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By Claire Moore

From left: Sue Ganz-Schmitt, Sue Berger, Claire Moore at Critiquenic 2017.So you’ve written a book – devoted countless hours (hopefully you weren’t actually counting) toward its creation. Bravo! Well done! But wait, how do you know if your book reads as you imagined, or that you’re on the right track? Critique groups, baby.

“They’re necessary,” said Sue Berger, a published author and one of the minds behind The Pen and Ink Blog, a blog devoted to the “wild, wild world of children’s literature.” This is why the Los Angeles chapter of SCBWI hosts a Critiquenic each year. This year’s event took place on Sunday, June 11th at the Skirball Cultural Center.

More than 70 writers – some aspiring, some published but beginning new works – gathered to give and receive feedback on their picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult manuscripts. For longer manuscripts, writers kept their critiques to the first five pages.

critiquenic2“If you’re already blessed with a thoughtful critique group – that wonderful group of writers who love storytelling as much as you do, who take the time to read and provide constructive feedback on your works in progress – you already know the value of finding a skilled, generous community of writers,” said Berger. Critiquenics offer a chance to meet new writers and gain fresh perspectives.

“I love the exchange, meeting people, and sharing stories. I love getting fresh eyes on my work,” Berger said.

Jessica Welsh, a new SCBWI member, shared her picture book manuscript for the first time.

“I’ve only shared with family and friends before now,” Welsh said. “This was a little scary, but now I’ve done it, I’m so glad I took the plunge. I really had no expectations, but the comments from today will help me a lot.”

Critiquenic3She appreciated specific feedback on story structure and characters because “my mom is already really good at finding the typos.”

Angela Shelley, who is working on a middle grade fantasy novel, drove the 40 miles from Whittier to meet other writers who want to write for young readers.

“I’ve been meaning to come for years,” she said. The distance and the work of raising two young children made it hard.

“My goal has been to get more involved with SCBWI because whenever I get a great story idea, it’s about a kid,” Shelley said.  “I’m really glad I came today.”

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.


Claire Moore is a journalist turned stay-at-home mom turned social justice and public education advocate. She’s written for Gannet Newspapers, ABCNEWS.com, The Budapest Business Journal, mylifetime.com, and Bloomberg News. She teaches in the Los Angeles school system and writes middle grade fantasy.

Images provided by Claire Moore.