The Jitters


I’m back – briefly. One thing that’s stood out to me recently is the limitless number of stories waiting to be told. In the last two weeks, I’ve participated in three critique sessions with a total of about 15 people. The variety of genres, stories, angles, themes, and voices amazes me. Even the same story will be told 1000 different ways by 1000 different storytellers. We each come from a different place and perspective, and we each have our own voice. I believe there is room at the writing table for all who choose to participate.

This weekend, I am in Oregon attending a writing conference organized by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). SCBWI is an international organization for support, education, and networking. For this conference, I registered for a one-on-one consultation of part of my middle grade novel manuscript and a First Pages Critique. From my perspective, the First Pages Critique is the nail-biter. I pasted in the instructions below. The audience will include two agents, nine other participants, and any interested observers. It should be fun (see the bottom line). In addition to these pulse-enhancing activities, I’ll attend several workshops, watch other people’s critiques, and listen to inspirational keynote speakers. It’ll be the bomb. Once I’ve recovered, I’ll write up a little report.

Have a wonderful weekend. Wish me luck!

First Page Session


1.    Go to the front of the room when your name is called.

2.    Announce the title, take a breath and begin reading. Don’t rush!

3.    During the thunderous applause that follows, return to your seat for comments.

4.    Listen carefully and take notes from the panel.

5.    DO NOT ask questions; however, if the panel asks you a question feel free to briefly answer it. Please respect the time of those who come next.

Suggestions for critiquing others:

1.    Make notes on the manuscript.

2.    Please try to start out with a positive comment.

3.    Tell the author if you would keep reading. Were you hooked?

4.    Did anything confuse you or not seem clear?

5.    Did you hear the voice of the main character and could you tell immediately who that was?

6.    Is the subject overdone? Is it unique? Is it predictable?

7.    Do you have any suggestions that would improve this piece?

8.    Any glaring problems?

9.    Explain why you have circled or marked the manuscript – don’t expect the author to interpret your meaning.

10.  End with a positive or inspiring comment, e.g. “Nice Work” or “Keep Going!”

11.  It is not necessary to write your name on the manuscript, but you can. The panel members’ pages will be marked with their names.

Remember, this is fun! Terrifying, but fun. Enjoy the experience.



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