Picture Book (Part 3): Conference Critiques and the Cinderella Dream

So, back to writing picture books, Conference Critiques (and the Cinderella Dream).

I submitted my PB ms for a critique at the 2015 SCBWI Summer Conference, knowing full well that the true purpose of submitting for critique critiques is to get professional level feedback on the work. However, like many authors and illustrators, deep in my heart, I hoped for the Cinderella dream. You know, the one where the glass slipper fits so perfectly, the assigned agent/editor makes an immediate offer of representation/publication. Yeah. That’s the one.

 Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci, Brian Pinkney (Illustrator)

Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci, Brian Pinkney (Illustrator)

 When I arrived in LA and opened my registration package, I discovered I had been assigned a critique slot with none other than my top agent. My first thought was, “Darn, her agency has already rejected the manuscript. There goes my Cinderella dream.” My second thought was, “At least I know I’ll get a really good critique from someone I respect and admire. So, that’s a win.”

 Ella's Big Chance: A Jazz-Age Cinderella by Shirley Hughes

Ella’s Big Chance: A Jazz-Age Cinderella by Shirley Hughes

 When I stepped into the room for my critique, I was excited. But when I sat down and heard what my dream agent had to say, I became ecstatic. I took in her notes and comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the work. To hear that she loved the story and the character and the rhyme scheme, truly made my day. But the icing on the cake was to be told that, if I wasn’t already agented, she wanted to represent the book. It felt as if the glass slipper had slid onto my foot. A perfect fit!

 Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China by Ai-Ling Louie (Goodreads Author), Ed Young (Illustrator)

Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China by Ai-Ling Louie (Author), Ed Young (Illustrator)

After my initial joy, I realized that full-disclosure required I tell her another agent at her agency had rejected the project earlier in the year. She assured me that just because they worked for the same agency, didn’t mean they had to like the same things. And she liked this book.

 The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo, Ruth Heller (Illustrator)

The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo, Ruth Heller (Illustrator)

Of course, there were still revisions to be made, based on her feedback and notes. But I left there in an ecstatic daze, at the amazing gift the universe had handed me. Intent on not wasting it, I let the notes sit with me through the rest of the conference. I tried not really focusing too much on them, letting them simmer on the back-burner of my subconscious churn until I could get home and work on the ms in earnest.

 Bubba, The Cowboy Prince by Helen Ketteman, James Warhola (Illustrator)

Bubba, The Cowboy Prince by Helen Ketteman, James Warhola (Illustrator)

Once home, I turned my full attention to the work of revising the ms. I focused on strengthening the manuscript and tightening the text. As I worked, I found additional spots where I felt I could improve.

  The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin, David Shannon

 The Rough-Face Girl  by Rafe Martin, David Shannon

After a few weeks, I felt I had addressed not only the areas of concern the agent had pointed out, but also a couple of items that had jumped out at me along the way. I sent off the revised ms, with hope in my heart that I had done what was needed. Then, I waited to hear whether or not the agent was happy with the new draft.

 Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella by Susan Lowell

Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella by Susan Lowell

 Yeehaw! She was.

 Watch for future post:  Writing Picture Books Part 4-Agented Submissions