Critique Countdown: Details and Questions Answered!

Happy Thursday! It’s a damp day, but my coffee is warm, my final edits are finished, (woo-HOO,) and I’m listening to Disney’s Mouse Radio which ALWAYS puts me in a great mood! (Go ahead–just try to be grumpy while listening to Mouse Radio. You can’t, it’s impossible.)

Anyway, enough chatter. On to the business at hand.


Otherwise known as The Picture Book Challenge.  You can breathe easy . . . for now, because after talking with some writers who are interested in doing the challenge, I’m moving it to January, 2012. That way, we can focus on getting critiques ready for the conference and gird our loins for NaNoWriMo that starts on November 1st!

(I’m doing it. Are you doing it? Yes? Good.) 

Anyway, as a penalty for delaying, I’ll be extending the challenge to eight weeks and will nag . . . er, persuade as many people as possible to participate. BUT I’ve already scored some autographed books and weekly prizes to give away that will sweeten the deal!

And speaking of critiques . . .


Yeah, I know, I tend to be a little Pushy Petunia when it comes to critiques. BUT it was a critique that gave me my first break, so I really want to encourage as many people as possible to take advantage of this opportunity. And, the deadline for submission is October 20th, which . . . say it with me, you know it’s coming . . . will be here before you know it!

So, here’s the conference critique guidelines straight from the official registration page:

Faculty Manuscript/Portfolio Reviews: For an additional fee of $40, you may schedule a private portfolio review or manuscript critique. Please be aware that there are a limited number of such consultations and they will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, please note that you must be registered for the conference to participate in a manuscript critique or portfolio review.

  • DEADLINE: 20 October 2011. Sessions fill up quickly, so please be sure you get your manuscripts and payments in early.
  • If you are registering by mail, please add the $40 fee to your registration check (made out to SCBWI Eastern PA Chapter) and mail that with your registration form to Francesca Amendolia, 176 West Pomfret St., Carlisle, PA 17013. Please email your manuscript separately.

Guidelines for Writers:

  • Submit one picture book, magazine piece or up to 10 pages of a longer work. Please do not exceed 10 pages on any submission. For longer works, you may include a brief, one page synopsis in addition to your 10-page extract.
  • Your submission must be double-spaced, in 12-point Times New Roman and have 1 inch margins on all sides.
  • Your name, address, phone number, email and genre must appear at the top of the first page.
  • Please save your document in .doc format and email it as an attachment to
  • For manuscript critiques, please note that we must have both your payment and your manuscript to confirm your place.

Guidelines for Artists:

  • Please bring your portfolio to the retreat. There is no need to submit anything ahead of time.


They’re also having a first-page faculty panel, which is always a total blast and a great learning tool! Not only will you hear what makes a first page work . . . or not work, but you also get to see the audience’s reaction. So, definitely take advantage of this in hopes yours is selected. If you’re nervous, though, let me assure you that:

–  Your identity will be kept confidential. Unless, of course, everyone loves it and you stand on your chair and scream, “That was ME!  I wrote that!”  (Which, btw, I wouldn’t recommend. However, screaming inside your head and knuckle-tapping your writing buddy is perfectly acceptable. And if you don’t have a buddy there, find me and I’ll be more than happy to knuckle-tap you.)

–  No one will point at you and laugh . . . unless you are standing on your chair screaming.

–  It’s included in your registration fee. And *bonus* if your first page is read and an editor/agent loves it, there’s nothing wrong with going up to them later and letting them know you are its author. You never know where opportunity will lead you . . .

So, here’s the scoop and guidelines:

First Pages: Faculty will critique a selection of first pages in an open panel on Saturday afternoon. Everyone is invited to submit a first page, but know that there will only be time to include a few in this session.

  • One first page per attendee.
  • Hard copy, double-spaced, one-inch margins, 12pt font, 250 words MAXIMUM.
  • Do NOT put your name on your manuscript.
  • DO put the genre at the top of the page.
  • Please bring your first page with you. We will collect them at registration.

First Looks: Like first pages, but for artists! Faculty will be offering a first response to a limited number of illustrations.

