How I Spent my Summer

scbwi.2My summer began with a writing conference sponsored by the New Jersey chapter of SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It was a great experience. I signed up for a peer critique, where we were divided into groups of four and received the first 15 pages of each other’s work to review. Thanks to that, I now have a new critique partner. I loved her book and she loved mine, too, and we both had useful suggestions that would improve our work. The best kind of mutual admiration society!

I also signed up for a critique from an editor at a well-respected children’s publishing house. She had some great comments which opened my eyes to areas where I need to better my writing, comments which will help not only with this book, but all of my fiction projects. It was a privilege to be able to receive this kind of feedback.

In addition to that, there were great lectures and opportunities to meet with other writers and illustrators, both published and unpublished, who work in everything from picture books to those geared for older teens.

Leeza Hernandez, one of the principal conference organizers and a published author and illustrator. Her books include the adorable Cat Napped! She was incredibly helpful when I hit a snag during registration.

Leeza Hernandez, one of the principal conference organizers and a published author and illustrator. Her books include the adorable Cat Napped! She was incredibly helpful when I hit a snag during registration.

I spent the rest of the summer revising my novel about a 13-year-old witch who is uprooted from her comfortable life in a little town where everyone is a witch and thrust into what we would call the “real” world. Her particular witching talent is the ability to understand and speak to animals in their various languages, and she uses this ability to investigate the strange rash of supernatural fires that breaks out in her new, supposedly ordinary, town.

I sent the revised version on to my new critique partner a couple of days ago. I was also accepted for another New Jersey children’s conference where I’ll be matched with a writing professional—an editor, agent, or writer—for further critique. Stay tuned for further developments!

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A Daphne Finalist

The phone call came a few months ago at work. “Your book is a Daphne Finalist!”

“It is?” My voice shot up two octaves into an ecstatic squeal. After the call, I worried that I’d given the Daphne coordinator a massive earache.

Author Daphne du Maurier

Author Daphne du Maurier

The next two days were a flurry of polishing the first 25 pages for the final round, then I headed over to my website and drafted a new home page, waiting to release it until the names of the finalists were officially up on the contest website.

The Daphne du Maurier contest is run by the Kiss of Death chapter of the Romance Writers of America, a chapter that focuses specifically on romantic suspense. (Check out the website’s cute video introduction!) Every year, unpublished writers are invited to submit the first few pages of their novels in various categories of romance as well as a “mainstream” category of suspense that isn’t required to have romantic elements. My main writers’ groups, Sisters in Crime and its online “Guppy” chapter, always post details of the contest, usually open for entries from mid-February to mid-March of each year.

kiss of death 3I’ve been entering mainstream category of the Daphne contest for the last seven or eight years now, and I’ve always appreciated the generous feedback. Comments from the judges have given me much needed encouragement (writers have such frail egos!) while at the same time providing valuable direction for ways to improve my work. It’s been encouraging to see my scores gradually go up over the years, proof that all that hard work of rewriting and attending to craft is beginning to pay off. A few years ago, my scores came very close, and though they were not close enough to make the finals, it was still a real boost to get overwhelmingly positive reviews from each of the four judges. Prior to that, one or two always seemed to love my entry, but the rest—didn’t. So that alone was a thrill.

And now, I’m thrilled even more! I am so grateful to all the wonderful volunteers who take the time to judge and coordinate this marvelous learning opportunity for writers, year after year. I know that for me personally the Daphne contest has been a major factor in developing my work. Words of praise from judges who loved my voice and my work sustained me during periods of doubt, and words from those same judges, pointing out ways to improve along with their praise, have been some of my best guides, lampposts along the way.

Curious about my book? It’s an urban fantasy suspense set in Paris. Link here for the teaser on my home page.

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