Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 23, 2017

The Joys and Anxieties of Getting Critiqued

The Joys and Anxieties of Getting Critiqued 
by Mira Reisberg

Hi there, I’m so delighted to be on Kathy’s blog today sharing about critiquing. If you’re like me, and both love and dread getting a critique, I want to share some tips with you for making this process easier as well as some pointers and resources for critiquing your own work, getting critiqued in critique groups, and
getting a professional critique.

As Don Miguel Ruiz, author of the Four Agreements says, Do Not Personalize! The critique is about your work and not you. And the reason you’re getting a critique is because you want your work to be better, which usually requires changes. Those suggestions for changes are not any kind of reflection on, or
rejection of, you as a writer. They are comments on that specific piece of work by a specific person, and they are very subjective. So if you can, try and wrangle your ego and sensitivities aside to get the most out of it. Humility can be a wonderful thing. We’ll have more about this later.

Honor Your Own Belief
Chances are as many people that you show your work to, that’s how many opinions you’ll get. And that’s why it’s important to honor your own belief in your work if it’s something you feel strongly about. We all know stories about people staying true to their vision of their own work, like JK Rowling, or Kate DiCamillo, Dr. Seuss, or Yuyi Morales among many others. They endured massive rejections until someone finally “got’’ their work! At the same time if multiple people have the same comments, concerns, or suggestions, it might be worth listening to them. Keep your original, but also try their suggestions and see which version you like best.

The key is to allow yourself to be vulnerable, reflective and non-defensive so that you can be open to hearing advice that might be helpful to your writing or art.

See It As A Learning Experience
By the time you get a critique, you’ve probably put a ton of time, heart, thought and soul into your work. So when someone suggests changes that sound like they are asking you to redo a whole bunch of your precious work and put even more time into it, you may encounter some resistance. Talk back to your
defensiveness and see if you can see it as a wonderful learning experience where you get to “take what you like and leave the rest’’ (AKA TWYLALTR).

Trusting Your Peer Editor
Whether you have a special critique buddy or a critique group, it’s important to trust them, even if it takes time and a few critiques to do so. Check in with yourself before your critique – how much do I respect this critiquer? Even if you don’t particularly trust their expertise, what might another pair of eyes see that you may have missed? And of course remember no-one’s words are etched in stone – just TWYLALTR.

It’s really hard to critique your own work and be objective, which is why peer and professional critiques are so helpful. It’s a bit easier with illustration as you can fool the eye by looking at your work upside down or in a mirror. You can also look for underlying geometric shapes or squint to focus on the negative space for composition. Unfortunately there aren’t any tricks that l know of to fool the eye or mind to see your written work in fresh original ways, other than putting it away for a period of time. There are however things you can look for and things that you can do to hear it better.

One of the best of these is to have someone read your work out loud so that you can hear where they stumble or pause or where anything sounds awkward or could be improved. If this isn’t possible, record yourself reading it out loud with something like SoundCloud and then listen to it as if it was written by someone else. There are certain elements you need to attend to with writing such as character, voice, plot, pacing, language, underlying themes, and with nonfiction, structure, voice, pacing, language and subject matter.  If you’d like to download a reusable critiquing template for Self or Peer critiques click here

Trusting Your Professional Editor
If you want to work with a professional editor make sure to check out their qualifications first. Look at their level of education, number and quality of books traditionally published, years in the industry, and testimonials. Just like working with an editor at a publishing house or an agent, you need to work with a
professional who either “gets’’ your work, or is sympathetic to what you are doing.

Different editors work in different ways. Some just do overviews with general suggestions like, “This could use a stronger voice” or they point out parts that are incongruent or hard to understand. This usually happens in shorter critiques at conferences. Still, even though it’s brief, learning about these things from a practiced eye can be very helpful.

Longer critiques from professionals generally are more helpful as they are much more in-depth and usually more specific. When getting a critique ask if they’re going to do line edits, or more of a proofing for grammar, typos and providing overall suggestions. The clearer you are about what you want, the less
likely you are to be disappointed. Personally, I love line edits with specific suggestions rather than generalizations. An example might be where the editor says “You might want to make your character more sympathetic” versus them saying, “’If Joe helps a younger kid at school, it will make him more sympathetic.’ Or, you could have him say, “I love you Mama,” at the very beginning, which will also make him more sympathetic.” (This is called “saving the cat” where the unsympathetic character does something nice so that the reader will like him or her better because they’re not a complete jerk.)

I’m a lifelong learner so as a teacher and editor, I try to show with examples and explain the Why of things. With my own critiquing, I see it as a collaboration going back-and-forth via Skype asking questions, clarifying things, pointing out underlying themes or ways that your words or art connect with children’s lives, emotions, or intellectual interests/curiosities with as much kindness as possible.
It’s a magical process that treasure. Sometimes it feels like a collaborative collage where we move around what’s already there to make it more dramatic, dynamic, humorous, relevant, and logical. For me, weird as this may sound, I feel like I get to channel the person I’m critiquing to help take their work to the next
level and make it more marketable.
At the same time, I’ve been lucky enough to be critiqued by some extraordinary editors, who have not only made my work much stronger but made me a better critiquer as well. Because I’m secure in their love for me, and because I admire their tremendous talents, I’m super receptive to what they have
to teach me, which makes it easy to let go of ego and defensiveness and hear what they have to say through both my head and my heart. I believe it also makes me a better editor as well.

I have a bunch of manuscripts that, because I’ve been critiqued by experts, I feel pretty good about. Still, getting over the procrastination and fear of sending out your work when it’s ready, is a whole other topic. I’m happy to say that I’ll be talking about this, and other super practical things including writing techniques, in the brilliant Hillary Homzie’s and my FREE live and recorded webinar on Saturday, March 25 right here! We’d love for you to join us.