  • Please submit three related — and preferably consecutive, as in a story — illustrations.
  • Electronic submissions only; images should be saved in .jpeg format, at 72 ppi, 10″ maximum on a side.
  • Do NOT put your name on the illustrations.
  • Email your images no later than 1 November 2011 to: Susan Detwiler at and put FIRST LOOK in the subject line.
  • Any questions can also be directed to her by email.


Okay.  So now that I (hopefully) have enticed you to submit a first-page, what if you’re worried it isn’t up to snuff? No problem, just refer back to:

Conference Critique Workshop #1: Opening Lines and . . .

Conference Critique Workshop #2: Amazing First Pages.

And, if this will be your first critique, then these might help as well:

Conference Critique Workshop #3: Formatting

Conference Critique Workshop #4: Surviving Your First Critique

Conference Critique Workshop #5: Perfecting Your Book Pitch.

Still have questions? No problem, fire away.

How will I know my manuscript is ready to be submitted for a critique?

Seriously, you’re asking me this? I never think my work is ready, so I have no clue.  However, a less OCD author might be able to help by asking the following questions.

–  Did you get your story critiqued by writing buddies or a critique group?

–  Did you listen to what your critique buddies had to offer and not just say, “Well, maybe they’re right, but if I changed that part, then I’d have to change this part and I don’t have the time, so I’m just going to submit it anyway and hope my reviewer doesn’t notice,” because guess what, baby . . . they will notice.

–  Did you make sure your manuscript is formatted correctly?

–  Did you do everything you can to make the manuscript the very best it can be?

If you’ve answered yes to the above, then take a deep breath, ship that sucker out, and then have a cookie as a reward. You deserve it.

Should I request to be reviewed by an editor or agent?

Sure, it wouldn’t hurt. And if there’s an editor or agent you feel would be a better fit for your manuscript, then go ahead and mention it. Politely. Understand, though, that there are no guarantees who you will be assigned to. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a cordial, “I know there are no guarantees, but if it’s at all possible, I’d love to be critiqued by *insert name,* and thanks for your hard work!” 

Also, your odds of scoring your reviewer of choice will increase if you get your submission in EARLY before slots are filled and not wait for the deadline. So chop, chop, chop, get to it!

If I don’t get an editor/agent, is it worth my money to be critiqued by an author?


Um . . . a little more detail, please?

Okay, we all want the heavy hitters. However, when it comes to conferences, each and every moment should be viewed as an opportunity to further your career, including critiques.

For example, I was totally bummed once about being assigned to a non-fiction editor. However, not only did the editor offer me invaluable advice, she also offered to read my entire novel. Worth the fee? Absolutely.  Plus, I’ve had  author critiques that have not only helped me better my novel, but also lead to great contacts and friendships that benefited me down the road.

Plus there’s also the chance that maybe your manuscript isn’t ready to be seen by an editor. You never know, the author who reviews it just might mention something that will spark your imagination and help you take that manuscript to a new, sellable level!

 Money is tight, and I’m not sure I can afford a critique. Should I wait until next time?

Yikes, I totally hear you on the money concerns. I mean, seriously, our budget is tight, tight, tight.


You are a writer. Or an illustrator. Writing/illustrating is your business. Conferences aren’t just social events–they are business opportunities that can help further your career . . . which is what you’re writing/drawing for. So, if it’s possible, then do whatever you can to make it work. I know I am.

And, if you have any more questions about critiques, conferences, registration or anything else, feel free to leave a message below!

Now, get those critiques ready! 🙂

Happy writing!

Laura Bowers


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.
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4 Responses to Critique Countdown: Details and Questions Answered!

  1. ediehemingway says:

    Thanks for this beneficial and timely post! I think this tri-regional conference is going to offer some amazing opportunities.

  2. What a great post, Laura! Very informative..and made me laugh…a lot! Wish I could make it to the conference, but I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to this one. Darn. I might try the PBC, though. Can’t wait to hear more about it!

  3. Pingback: Good News and Conference Info! « As the Eraser Burns

  4. Karen Jo says:

    I am unable to access the mail-in registration form. It appears that the link is broken.
    Can we reach the mail-in form another way? Could it be attached as a file in the Yahoo group or as an attached file to this blog?

    Karen Jo

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