly long and tedious to work this way. Trust me, I know.

Having recognized this need too keep focused, I've come upon a system that works for me; perhaps it will work for you, too. Bring your bread crumbs to your work space. No, not Progresso's; what I'm referring to are Post It Notes Flags. You can find them on . They come in variety packs with bright colors also in varying widths. You can even write on them -noting your manuscript title, tagging the margin, referencing the place you want to revisit. I now, tag all possible homes for one submission with one color, and other genres get their own color flag. They're easily removable; or you may want to just leave them there for future reference. Easy right? Piece of cake.

Due to that effort, my Writer's Market now has a rainbow of flags ready for me when I sit down to consider the markets for the next manuscript  that I want to concentrate on. Once I send a manuscript out, I log that information on a spreadsheet. Record keeping is another under-talked about subject.

Maybe you already do this or have some other system that suffices like my bread crumb Post It Flags. Whatever works to help make you more effecient in this profession is a good thing.  Please feel free to share your ideas with me. I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dairy Queen

Do take time to read Catherine Gilbert Murdock's novel, Dairy Queen. A new aquaintance (a friend of a friend) of mine passed this book on to me this spring, saying it was a funny and enjoyable read.
Since I am on vacation this week, I promised myself to read one book on my growing booklist and I am delighted to have chosen this one! Thank you, Graig Garner, for your recommendation!

Dairy Queen, is a great story with homegrown pride that incorporates good old fashion values. DJ Schwenk helps wherever and whenever she's needed, despite long hours and no real encouragement to validate her contribution. It's her own sense of pride, the way she looks at life and the way in which she works problems out before speaking up for herself that make her a memorable character.

DJ manages to fit in football training to a rival school QB.  Clearly, football is in her blood, seeing that her dad used to and her older brothers were raised playing football and now play at the college level. Humorously, the cows are named after famous football players and coaches! 

Read Dairy Queen to bear witness to intestinal fortitude, genuine honesty and the workings of a young woman's heart and mind.

Catherine Murdock's other novels are: The Off Season, Front and Center and Princess Ben

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sipping The Wine

Yikes! A month has quickly come and gone since my last post. While this is a no-no to blogging, I have good reason; I was presented with a contract to publish my third writen novel - the first to get a contract! How exciting and flattering to get that news.  Publication is what we strive for, right? Well, to the right publisher, yes. I received validation as to why my book is worthy for publication, how the topic is relevant and was congratulated for being their newest author!

Wow! How does one feel to get that news? Ecstatic, to say the least. But, something seemed a little askew. I was intuitively getting the Whoa Nelly. After all, this was my first contract - I needed to slow down and sip the wine.

Any writer might agree that it is far easier to write a novel than to do the riggorous after-tasks of researching publishers, writing query and cover letters, considering details in the synopis and sending manuscripts to publishers you hope will want to make a home for your work. After all that, we cross fingers and hope for the best. 

I took the publisher's advice and ordered, The Writer's Legal Companion, by Brad Bunnin and Peter Beren, which after review, does look like a great investment. While waiting for the book to ship, I reveiwed the contract with writing friends, who have more experience with publishing than I. Thank goodness for great friends, who pointed out to me some aspects of the contract that undermined me as an author. My greatest concerns came to light - my whoa nelly syndrome was validated.

I am a novice to getting published and I will share that this is the second time that I've found out after the fact that I was Red Ridinghood approaching a book pubisher donning Wolf fur, who wanted to take advantage of my hard work and money!

I can say that it's a good feeling to know that I almost made it, and that I didn't let my ego get ahead of clear thinking and good decision making. Since then, I have done more thorough research and re-sent my manuscript. I'll keep my fingers crossed that the publisher that I am petitioning now, is the right one for my work. While I wait to hear, I will hold the stem of my glass, swirl the Merlot, take in the bouquet and sip the wine.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

On Zora Neale Hurston

It's a sad but true fact that many people don't get their hands on a novel until well after the author has passed. In this case I refer to Zora Neale Hurston who in 1937 wrote, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Her life spanned from 1891-1960.
I was recently given this novel to read because my friend was sure that I would like it. Boy, was she ever right. But liking it falls vastly short of how endearing, enriching and enchanting this story is. Not only do I feel like I'm living where the story is being told, but I also marvel at the literary contribution of this author and find myself re-reading passages because I'm struck by the depth of meaning and elegant way in which her words were chosen to make her point.

Zora Neale Hurston is author to 7 other novels, 2 books of short stories, a play and 4 children's books. I will be reading more of her work! Perhaps you've read her work? I'd love to read your comments.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Heaven is for Real

Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo is an excellent read. After an emergency appendectomy, three year old Colton mentions shocking things to his dad that he saw in heaven. In childlike innocense, he tells his (nearly bankrupt) father to make sure he pays his doctor,"because Jesus helped the doctor save me," and that when he was sitting on Jesus' lap, (during the surgery) he told Colton it was time to go back now. There are many extradordinary comments this child makes in this true, down to earth story. This is a must read!