Missouri SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) is sponsoring Critique Across Missouri, a week-long event during the week through June 13th. Critique groups are forming across the state to bring children’s writers and illustrators together to share each other’s work and offer feedback. All genres are included, and everyone is invited to participate, members and non-members alike.
Writing is a solitary business, and getting together with others who understand what you do is a great perk. My focus is on writing picture books—poetry, fiction and non-fiction. People who aren’t immersed in writing for young children often think that writing a picture book is quick and easy. Because the story is, for the most part, uncomplicated and simple, with a single focus. Only another picture book writer really knows the truth. Well, maybe your spouse, or your best friend, too.
They understand that finding the perfect word can take many revisions, that picture books have rhythm, and that writing a well-crafted story in such few words is an art, and can be more difficult than writing for the older crowd.
Picture books and poetry are meant to be read out loud, and a critique group is the perfect audience. Better yet is to have someone in your group read your manuscript out loud. You can hear the rhythm the way someone else hears it. Do they stumble anywhere? Some words are pronounced differently by different people. Sometimes it’s because of the rhythm you’ve created, and sometimes it’s just that there is more than one way to pronounce a word. This is the place to find out.
In a critique group, we tell each other what works in our manuscripts as well as what isn’t working or what might help to make it better. But besides the actual critique that we offer each other, we share the highs and lows of the business. Personal notes from editors, acceptances and rejections. No one understands the joy and the pain of trying to create a work of art than another artist—both writers and illustrators.
Besides critiquing manuscripts, we also share marketing tips and writing or illustrating tips with each other. Sometimes someone will suggest the ‘perfect place’ to submit your manuscript. We also share picture books that we like in some way, and how it brings home the writing tips that we’ve heard at events or conferences for children’s writers and illustrators.
Critique Across Missouri is a good way to get feedback from writers who haven’t formed that personal connection to you and your writing, because you are probably going to be meeting with some writers who aren’t in your regular critique group. So it’s a fresh point of view for your work.
The week is already in full swing, but it’s not too late to join in the hype. Connect with other writers or illustrators who you know this week, in person or online, or even by Skype, and share a manuscript to critique. Or read some picture books, novels or poetry and share your thoughts on the writing or illustrations. Share your experiences in marketing, and writing cover letters or queries. Or just schmooze with others who do what you do, and understand where you’re coming from.
This week is dedicated to critique groups for children’s writers and illustrators in Missouri. Don’t miss out on the perks!