Kudos, comics, queries, critiques, and cactuses

Happy Friday!  Let’s start off with this week’s . . .


Congratulations, kudos, and a mighty woo-HOO to Pam Smallcomb for the recent release of her picture book, I’M NOT, which has received a starred Kirkus review and was listed as one of Amazon’s Editors’ Picks for January!!!

Evelyn is lots of things.  Circus performer.  Antarctic explorer.  I’m not.

Here is the perfect book for children who feel like their outgoing friend is oh-so-talented . . . and they’re not.  Our shy narrator lists all the things that her best friend, Evelyn, is good at—from jumping on the bed to roller skating really fast.  Luckily, Evelyn points out what makes her so special: she’s a one-of-a-kind true blue best friend.  Robert Weinstock’s hilarious illustrations wonderfully complement Pam Smallcomb’s simple text, perfect for young children. This sweet depiction of friendship shows—in a completely fresh, original way—that everyone is special.

“… a fresh take on a friendship/reassurance stories and is, for sure, not boring.”–starred review, Kirkus Reviews December 2010.

ETA: Pam is also going to be the guest speaker for the February 28th ABC Event in Olney, Maryland! Please click here for more information.

Again, congratulations, Pam!  And while the spotlight is still shining, let’s find out her pick for this week’s . . .


The Comic Toolbox:  How to be funny even if you’re not.

Pam and I agree that this book is worth multiple reads.  (And as a matter of fact, her dog-eared copy is mysteriously missing and is in need of a major re-order!)  John Vorhaus offers excellent advice on how to create dynamic, memorable characters, unique comic situations and settings, and how to dig in deep to bring out the maximum laughs.   And it’s not just for wannabe funny-folk—he offers sound plotting advice and techniques for all forms of fiction.

Pam, I think you deserve to get yourself another copy!  And now for the . . .


This comes from member Susan Mannix, who asks: “How do you know when it’s time to start querying agents?”

Excellent question, Susan, and because I’m still getting in the swing of blogging, I’ll answer this one.

Everyone’s path to publication is different, so there’s no definite answer. Some writers, (like me!) need to get their feet wet with several novels before they finally write one that is strong enough for submission. But trust me when I say that you’ll know when you’re ready.

Yes, I know, that’s not a great answer. It’s like when a doctor tells a new mom-to-be that “she’ll know” when it’s time to go to the hospital and she’s like, “Are you serious? That’s all you can give me?”

But really . . . you’ll know as long as you always put craft before getting a contract.  As long as you hone your skills, gather your passion, write your fingers off, and create a story that’s worthy of being published. If you get your manuscript critiqued again and again and again, improving it with each pass, and falling more and more in love with it.  If you pay for conference critiques that are always well worth the money.  If you work hard, then the day will come when you go to review your manuscript one more time and realize that you’re reading it as a reader instead of a writer.  That’s when . . . ah, yes . . . it just might be time.

For those reaching that point, here’s a great article on submission tips.

How did I know it was time?  During a conference critique, an editor from Viking requested to see my entire manuscript. I took about three months to do a rewrite based on her thoughts, and once it was on her desk, I queried my first agent. Being able to tell her that, “Hey, my book is on so-and-so’s desk,” gave me instant credibility. The editor did eventually reject me, but I did get the agent!

Best of luck to you, Susan, and thanks for the question! And hey, speaking of critiques . . .

The deadline for the March’s conference is Saturday, February 12!

For those procrastinators out there, (like me!) I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Eh, I have plenty of time,” right? So you toss your brochure to the side and put it off for another day.  My advice to you?



What if you get a critique with an editor or agent but you didn’t take the time to make your submission the best it can be?

Okay, it’s like this. Imagine you have a blind date at eight o’clock. It’s only five-thirty, so there’s no need to rush–you’ll get ready later. Instead, you answer some emails. Pay some bills.  Watch some TV. But then you look at the clock and realize that–holy cow–it’s seven-thirty already!  You jump in the shower but there’s no time to shave your legs even though you really need to shave your legs.

Then your date arrives.  He’s cute.  Really cute.  You hope to make a good impression, but when he brushes up against your leg, you realize with horror that he might think you’re a human cactus!

[For our gentleman readers, please substitute “legs” with “face,” and “he might think you’re a human cactus,” with “she might think you’re going fo the Don Johnson look.”]

So don’t be a cactus.  Or a Don Johnson.  Take the time to perfect your manuscript now and turn it in EARLY!  And if you’re feeling any tinges of panic, don’t worry, starting next week, I’m going to post a critique workshop  that will help get your submissions spit shined and polished. 

Until then, have a great weekend and happy writing!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”–Mark Twain


About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two college boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She clearly likes run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
This entry was posted in Author/Illustrator Events, Book Talk, Writing Tips. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Kudos, comics, queries, critiques, and cactuses

  1. Pam says:

    Thank you for the congrats, Laura! I am so happy about this book. I look forward to seeing everyone at the March conference (thanks for the reminder!), hearing you talk, and meeting your agent! Thanks again for the shout-out, and now I am going to go look for the Comic Toolbox. 🙂 Pam

  2. ediehemingway says:

    Can’t wait to get my hands on your new book, Pam! And, Laura, what a great post. You make very good points about the value of having a critique at the conference. I’ll look forward to your “critique workshop.”

  3. Wonderful! I loved reading your blog post and learning more about Pam’s book. The ABC event is on my calendar! Thanks for making me smile with your “cactus” story, too! Now, I must go order my copy of the recommended book!

  4. Lynea Bowdish says:

    I’ve had The Comic Toolbox for years, and, yes, it’s worth multiple reads. It reads well, gives lots of tips, and helps me with what is usually more instinct than it should be.

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