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Make Hay While The Sun Shines

I'm so glad to hear that many of you are participating in the manuscript critiques at the SCBWI's annual conference later this week.  If you're an editor or agent, I hope you find a story that you just fall in love with.  If you're a writer, I hope that story is yours. 

I know the excitement and anticipation.  I remember it well.  Thanks to such critiques, THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY hits bookstores one month from now.  Whooop!

Writers, this is your moment.  The chance you've been waiting for to get your work in front of an industry professional.  So make hay while the sun shines!  Enjoy it.  Learn from it.  Make the most of this opportunity while it lasts. 

In reviewing my notes from past LA annual conference critiques, I've compiled a little list to help you .  Some of these came from actual editor/agent suggestions.  Some come from my personal experience.  I hope these help you to get the most from your critique session.  (Note:  The LA conference critiques differ from the NY conference critiques in format.  See my NY notes for helpful hints in those sessions.) 

1.  Be prepared to take notes.  Have the pen and paper ready.  You'll only have about 10 minutes, so don't be fumbling around in bag looking for a pen while the clock is ticking.

2.  Let the editor/agent speak first.  Listen and repeat/rephrase if needed, as in "Am I understanding you to say . . . . . .?"

3.  Don't be defensive.  Not a lot gets critiqued if you're constantly explaining the "but this is why."

4.  Ask questions at the end.  Whether the editor/agent is interested in your work or not, you'll have a few extra minutes to learn something.  Ask what they think the strengths/weaknesses of your writing are.  Ask if they have any suggestions on improvement.  Try asking what they're acquiring, what's hot.  Ask how long they've been in the business and the changes they've seen.  Ask. Ask. Ask.

5.  Thank them.  Look, these are people working for a living.  They probably acquire the stories that they truly connect with.  This does not mean they don't like us; they just aren't in love with our story.  Be nice.  They'll appreciate it.  You'll have a good experience.  And maybe, in the future, you'll write something that speaks to them and they'll feel good about the possibility of working together.

I'll be at the conference, and I'd love for you to say Hi and let me know how your critique went. 

Best wishes to you all!