Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 22, 2014

Critiquing Secrets

Interested in writing a Chapter Book? Don’t miss this FREE WEBINAR with Hillary Homzie and Mira Reisberg on Friday January 2nd 2015 at 5.30pm PST! They are also going to give some late holiday presents for some lucky folks that include a free critique with Hillary or Mira and some free signed books. Wahoo! See more at:

Mira_pic2Mira is my Guest blogger for today’s post. Here’s Mira:

Critiquing Secrets by Mira Reisberg

First of all, thank you Kathy for having me on your fabulous blog. This site has been such a great resource for our community for a long time and I feel honored to be here. As we come to the end of the year, it seems like a good time to reflect on what we did to better our craft and improve our skills as people who create children’s books. Personally, I think it comes down to three things: take courses (i.e. study and improve your craft and keep revising), join the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators, and join and participate in a critique group. For this post, I’d like to talk a little about critiquing and then share some critiquing secrets.

Over the past 26 years as an illustrator, author, editor, art director and former literary agent, I’ve learned that although your work is uniquely your own, you can’t exist in a vacuum. Receiving criticism from fellow writers or illustrators, and peers is a must have regular part of your creative process.
So let’s talk about the secrets of critiquing for plot-driven books.

After struggling with a piece, if you can, let it percolate for a while and then come back not only with a fresh eye, but with fresh sets of eyes. Other eyes may see what you have missed, offer a different perspective, and question what you have taken for granted.

While you may be tempted to have your mother, your significant other, or best friend critique your work, they should not be your only ‘eyes’. They’re not trained to critique, may not understand your work, and may try to protect your feelings, regardless of their true opinion.

So what are some great critique techniques? For plot-driven writers the main things you need to look for are:
• How enticing is the hook or beginning?
• Do we care or are we intrigued by the character(s) enough to want to find out more about them and their journey?
• Does the tension build as the main character faces challenges and obstacles along the way?
• Do they solve the problem themselves?
• Is the climax and resolution satisfying with a twist at the end?
• Is each character different with their own distinct voice?
• What makes this particular story memorable?
• Does it have any underlying universal themes that are meaningful for kids?
• How can the drama, humor, pathos, or whatever key feeling the story has, be amplified?
• Does the pacing move at a good speed or does it slow down anywhere? Is there redundancy or excess?
• And finally does the language sparkle with techniques like alliteration and assonance, rhythm and repetition where appropriate?

All of these suggestions will help you in the critiquing process to get to the core and heart of your story to make it stronger, sweeter, funnier, or whatever its essence more appealing and thus more marketable.

Finally, for tender newer critique groups or critiquing partners who are vulnerable, remember to use the hamburger technique of starting and ending with something positive and getting to the meat of what needs help in the middle. As creatives, we tend to be a little thin skinned and starting with something positive will make it easier for the person being critiqued to hear the more challenging suggestions.

BIO: Mira Reisberg Ph.D. has worn many hats in the industry including being a university professor teaching children’s literature and now as the Director of the Children’s Book Academy. Mira has taught and mentored many successful authors and illustrators.

Her next interactive e-course, for beginners to award winners, the Chapter Book Alchemist, co-taught by former comedian and award-winning chapter book author Hillary Homzie, promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure with potential life and career changing benefits starts January 12th!

Click here to find out more:

The course includes optional critique groups, weekly live webinar critiques, and the option for critiques with Mira or Hillary among other goodies!

Mira, thank you for taking the time to share your expertise with all of us. Good luck with the webinar!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Your critiquing advice helped me so much during your course on illustrating picture books (a great course, by the way, especially for those just starting out). I’ve always been weak when it comes to critiquing other people’s work, and your guidelines helped a lot. Thanks so much for all you do for the children’s writing and illustrating community.


  2. Excellent advice, Mira 🙂 I love your list of points to focus on!


  3. This is a very succinct but thorough how-to. Thank you.


  4. Great list of things to consider, Mira!


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