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LA or Bust

I'm gearing up for next week's SCBWI Annual Conference in Los Angeles.  *sqeeee*  I LOVE this conference.  If you're a writer and you haven't attended, well, load up the truck.  C'mon.  You won't be sorry.  This year's line up includes many great editors and agents, but also fantastic writers like Sherman Alexie, Richard Peck, and Linda Sue Park.  I'm just giddy with excitement to hear their presentations.  Some of the best "post college" advice I've received came from hearing authors speak at the SCBWI conferences.  My notes from Walter Dean Myer's lecture on "internal landscape" are on my desk as I write this. 

I've received several emails of late asking about the how-to's of the writing/publishing process.  My response is always the same:  SCBWI and critique groups.  With the SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY set to publish in September, the folks at SCBWI (knowing how much I value my critique partners) asked me to contribute a blurb on the importance of critique groups.  If you're at the conference, you'll find it in the publisher's guide.  

Here's my personal scoop:

At least once a month, I make a five hour, round trip drive to meet with my critique group. A long day, but the critique is more than worth the effort to get up early and hit the road.


My critique partners and I found each other through the NC/NE Texas SCBWI. We shared a passion for writing, a focus on YA fiction, and a desire to fine tune our manuscripts to a publishable quality. We weren’t friends. Truthfully, I knew very little about them. At our first meeting, I sat in my car in front of the house and phoned my husband: “It looks safe. I’m going in.”


Although we’ve developed quite a friendship, we still focus our time on critiquing each other’s work.  Aside from a savvy agent or experienced editor, critique partners provide the best objective feedback. And they will sympathize with your rejections and celebrate your sales.  


Apart from line editing, here are a few personal ways in which my critique partners have influenced my work:


  • They know the difference between my voice and my narrative voice. They help rid my manuscript of the dreaded author speak.
  • They see my lovely descriptive passage and point out that although the writing is lovely, it’s just an information dump and not relevant to the plot. But lovely, really.
  • They sense when I’m strong on plot but weak on character emotion, so I know exactly where to dig deeper.
  • They remind me of the heart of the story when I’m no longer certain.
  • They tell me the writing is stellar only when it truly is. 



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 30th, 2009 12:00 am (UTC)
Proud of you!
Hi Jill, I found your website and have enjoyed reading...can't wait to read Sweetheart of Prosper County! Tell the boys "hi!" Have fun in LA!
-Traci Wade
Jul. 31st, 2009 11:02 pm (UTC)
I love this, my friend! It's all so true. I'm going to make a post on Cuppa Jolie to drive some folks over here.

As you know, we share the same of love of SCBWI and critique groups (did you see our artile (me and Sara) in the last Bulletin?

Can't wait to see you!
Aug. 2nd, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC)
congrats and great advice!
Hi, I love this post - hope to meet you at the conference - and congrats on your book coming out!
Aug. 4th, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)
Re: congrats and great advice!
Thanks, Lee! See you there!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )