Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Learning From Your One On One Critique...and HarperCollins

SCBWI-KS was top shelf!  Friday night kicked off with The Hire Wire Act, featuring Bruce Hale (which I will talk about more on another post), followed by some wonderful entertainment, an awesome display of faculty books, a books signing, and a great social event.  During The Hire Wire Act some of us snuck off to have One on One Critique sessions....I was lucky enough to land one with associate editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, Maria Gomez.

Maria reviewed my historical fiction picture book called EVERYONE DID THEIR PART.

*She said I had a lovely voice!  (My heart about exploded...)
*Very vivid imagery!
*This is a very nice story but feels like the beginning of a novel.  (I let her know that I was also working on a mid grade novel for these characters.)

Things I learned:
*Might be a hard sell to trade publishers...She suggested submitting to scholarly publishers.
*Books set in other countries are harder to sell here.
*Kids don't read author's notes, so make sure if you want them to know something it's in the story.
*Watch that you don't repeat something...wasted words...
*Suggested changing it to third person rather than first person.

Maria is the second person in the industry to suggest  I make this into a mid grade novel.  (Smile)  I started writing it earlier this summer and have about 8 chapters completed.  You guys helped me choose the title for it...NOT A HOLIDAY 

When Maria suggested that I submit to a scholarly publisher I realized that several pieces I've written were geared to that market....So it looks like I need to do some research...

FYI...If you are going to submit to HarperCollins they now call middle grade novels Tweens....
       ...If you have a digital idea for a picture book manuscript include it with your query...
       ...A chapter book is between a picture book and a Tween  book it's for ages 7-10...
      ...All editors and agents looking for...  Manuscripts that are FRESH (have innovative plots with new twists), HIGH CONCEPT (stand out), HAVE DEPTH (multifaceted and well developed), and VOICE (have authenticity).

If you go to conferences, (you should go to conferences) spend a little bit extra and do the critique won't regret it. 

I think some people are afraid to take the plunge with an agent or an is scary, but you will learn something...I promise! 

(When Maria said I should be submitting to scholarly publishing houses, it was like a light bulb went off in my head...I was a teacher for 17 years...I could write a lesson plan to go with most of my stories, so doesn't that make sense?  I just didn't see it...)


  1. Great notes! And isn't it great when you get feedback that sets off the lightbulb? Love it!

    So I have to ask . . . what do you mean by a "digital idea" for a picture book? Sounds interesting. :)

  2. That's great! very positive! Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to see what direction we need to go in.

    Best of luck!

  3. Wow! Sounds like you had an amazing time!

  4. Nice comments! Sounds like you learned a lot. Plus, you know how much teachers appreciate pre-made lesson plans that go along with awesome books (even if we do usually fiddle with them to make them our own...). That'd totally work. Good luck!

  5. That really does sound like quite the successful encounter!

  6. Well said, Sharon. I usually attended conferences FOR the critiques...everything else was just gravy. Where else are you going to get one on one help like that? it really is priceless and super helpful.

  7. Janet--She and writing this post really put some things together for me...

    digital---ebook potential ideas

    PK--You are so right. :)

    Candace--It was a great time! I'll be sharing more...later...

    Mary B.--LOL! It made me realize why I was always putting curriculum correlation numbers and how to use my stories in the classroom in my queries.

    Brian--Every time you have the opportunity to meet with an editor or an agent you never know, they might want to hear your tail... (smile)

    Tess--I went to the conference for the critiques, for sure, but I learned so much. I'm really looking forward to sharing the other stuff...

  8. Yay! It sounds like you walked away with a lot of good advice, Sharon - and a lot to consider. :-)

  9. Oh wonderful!! Wonderful!!! I'm so so so so so happy for you! What a wonderful and constructive critique from Ms Gomez!! Yay! And best of all she's given you ideas and other means of finding a home for your book! Wonderful! I'm so so so happy for you! :-)

    Take care

  10. That's great! Makes sense if you were a teacher so long! It's probably in your blood! :o)

  11. I have yet to be to one conference, but in 2011 I'm making it priority to attend as many as possible. I need to get the good word out and start looking for an agent and a mainstream publisher. Thanks for the motivation.

    Stephen Tremp

  12. Sounds like you've learned a lot. And I love the idea of you devising lesson plans that go along with your book. Brilliant! Good luck.

  13. Sounds like you had a great time! =)

  14. Some great advice. It'll be interesting to see what you do with it.


  15. I'm going to first SCBWI event this weekend - the Working Writer's Retreat! I'll be meeting one on one with an editor (each of us are) so I'm curious to see how that goes. You've made me more excited by it and less nervous about it! I'm glad you had a good time!

  16. Wow! What amazing feedback on your manuscript! Thank you for sharing all the info from the conference with us! I can't wait to go to another one!

  17. What a wonderful experience! So glad you took so much away from it :)

  18. Great tips. Critique partners are invaluable.

  19. Ooo! An epiphany! Good for you and yay for Maria! Sounds like you had a great experience and that you got lots of good feedback to work with.

    SCBWI rocks!

  20. Sounds fantastic! There's nothing more valuable than objective feedback! Glad you enjoyed the conference!

  21. Congrats on the great crit. I had Ellen Hopkins as my critter this summer, and I learned tons from her (including some advice on my synopsis).

  22. Hi Sharon .. sounds like a good few ideas came out - good that you went and you learnt so much .. and the lesson plan - excellent idea.

    Thanks for the tips and tricks - Hilary

  23. Great comments and it sounds like you got really good advice too! Sometimes we just don't see what's right in front of our face :-)

    C x

  24. This was interesting. She seemed to have some really positive comments for you. The most ineresting thing for me was that she recommended you change to third person. Third person annoys me, but I guess it must be just me! That's good to know.

  25. Shannon--You're right, there is a lot to think about!

    Jennifer--Thanks...She sure cleared some things up for me. :-)

    Jessica--Sometimes it takes someone else pointing out the obvious...

    Stephen--I can't say enough about the value of going to conferences...often times it gives you a direct line to an editor or an agent and it gives your name a face (hopefully) when you send them a manuscript.

    Buffy--I keep notes on how some of my manuscripts can be used in the classroom and what national standards they correlate with...Sheesh...what was I thinking? Or what wasn't I thinking is a better question...

    Carolyn V--I did! I really love going to conferences...I wish I could go to more.

  26. Clarissa--As soon as the painters finish up the repairs on the house, I'm going to get busy!

    Jennie--How exciting! It sounds like you might get to work on your manuscript at it. Cool beans, as Elana would say. :-0

    Kelly--They are having one in Iowa in October...Are you going? It's over near the river I think...

    Jemi--I have more to share on my next post too. :-)

    Lynda--You're right, they are...I have some great critique partners. (smile)

    Suzanne--That's what conferences are all about...learning, improving and networking...

    Vicki--You should have gone with me...Maybe next year. It would have made the drive much more fun!!!

    Stina--OMGoodness! Ellen Hopkins, that is awesome!

    Hilary--I can't wait to share the rest of what I learned. :-)

    Carol--You are so right...When I first started querying, I was writing (blush) how my manuscripts could be used in the classroom...I wonder if I should do that when I query in the educational market???

    Beth--I can't find your blog? hmmmm

    I'm going to give it a try and see what I think. Sue Parks said to try things multiple ways when they are suggested and then decide...You never know one way may be better than you expected. :)


  27. Sorry was out of town for awhile... I need to make time for such activities, after i find time to write.


  28. Thanks for letting us "see" how your critique went. My goal is to try to find a conference to attend where I'm at now and definitely next time I'm stateside! Thanks for sharing your tips you've learned. I sure am thankful!