Finally, because I spend so much time teaching and responding to former students, as well as my own creative work, I rarely do critiques outside of courses. But if you’d like a critique with me, join our mailing list to find out the rare times I open up my schedule for non-course critiques right here and also receive a handy dandy plotting template as well as other timely and helpful information!

Bio: Dr Mira Reisberg is a multi-published, award-winning children’s book illustrator and author whose books have sold over 600,000 copies. She has helped and continues to help many children’s book writers and illustrators get published. Mira has worked as an editor, art director, designer, university professor teaching kid lit writing and illustration, as well as a literary agent. She has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on kid lit. Starting April 3rd, she and Hillary Homzie will be co-teaching a radically effective course for complete beginners to award winners on Writing and Illustrating Middle Grade Novels. Check it out here

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 22, 2017

Book Giveaway – Lucy Loves Sherman

Congratulations to author Catherine Bailey and Meg Walters on their new book LUCY LOVES SHERMAN, published by Sky Pony Press. They have agreed to participate in our book giveaways. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.
Everyone’s invite to their Book Launch Party. See details at the bottom of post.
Girl meets lobster. Girl loves lobster. But can girl save lobster? That question is at the core of this sweet and sassy picture book about Lucy, her shell-y friend Sherman, and the seafood-loving town they inhabit.
Lucy loves Sherman from the moment they meet at Flotsam’s Fish Market. Oh sure he’s an eighteen pound, eighty year old crustacean, but he’s also polka dotted. And blurble-y. And he smells like the ocean! Unfortunately, Nana and Gramps are not hooked on the idea of a pet lobster. Things only get worse when Lucy meets Chef Pierre and discovers that Sherman’s fate …. is on a plate! Of course she must rescue Sherman, and those cute wiggly antennae, even if it means getting into hot water with her grandparents. Never at a loss for words – or a clever plan – Lucy takes action. But will the efforts of one little girl be enough to save Sherman from the bib and butter?
Lucy Loves Sherman explores an unlikely, yet utterly charming, friendship, and the challenge and thrill of finding your voice. Lucy’s wild activist antics and Sherman’s loving, bubbly repose are perfectly captured in Meg Walter’s bright illustrations.
LUCY LOVES SHERMAN is my third published picture book, and I am extra excited for its splashy debut because the main character is a feisty girl. Of course it did not happen overnight (these things never do!)
I wrote the first draft of LUCY in April of 2014, though back then it was called BOBO AND THE POT OF DOOM. As you can tell by the original title, I was headed in another direction entirely – one that was more humor based, and, well, a little bit dark. I got the idea of writing about a lobster from my two daughter’s horrified reaction to an anniversary dinner I cooked for my husband.
I wrangled with the plot – which wasn’t working – for a few weeks. Then I remembered my daughters’ and how much they loved the lobster I’d brought home. Specifically, how they’d named him and tried to convince me to spare him. (Sidebar: I didn’t but I would have had he been 80 years old like Sherman!) So with those very authentic emotions in mind, I introduced the character Lucy. And since Lucy’s grandparents were in the story, and because the lobster was 80 years old, I changed his name from the youthful Bobo to a more appropriate Sherman.
Next up was a perfectly timed trip to the Highlight’s Foundation Revision Retreat in September. By the time I returned home, I gained 400 pounds from their amazing meals, and the story was ready for submission. Then it was off to my agent, Kathleen Rushall, who sold the manuscript very quickly to Sky Pony Press. We thought Sky Pony would be a great home for the story because its founder is “dedicated to publishing books that make people’s lives better, whether that means teaching them a hobby, bringing them a unique and important story, or encouraging them to fight against injustices.” And we were right! These amazing folks at Sky Pony have treated Lucy, Sherman, Meg, and myself like family, and I’m thrilled with how the book turned out!
I’ve attended many SCBWI & NJ SCBWI conferences and workshops with the same hopes of all the other illustrators attending … for an editor or art director to take one of your promotional postcards and contact you for a book project… well, almost 8 month after a conference, it finally happened for me.  I was contact by Julie Matysik, a senior editor at Sky Pony Press, the children’s imprint of Skyhorse Publishing (, Julie is now Editorial Director, at Running Press Kids.  Julie and SSP editor Nicole Frail, had acquired a wonderful picture book script written by Catherine Bailey, called LUCY LOVES SHERMAN. Julie said she thought the character on my postcard might be something that would work for the main character LUCY. The character Lucy in the book LLS is younger than the girl on my postcard so I created a younger Lucy for this story, here is a side by side of postcard and Lucy:
see visual ”LUCYPostCard_KT”
Catherine’s fun story and great characters were easy to picture in my mind and I had fun bringing her story to life. From initial character sketches, creating thumbnails for the flow of the story, to the final rounds of proofs, the entire picture book experience has been fantastic. I am SO Im excited for the publication LUCY LOVES SHERMAN! Thank you Kathy for letting us share this experience with you.
Catherine Bailey is a children’s author and presenter from sunny Florida. Her current books include MIND YOUR MONSTERS (Sterling Publishing, 2015), HYPNOSIS HARRY (Sky Pony Press, 2016), and LUCY LOVES SHERMAN (Sky Pony Press, 2017) – with more on the way! She has also written for popular children’s magazines such as Highlight’s Hello and Babybug. She is a frequent children’s speaker and has visited with hundreds (and hundreds, and hundreds!) of kids at schools, libraries, stores, and special events.
When Catherine is not writing, or editing, or swatting at mosquitos, she looks after her husband and two children. All three of them are quite sticky, and none like bedtime, but she loves them anyway. Her prior job titles include Lawyer (interesting), Sailboat Deckhand (fun but occasionally sea-sicky), and Cartoon Network Intern (best job ever, besides writing). Her hobbies include reading, travel, and TJ MAXX. But mostly reading. Learn more about Catherine and her work at

Meg Walters is an Illustrator and Designer and lives with her family in New Jersey. Originally from Rochester, NY, Meg attended Syracuse University where she received her BFA in Illustration. Like Lucy, Meg adores polka pots and loves special lobsters, not lobster specials. This is the first picture book that Meg has illustrated. See more of Meg’s work at

Thank you Catherine and Meg for sharing your journeys with us and offering one lucky winner a copy of your new book, LUCY LOVES SHERMAN.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 21, 2017

ASK CAT & Giveaway Winner

CONGRATULATIONS! Marcia Strykowski is the winner of Linda Oatman High’s Book, THE AMAZING ELEPHANT. Please send me your address.


On the third Tuesday Christina or Christy Ewers Tugeau of the Catugeau Artist Agency will answer questions and talk about things illustrators need to know to further their career. It could be a question about an illustration you are working on, too. Please email your questions to me and put ASK CAT in the subject box.


Here’s Chris:

Today I want to take up a couple of more PROMOTION QUESTIONS that might be on your minds.  (DO send in your own questions…I KNOW that there are many all artists have.  Don’t hesitate…. it’ll help YOU and all other artists too!)

1.)  To follow up with last month’s information about promotion with portfolios (including the on-line all important one!) I wanted to talk a bit about media.  It’s great to show all sort of media techniques if you enjoy doing them and do them as well, and get the emotive response you wish to create from each.  One subject or mood might call for oil, where another might be a wispy, dry watercolor treatment; one a tight hard line generally, while another a fluid, varying line full of energy. I find that most artist prefer one or two (and maybe b/w treatments separately) and will be proficient enough with them to show both.  It’s almost more important to be consistent with your STYLE than your media, though one will effect the other.  As I mentioned, you want to let the buyers KNOW WHO YOU ARE.  So showing them confusing styles and techniques all at once might confuse them, and work against you being REMEMBERED and hired.  I’d suggest always ONLY showing the very best you do and in a style or two that will help WOW the socks off of them.

2.) Some newer artists wonder WHAT to draw and paint and show buyers.  I could almost answer ‘anything.’  You are showing off YOUR style.  Do what you like to do!  But of course there are subjects that are always being sought after….KIDS all shapes and sizes, ANIMALS of all sorts, interaction between said KIDS and ANIMALS. A start. Remember they come in all sizes and shapes, ethnic backgrounds and attitudes.  And don’t forget the little known animals.  Now think of situations that might come up with these. (and adults, old people, robots, dinos, toys, balloons, ships, trucks, planes, city scenes, country farms, seaside etc. etc.)

HOLIDAYS…always big! and not just the big ones…. Just got a request for St. Patrick Day ideas from a buyer today!  Other events too like weddings, birthday parties, first day of school, first day of camp: Trips – to sea side, mountains, cow or pig farm, into the ‘bit city’ or a relatives home in the city (or farm or ‘burb” or grandma’s house):  a horse ride, plane ride, shopping with grandma, fishing with grandad, visiting friend in hospital, birth of baby, new puppy, going out to the garden, the pool,  etc. etc.

INTERACTION is very good to show always, so put more than one child/person or animal or combination in with these situation and you’ve got a mini-narrative.  That is what buyers REALLY like to see.  And do more than one with the characters you decide on.  I always suggest just LOOKING with a sketch book in your hands when you are out and about.  There are subjects and events all over and around your days….every day!

3.) Lastly today I want to talk about the Illustrator Showcase Directories, as I neglected to do so last month.  The reason I didn’t mention them is really because I’m not sure how I feel about them. I advertised in several for most of our 24 years!  We are an agency with 30+ artists and I need to be KNOWN and seen everywhere. This past year was the first we did not advertise in a big Directory and it was our BEST year since the ‘recession-crash!’  But we ARE known and seen.  We do a lot of postcards, and email ‘blasts’ and ‘cold-emailing’ with new samples and reminders.  We all have websites now where so much can easily be seen once they are bookmarked by the buyers.  Directories are wonderful for Advertising and maybe Editorial markets because it’s hard to know about and send to all the potential buyers in those areas.  The Children’s Book Industry is a bit more containable.  The thousands of dollars that a page will cost an artist in a directory can better be used in postcard mailings every few months to the 250 or more names you can easily get from your association with SCBWI or other sources.  And you get several different opportunities then to ‘be across their desks.’  I’ve been told that buyers in our industry will look at THE BOOKS once when they come putting stickies on pages they like.  They might even go look at the artists website and bookmark them. But then they seldom ever look again at THE BOOK.  I’m fond of all our years with THE BOOKS, but I have a hard time recommending them for the best promotional opportunity for a single artist in Children’s Books.


Hope this illustration by Kris Aro McLeod will inspire everyone to send in a question to Chris and Christy. Kris was featured on Illustrator Saturday in 2012. Take a look.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 20, 2017

Book Giveaway: Queen of Likes

While signing up for The Children’s Book Academy’s Middle Grade e-course, so I could share what I learn with you down the road, I checked out Hillary Homzie’s published books. When I saw her latest book QUEEN OF LIKES, I asked her if she would like to do a book giveaway and she agreed.

All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.


A tween social media queen is forced to give up her phone and learn that there’s more to life than likes in this M!X novel from the author of The Hot List.

Karma Cooper is a seventh grader with thousands of followers on SnappyPic. Before Karma became a social media celebrity, she wasn’t part of the in-crowd at Merton Middle School. But thanks to one serendipitous photo, Karma has become a very popular poster on SnappyPic. Besides keeping up with all of her followers, like most kids at MMS, her smartphone—a bejeweled pink number Karma nicknamed Floyd—is like a body part she could never live without.

But after breaking some basic phone rules, Karma’s cruel, cruel parents take Floyd away, and for Karma, her world comes to a screeching halt. Can Karma—who can text, post photos, play soccer, and chew gum all at the same time—learn to go cold turkey and live her life fully unplugged?


The real story behind Queen of Likes: 

The journey for my middle grade novel, Queen of Likes, starts with me completely messing up. I don’t mean messing up literally, although frankly I could always clean up my desk, or metaphysically because, despite the unstoppable challenges, I enjoy existing on this planet. I mean as someone who thought of herself as a writer. 

Let’s jump back quite a bit in time, about 20 years. I was very pregnant with my first son who is now a sophomore in college. I’d left my job post at Pennsylvania Hospital where I was working in the marketing department and was home for the last two months of my pregnancy supposedly writing.

My husband toiled long hours as a young corporate lawyer in Philadelphia and left home early and returned home very late. I found myself, well, lonely. I hadn’t grown up in Philly and didn’t really know that many people at the time. I wanted to have some company while I was eating breakfast. So I watched the Today Show. Then I started to watch Regis & Kathy Lee and then I found myself watching The Montel Williams Show. Then the soap opera that came after The Montel Williams Show, then sometimes the soap that after that one, until I was easily watching four hours of daytime television and sometimes more. I was home to write and be happily pregnant. 

Uh huh. That’s what I told myself. 

I didn’t want to admit it, but you are what you do. I was a consumer of daytime television. 

So fast-forward in time. We move from Philadelphia to Northern California, buy our first house and I have the opportunity to change my ways. I decide to create a media-free environment, which would be more conducive to writing. This becomes especially important, as I have just nabbed a six-book contract from a major publisher with intense monthly deadlines. So I say no to cable. The Panasonic sits in our living room merely as furniture, since we can only get in one very scrambled and fuzzy channel. 

Saying no to television (for eight years) was the best thing I could have done for my writing career. At the time, I just couldn’t handle the temptation.

Fast-forward to a few years ago and I have cable as well as streaming services. I’m quite reformed and have trained myself to only watch something on the weekend. I haven’t been tempted by daytime television programming one bit. 

Here’s where the Queen of Likes really comes in. I thought if I had so many issues controlling myself from watching too much daytime TV, what is it like for kids who have so many media choices—everything from YouTube to Netflix to social media. There’s just a lot of out there! 

And what would it be like for a kid today who’s completely plugged in and then gets cut off from all media? That was the original idea for the book. In fact, the original title was Karma Cooper, Unplugged. It was going to be about a seventh grader who’s forced to forgo all forms of media, how she struggles with it, and how she grows and changes. 

My agent at the time encouraged me to remember that relationships are the central core of story and that, perhaps, the narrative would not be so much about media itself but how someone’s relationships would change once she didn’t have it. 

So the novel evolved into a friendship story about an old best friend coming back into the life of my main character, Karma Cooper.  Suddenly the media piece took much more of a backseat. I sent sample chapters off to the editor of my previous book, The Hot List. She really liked the chapters, but she was currently editing a book with a very similar friendship premise and wanted me to refocus on a girl whose media was taken away and find a new friendship story line. 

So I did. 

I also decided that I wanted to narrow down my focus and concentrate specifically on social media. I was watching how social media was affecting (positively and negatively) my own teens and tween. I thought what if Karma was very successful with social media, yet had previously been someone who had been more socially awkward until she had gotten her followers? And what if her parents take away her phone and cut off her social media account because of some transgression? 

Yes, I thought—that’s it! 

I decided to have Karma consumed by the number of likes she gets versus considering what she really likes. She was posting in order to get likes versus to truly express herself. Having her social media account taken away forces Karma to truly figure out what she likes (it turns out to be photography as well as an interest in working her local historical society). 

So I turned in the manuscript, my editor loved it and voila—The Queen of Likes was officially born. 

By the way, I don’t want to give the impression that I am anti-technology. That’s not it at all. Right now I’m writing this history of Queen of Likes using the voice recognition software on my iPhone. I have two active Facebook accounts– my personal account and my author account. I’m active on Twitter, I blog for the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. I teach online for the Children’s Book Academy (I’m inserting a shameless plug for our awesome Middle Grade Mastery course, which starts in April, and uses technology, like webinars and private Facebook groups in a marvelous way). I also teach in the Children’s Literature & Writing MFA program at Hollins University where I use the Moodle platform to share information with my graduate students, so I am far from technology adverse. In fact, I embrace it. 

However, I try to remind myself to use technology as a means to express my most authentic self in a kind and compassionate way. I hope it’s never about seeking approval. 

So that is how The Queen of Likes evolved into a book. I would write—I hope you like my story, but, alas, that would be all about me, hoping to generate likes/approval. 

Instead I’m going to let you know how much I enjoyed trying to be truthful and honest about my process, and hope that it helps you on your journey as a reader and writer. 

Kathy, thank you so much for having me here today!


Hillary is the author of the tween novel, QUEEN OF LIKES (Simon & Schuster/M!X, THE HOT LIST (Simon & Schuster/M!X), THINGS ARE GONNA GET UGLY (Simon & Schuster/M!X), a Justice Book-of-the-Month, which was just optioned by Priority Pictures, as well as the humorous chapter book series, ALIEN CLONES FROM OUTER SPACE (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin), which was developed to become an animated television series and was sold to ABC Australia. Her new chapter book series about the antics of first grader ELLIE MAY will be out in the Spring of 2018 from Charlesbridge. Additionally, PUMPKIN SPICE SECRETS (Sky Pony Press), a new novel for tween girls, debuts Fall 2017. Hillary holds a master’s degree in education from Temple University and a master’s of arts degree from Hollins University in children’s literature and writing, where she currently teaches. In addition, she teaches Middle Grade Mastery and the Chapter Book Alchemist, interactive e-courses, for the Children’s Book Academy.

Hillary found her start in comedy performing sketch Off-Broadway (Playwrights Horizons, Synchronicity Space, 55 Grove Street, Manhattan Punchline, The Boston Comedy Club and Schecky’s Big Fat Cantina with Sarah Silverman) with HA! Comedy Duo and Rubber Feet, and was a Heideman Playwrighting Award Finalist for play, The Juice of It. She has also written for many publications, including Dance Magazine, New York Newsday and Parent’s Express, and has reviewed books for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Children’s Literature.

Hillary holds a master’s degree in education from Temple University and a master’s of arts degree from Hollins University in children’s literature and writing. Currently, she’s an associate visiting professor of creative writing at Hollins University Graduate Program in Children’s Literature, and has lectured on comedy and children’s writing at conferences and schools across the United States. She has also been privately coaching both published authors and aspiring authors for nine years, several of whom have achieved publishing success with major national accolades She loves to speak at schools and literature festivals.

Visit her on the web at:

Twitter: @HillaryHomzie


Below are the links to help you do your research the course if you are writing or want to write middle grade books.

Link to the online interactive Middle Grade Mastery Class
(April 3-May 1)

Link to The Andrea Davis Pinkney Merit Scholarships for Middle Grade Mastery (available through March 20)

Thank you Hillary for sharing your book and journey with us and offering a copy of Queen of Likes to one lucky winner. I look forward to getting to know you during the course.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 19, 2017

Agent Looking for Clients – Amanda Barnett

CORRECTION: The Free Webinar “7 Things Every KidLit Writer Must Do To Succeed (No Matter What Your Genre)” that was supposed to happen last Saturday was changed to this coming Saturday, so you still have time to sign up.

Amanda Ayers Barnett began her publishing career 20 years ago, fresh out of Middlebury College and the Radcliffe Publishing Course. She has worn many hats—Publicity Assistant at Random House, Associate Editor at Pocket Books, Acquisitions Editor at Publishing, freelance book editor for New York Book Editors—all of which have given her extensive and valuable experience. She is thrilled to add Literary Agent to these titles, and to join the Donaghy Literary Group.

While she has worked on a variety of different genres throughout her career, Amanda especially loves mystery/thrillers and middle grade, young adult, new adult and women’s fiction. She enjoys coming of age novels and precocious main characters. But more than anything, she loves an intriguing and well-written story. With a strong, bordering on obsessive, attention to detail, she is especially excited to work closely with authors and help them develop into amazing storytellers.

When she isn’t working, Amanda can be found in the bleachers of one of her three sons’ numerous sporting events.

Amanda’s client list:  Scott Taft, J.C. Dillard, Maya Creedman and Leoni Kelsall.

Amanda’s Wish list

Middle grade fiction
Young adult fiction
New adult fiction
Women’s fiction

  1. Submit to Amanda on her bio page by clicking on the  blue Submit A Query button that is placed directly under her picture.
  2. The Submit A Query button will take you to a form, this form is user-friendly and has been set-up according to each agent’s specific preferences.
  3. After completing and submitting the query form, you should receive a link via email from the QueryManager database system that will allow you to check the status of your submission.
  4. Submit to only one agent at a time, as we often refer queries internally that might  be a better fit for the other agent’s list.
  5. Be patient, while we review your query or requested manuscript.  We work hard to meet our clients needs first and equally as hard to find the “gems” in our query and manuscript queues.  Waiting isn’t easy, but it is necessary.​
  6. We respond to all queries and requested manuscripts.  If you haven’t heard back on a query after 12 weeks resubmit.  Manuscripts take longer  often 4-6 months.  If you have not heard back on your manuscript please email the requesting agent directly at the 6-month mark.  The QueryManager System will allow you to notify agents of offers through the system database.
  7. If you receive a pass from one agent this is a pass for all.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 18, 2017

Illustrator Saturday: Emily Emerson

Emily Emerson is am an illustrator and surface pattern designer. She creates whimsical illustrations for children’s publishing and lively patterns for fabric, apparel, stationery, home décor and much more. Hope you enjoy the magical creatures you will meet here on Writing and Illustrating. Maybe even become friends with cute animals and go on fairy tale adventures. Emily lives in

Here is Emily explaining her process:

I usually start with a simple sketch done on paper or in Photoshop (in this case, Photoshop). Sometimes I will sketch the background out as well, but I just let the background of this piece develop as I went along. After the sketch is done, I will start loosely adding color to the image. For color, I’ll mix a simple palette on its own layer and use that throughout the piece (top left).

Most of the background is now complete and I’ll continue to add detail to the entire piece. I usually work on very few layers (often only one or two) similar to how I would paint on a canvas.

I start adding leaves to give dimension to the background and continue to develop the characters.

Finished Illustration

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating professionally for a few years now, but I’ve loved to draw since I was a young child.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork? 

My career began when I started a small greeting card and wall art business. I printed everything in my own studio, and sold my work in boutique art shops as well as Etsy. A few years ago, I received my first commission to create seasonal street light banners for nearby city’s downtown area. It was really exciting to see those hung up around town!

Did you go to college to study art? Where?

I have taken drawing classes throughout my time at school, though I did not get a degree in art. My digital work is primarily self-taught.

What do you think influenced your style? 

I enjoy reading children’s books now as much as I did when I was a child. All of these books over the years have influenced my style.

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

After school, my first illustration-related work was my greeting card business.

What is a surface pattern designer?

My surface patterns are images (usually plants and animals) placed in a repeating pattern. The designs are then printed on clothing, bedding, room decor, stationery etc.  Designing little characters to repeat seamlessly in a pattern is so much fun!

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I’ve always loved children’s books, and knew from a young age that I wanted to be a professional illustrator. It wasn’t until I finished high school that I realized I wanted to focus on creating children’s illustrations.

Do you illustrate full time? If not, what type of job do you have while advancing your illustrating career?

I don’t currently illustrate full time, and spend part of my days working at the natural foods co-op in my hometown. This job doesn’t call for any art skills, but has helped me grow in other aspects of my life (such as learning about health and caring for the environment).

