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by W. R. Miller

Like the rest of the world in 2020, COVID-19 had crippled SCBWI events. No longer could we meet, and network, and learn at various LitMingles and conventions. 

Or could we? Thanks to the internet, we could—and did.

Thanks to SCBWI and its chapters, we continue the practice, engaging through webinars, digital workshops, Zoom room critiques and even conventions. Online is where the action is, now. We save gas and travel time. Sometimes a cat joins the session, adding to the fun.

Now we can visit the virtual LitMingles all over the Los Angeles area—and beyond.

A week prior to SCBWI-L.A.’s virtual Critique Day, SCBWI-North Texas held an Open Virtual Critique for Middle Grade/Young Adult. They had two attendees from outside their region: me, and a member from England! So it was great to get feedback from people from other regions. The Englishman read my submission from Have Wings Will Travel, a middle grade fantasy-comedy mashup of Indiana Jones meets Zootopia meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy-type satire, starring the cocky but resourceful Talonfire, Griffin for Hire. It was nice to hear the prose in the Englishman’s accent and learn from his perspective. Likewise, we reciprocated with our points of view. They gave twenty minutes per attendee for reviews.

SCBWI-L.A. services a much larger membership. Our hosts wisely divided us into small groups beforehand. Prior to the meeting, my middle grade group had five. Four more and we would have resembled the opening to The Brady Bunch. We waited several minutes for the fifth person to show. We used part of the wait time to get acquainted.

For our reviews we applied the sandwich technique, opening with positive observations, followed by constructive criticism and suggestions, followed by more positive comments and encouragement. A nutritious sandwich, easy to digest.

My submission was from Have Wings Will Travel, Chapter 13. It was risky, presenting pages with characters unfamiliar to the readers. But we were allowed to introduce the story before the reading. Chapter 13 dealt with a character’s fate, and the critique group gave me the reaction I had hoped for.

SCBWI provides a valuable service to its members with these critique sessions. We need feedback for our works-in-progress.

Thanks to Nutschell Windsor, Sally Jones Rogan, and all the volunteers who managed this event, worked hard to pull it off, and helped us improve our craft.

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.

W. R. Miller – informally, “Bob” – has written extensively for Starlog, Comics Scene, Animation Magazine, and the online Animation Scoop. His books include The Star Wars Historical Sourcebook, Volume One: 1971-1976, documenting media coverage of the original Star Wars; plus The Animated Voice: Interviews with Voice Actors and the upcoming Batman: The Animated Interviews.  He is currently developing The Justice Dragon and Talonfire, Griffin for Hire. Website: http://wrmilleronline.com/. SCBWI profile: https://www.scbwi.org/members-public/bob-miller.

Images provided by W. R. Miller.