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By Renee Carter

SCBWILA-CritiqueDay2018-1It was a spectacular Saturday morning. The temperature was in the low seventies and the sky blue. The Peer2Peer Critique Day facilitators, Daka Hermon and Pamela Rippey, arrived early to the Skirball Cultural Center, armed with candy and great attitudes. I was warmly greeted, efficiently signed in, and encouraged to pick any spot for my group. Within minutes, other SCBWI members arrived. There were several familiar faces; two from my mingle group and two from prior Critique Days.

The table where I sat was composed of four other middle grade writers. We were a diverse group: a teacher, life coach, retired banker, retired physical therapist and a full-time author. Our common ground lay in the areas of writing children’s literature and a positive, supportive attitude.

SCBWILA-CritiqueDay2018-2Introductions were followed with the actual critiques. We decided to read each other’s work out loud. We then allowed five minutes for notes, followed by a round of verbal reviews. The creativity of the group was impressive. There was a story that began with humor and shifted to fantasy, a tale of a talented horse rider, and two with children dealing with a family member’s illness. As intriguing as each one was, it was the feedback that was invaluable.

Each person offered suggestions for improvement of the stories. By a quarter to two, our group had completed the critique. We chatted for a while, exchanged emails, and said our farewells. I spent the remainder of the afternoon touring the Skirball center. The featured exhibit was a tribute to Jim Henson. Suddenly I was a kid again and singing songs (in my head) from Sesame Street.

WID3-PBRippeyWhat was my take away from the SCBWI Critique Day? My group fixed my opening paragraph on page one. A prior writers’ group had gone through the section, but fresh eyes offered a new perspective. The suggested switch of sentences by the critique group made the paragraph smoother and stronger. For their assistance, I am extremely thankful.

Why should you attend next year? The Critique is free for SCBWI members, but what is offered is priceless. The environment is beautiful, and the time spent among fellow writers fuels creativity. The air buzzes with the energy of wordsmiths. It’s a rare experience to gather with your peers, to exchange ideas, and receive positive feedback. Don’t miss this opportunity! I hope to see you next year!

Renee Carter is a Southern California native, writer, blogger, SCBWI Mingle coordinator, and life coach. She can be found in bookstores, libraries or neighborhood coffee shops. Follow her on Twitter @peasrccoachbiz8, or visit her website, peascoaching.wordpress.com

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Group photos by Renee Carter. Skirball Cultural Center photo by PB Rippey.