Do you do art exhibits? 

Yes, I’ve done a few over the years at local galleries.

What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I focus on my artwork, and rely on my agent to promote my work.

How did you start doing stationery and cards?

I started making cards out of my home and selling them around town and online. I printed and packaged everything myself! It was fun having that freedom – when I thought of a new idea; I just drew it and started printing! I learned a lot about what designs people wanted to see from that period of my career.

Do you have an illustrator who you admire?

One of my favorite artists is the brilliant Mary Blair. Her work is so lively and joyful! I have a large collection of vintage books that I’ve sought out over the years. Some other favorites are Gyo Fujikawa, the Provensens, and Adrienne Adams to name a few!

Have you illustrated anything for magazines? If so, which ones and how did you get the illustration job?

While I have yet to work on a commission with a magazine, I am honored to say my patterns were recently featured in an issue of UPPERCASE Magazine.

You mention doing apparel. Is that fabric for apparel or do you make clothing using your art?

I create fun patterns to be printed on children’s clothing.

Have you design wallpaper?

Not yet, though I would love to someday!

Would you like to write and illustrate a children’s book?

Yes, this is a dream of mine!

Would you be open to illustrating a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Possibly! I think it would really depend on the project.

Have you worked with educational publishers?

No, but I would love to work on educational projects! Books that taught me about nature and science were some of my absolute favorites growing up.

How did you connect with the The Organisation and get representation? 

While I was looking for representation, I discovered the Organisation’s website. I was very impressed and reached out to them with my portfolio. Lorraine was interested in my work, and I’m happy to say that we are now working together!

What is your favorite medium to use?

I use Photoshop for my paintings and Illustrator for my patterns.

Has that changed over time?

I’ve been using both for many years!

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

Yes, a computer table and bookshelf full of my sketchbooks – as well as my favorite children’s books to keep me inspired!

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I try and use any spare moment I have to illustrate! I love to draw so it is not difficult for me to sit down and work each day!

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I often use the internet to find reference photos. Books are great for animal photographs as well.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I live in a small city in Kansas, yet the internet has allowed me to connect with people all over the world.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes, I use a Wacom Intuos tablet and Photoshop.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I am an animal lover and I would be so happy to use my art to help the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) or any organization that helps animals around the world.

What are you working on now?

I’ve been creating some fun personal work involving animals – my favorite subject to draw!

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

My best tip for anyone interested in digital art is to find some great brushes that work for you because they can make a huge difference. Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop brushes are so amazing! They are designed to act more like real paint – they changed the way I work!

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Keep a sketchbook with you and draw as often as you can. Draw what you love and it will show!

Thank you Emily for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Emily’s work, you can visit her at her website:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Emily. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


This cute St. Patty’s Day illustration was sent in from Carolyn Le. Carolyn has twice received a first-place Illustration Award for her portfolio from SCBWI Editor’s Day, has received a Merit Award from the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles She writes and illustrates picture books.

TracyMarchini – Literary Agent – Featured Agent for March and critiquing four first pages at the end of the month. 

Below is a brief bio with her likes and dislikes:

After four years as a Literary Agents Assistant at Curtis Brown, Tracy Marchini left to pursue her own editorial business and to earn her MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. Her editorial clients have gone on to secure representation, sell books to traditional publishers, win awards and become bestsellers. She’s looking forward to being able to work with her BookEnds clients throughout their careers and to (hopefully!) see them grow as authors in the same way.

Tracy is looking for picture book, middle grade and young adult manuscripts across most genres, including contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, magical realism, historical fiction, and non-fiction. She is also looking for picture book illustrators and author-illustrators.

For picture book fiction, she loves books that are laugh out loud funny or deliciously dark.

For middle grade and young adult, she’s interested in underdogs, strong female characters and/or unreliable narrators. She feels it’s important for readers of all backgrounds to see themselves reflected in the media they consume, and she is looking to bring that diversity to my list.

She is not a good fit for YA horror, true crime, hard sci-fi, or high fantasy. At this time, she is not looking for board books or early chapter books.


This dancing lass was sent in by Priscilla Dunn.


Are there any genres that are less interesting to you?

I’m not a great fit for high fantasy or hard science fiction. I’m also not a good fit for young adult horror.

I also tend not to gravitate towards sweeter, “guess how much I love you” type picture books. (I’m not saying never on this, but there just hasn’t been anything yet that has grabbed me.)

I am looking for middle grade horror and/or middle grade with an element of magical realism!

Do you have any story or theme that you wished someone would submit?

My #mswl is full of things I’d love to see, like more girls in science or a YA set during the time of the fight for the ERA (1920’s or 1970’s – open to either).

I’d also love to see more non-fiction for middle grade and young adults for the trade market. I haven’t seen much of that in my inbox yet.

I’m also looking for more author/illustrators that really use the juxtaposition of text and art to their advantage.

What do you like to see in a submission?

I ask for a query letter and the first five pages, and I’m looking for submissions that are polished, have a strong voice, a unique hook, and with a story that appeals to me on some emotional level (intrigue, surprise, etc.).

How important is the query letter? 

The query is very important to me for middle grade and young adult, because it’s how I get a sense of the narrative arc. Sometimes you can tell if there will be issues with the manuscript just from the query.

With picture book submissions, I tend to skip right to the sample. BUT, I still want to see a professional query letter. If I’m interested in the story but the query is just “Here is my book,” that’s going to make me think the writer isn’t serious about their career.

Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more?

Write a strong pitch, make sure to include the five sample pages, and really focus on your first chapter. I should know just by reading the first five pages what kind of story I’m about to read. If I read five pages and still feel like I don’t know the genre/direction the story might be going, I’m likely to move on.

How far do you normally read before you reject a submission?

It really depends. I read until it’s clear that I’m not going to be a good fit. In a requested manuscript, sometimes that’s three chapters, sometimes it’s half-way. If I’m on the fence, I read the synopsis and see if it’s compelling enough to make me keep going.

Would you lose interest in a submission if the writer missed correcting a few misspelled words?

A few typos I can understand in a manuscript, but I can be less forgiving in a query. A query is just one page, and if I notice, for example, that an author doesn’t use commas correctly, then I know that the entire manuscript is going to have grammatical issues.

Do you let people know if you are not interested in what they sent?

At BookEnds, we respond to every submission. So if you submitted through QueryManager, you will hear a response from me.

How long does it usually take to respond to requested material?

It really depends on what’s on my plate and what’s in the requested box. Right now I think I have requested material from August or September, and I’m certainly trying to get a little more up-to-date! I will read and respond to everything sent through QueryManager though, so please don’t assume that if you haven’t heard from me that it’s a no.

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

I think in picture book submissions, I see a lot of submissions that aren’t written in picture book language. I wrote a very short post on my blog about picture book language, but of course, getting picture book voice right is a little more complicated than that!

I also will sometimes receive several picture book manuscript submissions at once from the same author, or another submission the same day I’ve rejected the first. This makes me think that the author has a drawer full of backlist and that I’m not seeing their newest, most polished work. I’m always leery of this, because in all of my clients I want to be able to see growth in their craft.

For middle grade and young adult, I think the most common mistake I see is an opening where the character wakes up in bed. It’s so common in the submission pile, that I immediately lose interest.


In the subject line, please write “March 2017  Critique” and paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page). LAST MONTH TWO SUBMISSIONS DID NOT ATTACH A WORD DOCUMENT AND WERE ELIMINATED. DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN!

Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: March 23rd

RESULTS: March 31st.

Please only submit one first page a month, but do try again if your first page wasn’t one of the pages randomly picked. Thanks!

You can contact Tracy at or follow her on Twitter at

You must use their form to submit to Tracy at Bookends. Click here for the form.

Congratulations! Tracey’s picture book debut Chicken Wants A Nap will be published in August by Creative Editions.


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 16, 2017

Scholastic Graphix Novel Contest

Reminder: Free Webinar this Saturday with Hillary Homzie and Dr. Mira Reisberg. Need to register.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 15, 2017

Book Giveaway – The Case Of the Poached Egg – Robin Newman

Congratulations to Robin Newman her new book THE CASE OF THE POACHED EGG. She has agreed to participate in our book giveaways. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.



When Penny goes missing from the nest, Wilcox and Griswold are called in to track her down. Was the egg stolen by a rival for The Most Round in the Spring Egg-stravaganza? Was she used in a carrot cake or scrambled by a hungry porker? Or was she held for a hefty corn ransom? Who took Penny and can the detectives find her before trouble hatches?


The book is filled with foul play and fowl at play. There are two new characters: Gabby Goose, as the name suggests, is a gabber and a gossip. Colonel Peck is a crabby old rooster constantly losing his kernels of corn.

“Wait one chicken pickin’ second!” honked Gabby. “Who are you calling a gabber and a gossip?”

Robin Newman: “My apologies, Gabby! Do you want to tell the readers a little bit about yourself?”

Gabby Goose: “Well, I suppose some might think this book is about a chicken and her egg who’s gone A.W.O.L., but the heart of the story is really about a goose.”

Robin Newman: “You mean you’re the star of the show?”

Gabby Goose: “Well isn’t it obvious? I was talking to the ducks, who heard it from the cows, who discussed it with the goats, who naturally overheard it from the chickens, and everyone knows chickens don’t lie, that I, Gabby Goose, was the main beloved character of the story.

Colonel Peck: “Hold it one cockamamie minute! You’re going to listen to that crazy, gabbing goose?”

Gabby Goose: “Much better than listening to a cranky old Colonel who can’t keep track of his kernels?”

Robin Newman: “I didn’t mean to ruffle any feathers. Now will the two of you calm down before Kathy Temean kicks us off her blog? I can easily write you both out of the third book. So, watch it!”

Gabby Goose: “You’ll be hearing from my agent! Honk!”

Colonel Peck: “Mine too! I wonder if J.K. Rowling could use a suave and debonair rooster in her next book.”

As I was saying, there’s lots of fun word play and chicken, egg, and goose humor on steroids in Wilcox & Griswold’s latest caper.

**No chickens, roosters, geese, or eggs were harmed during the writing of The Case of the Poached Egg, but it doesn’t mean it can’t happen afterwards.


How I came to write for children is a very long story. You may want to grab a seat and a snack. Do you like carrot cake?

Once upon a time, I was a miserable attorney. That’s miserable with a capital M. One dark, stormy, scary day, I quit. And while trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, aside from eating my way through the chocolate éclair section of my favorite bakery (it wasn’t pretty), I ended up doing research and writing projects for a family law attorney/law school professor before becoming a legal editor. As an editor, I loved the creative work, writing the blurbs and marketing materials, but it wasn’t until I was pregnant that I truly got the writing bug.

For the holidays, I wrote stories for my nieces and nephew. I didn’t realize it at the time, but some of those stories became picture books, and one in particular, became my early chapter book, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake. After my son was born, my husband encouraged me to take a writing class—my first writing class. I signed up for a children’s fiction writing workshop and as soon as I walked in, I knew I had found my people.

It took me just about eight years to hold my first book.

Eight Years*

or 96 months

or 417 weeks 3 days

or 2,922 days

or 70,128 hours

or 4,207,680 minutes

or 252,460,800 seconds

But who’s counting?

*Anyone who knows me is very much aware that I lack a gene for patience.

I was introduced to my agents, the amazing and incredible dynamic duo, Liza Fleissig and Ginger Harris-Dontzin, at the Liza Royce Agency, by a fellow writer and illustrator. I had emailed Liza a number of my manuscripts, but it wasn’t until we actually met at the 2012 NJ SCBWI Annual Conference that she agreed to represent me. In 2013, I signed a contract with Creston Books for The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep. And the rest is pretty much writing history.

I truly feel like the luckiest writer in the world. I am beyond grateful to Liza Fleissig, Ginger Harris-Dontzin, and to my amazing, incredible, you-take-my-breath-away editor and publisher at Creston Books, Marissa Moss, for taking a chance on me and my mouse detectives. A number of publishers said there wasn’t enough room on the market for another mouse detective story. I am so glad that Marissa thought otherwise.


Raised in New York and Paris, Robin was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs and peacocks. She’s the author of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery (Creston Books) and Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep (Creston Books). The second book in the Wilcox & Griswold mystery series, The Case of the Poached Egg (Creston Books), releases April 2017 (but is already available for pre-order at your favorite independent bookstore, Amazon and Barnes & Noble) and No Peacocks! (Sky Pony Press), flies onto bookshelves fall 2017. Robin lives in New York with her husband, son, goldfish, and two spoiled English Cocker Spaniels.


Twitter: @robinnewmanbook


Thank you Robin for sharing your journey with us and offering one lucky winner a copy of your new book, THE CASE OF THE POACHED EGG.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 14, 2017

ASK Dianne: Creative Momentum

The Winner of HOLD YOUR TEMPER, TIGER is Tina Marie Cho – Congratulations! Please send address – Thanks!

ochiltreeDiannew 5602

Q:  Last month you talked about getting past writer’s block.  Once I’ve gotten past it, how do I keep my creative momentum going so it doesn’t happen again?

A:  Excellent Question!  Each writer will find his or her own methods for keeping the words flowing.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Make your writing a real priority, every day.  Remember Jane Yolen’s ‘B.I.C.’ (Butt in Chair) mantra?  Take it to heart and put it in action.  Make your writing the first thing you do each day, if possible.  If this isn’t possible, get out your calendar and see where else you can fit a block of writing time in your day.  You don’t have to write the same number of minutes at the same time of the day to make writing a daily routine.  Maybe it’s four hours on Monday, forty-five minutes on Tuesday, and so on…the point is that you are indeed writing for a portion of each day.  Not worrying that you’re not writing, or making excuses for not writing.  Scheduling daily writing time is making a lifestyle change that enables your creative projects to grow day by day.  It means you’re taking your literary dreams seriously. And if you don’t take your writing seriously, how can you expect the people around you to take it seriously, too?

Make a creative sanctuary somewhere, somehow.  Most writers (whether full time or part time) don’t work in a big office building downtown like most people who have a job to do. No, we work at home.  Which means it’s shared space and we are not spared the possibility of distractions.  Therefore, it’s vital to establish some sort of ‘sacred space’ for our creative work.  For example, you may not have the luxury of a spare room in your house, complete with a door to lock when you’re working.  But you can still make a creative sanctuary within the space you do have available.  Maybe it’s a corner of the bedroom with a folding screen that can be put up to make a sort of ‘work cubicle’ that separates it from everyday life.  Maybe it’s the dining room table, which most households rarely use anymore for formal dinners; or the ‘family office’ counter area in your kitchen.  With the use of a laptop, any quiet space can become your office on the spur of the moment:  your back porch, the local coffee shop, or your car, when you are waiting to pick up your kids from band practice. Some writers stay in bed all day, scribbling on a yellow note pad, because the reclined position and comfort under the comforter help them channel their creativity in a way unlike any other.  I’ve read that Stephen King wrote his first novel late at night, in the hall closet, with a typewriter balanced on his lap.  Where there is creative will, writers will find a way!

Make it personal to set yourself up for success.  If you are romancing words, don’t forget to set the mood.  Notice what helps your creative juices flow, then make sure those elements are in your environment whenever possible. Being interrupted, for example, is a common complaint.  You may not be able to lock a door, but you can send signals to those around you that you are officially ‘in the zone’ and not to be disturbed (except for tornado warnings).  These include a burning candle, a hanging ‘do not disturb’ sign, a red flag outside the workspace, a special hat or even head-phones.  Head-phones have the advantage of turning an noisy space into a quiet space….or even providing mood music to create by.  Classical music?  New Age?  Heavy Metal?  Nature sounds?  You choose the soundtracks that fuel your creativity best.  If you find a scent in the air helps you concentrate, try incense or fragranced candle.  Surround yourself with talismans that help you connect to your creativity if you have a physical space that enables this:  a daily affirmation on a sticky note by your keyboard?  A stone or statue of special meaning to your creative spirit?  All writers are creative but not in identical ways.  We are unique. Knowing what inspires us personally, and then making sure our muses have what they like surrounding them, increases our chances of success.

This our just a few ideas of how you can simply, and affordably, create conditions that help you keep your creative momentum going.  While going on a writers retreat is certainly a treat…please remember that you have it in your power to create a mini-retreat mindset and environment for yourself each day.

Happy Writing! Dianne


Dianne Ochiltree is a nationally recognized author of books for the very young. Her books have appeared on numerous recommended reading lists, classroom desks and library shelves.  Her bedtime book, LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE, was a selected for the Dollywood Foundation’s childhood literacy initiative, Imagination Library in 2007. Her picture book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! THE LEGEND OF MOLLY WILLIAMS AMERICA’S FIRST FEMALE FIREFIGHTER, received the Florida Book Awards (FBA) Bronze Medal in the Children’s Literature category in 2012 and was chosen for the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer list of feminist literature for girls. Her picture book, IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT, won the FBA Silver Medal in 2013. Her 2015 title, IT’S A SEASHELL DAY, was given the FBA Gold Medal/Gwen Reichert Award as well as the Gold Medal for Florida picture book from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. For more information about Dianne’s books, go to

Dianne, thanks for sharing your expertise with us. Another great answer.

REMEMBER: To send in your questions for Dianne.

Talk tomorrow,


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