Monday, July 22, 2019

COMMENTARY: Insights from a PB Chat Mentor by Lynne Marie and SPECIAL SUBSCRIBER OFFERS for Applicants


INSIGHTS FROM A PB CHAT MENTOR
by Lynne Marie

I wanted to share thoughts as I go through the large pile of candidates for the #PB CHAT Mentorship as I hope it will share some necessary insights that may be useful to any of the applicants in other submission opportunities.

IT'S NOT PERSONAL
I'll be honest - when I opened each application, I read the story first, and then read the application itself with varied levels of interest.

Here's the reason behind that -- if the story is not a one that I connect with or feel I can be helpful with, then it's likely not a good choice for me or for you. This doesn't even necessarily say anything about the writing, the viability of the idea, although those can and might be factors.

My first run through applications was merely to choose a story that I had interest in as I will likely be spending time with it. In fact, I made a list of names and topics to help narrow down my selection. Of course, all of these, I felt I could be of assistance to as a mentor. And I'll be further honest -- the topics of my shorter list, for the most part, had animal hooks (with the exception of a few intriguing stories about witches, ballerinas and scientists and a balloon).

What does this say about me (or an editor or agent)? That I prefer anthropomorphic or animal stories, that I don't mind stories about inanimate objects and that I like colorful, focused characters, like witches, ballerinas and/or scientists. There had to be something for me that made the story stand out. For example, amidst all the sloths, dinosaurs and sea animals (don't get me wrong, I have two sloth stories, several sea animal stories and several dinosaur stories as well), a story about a yak (I actually have one of those too), was quite refreshing and nice to see! It stood out!

ATTRACTING EDITORS AND AGENTS:
You will find that personal taste dictates to editors and agents, too, so it is a really good idea to get to know your editor/agent and what they like/what appeals to them. Of course, you won't have extensive bios like us mentors filled out. But there are ways to get this information, like the Spotlight Features I write about Editors / Agents for Children's Book Insider (www.writeforkids.com), searching Publisher's Marketplace if you have a subscription and doing online research or reading conference bios. I have to also admit that my shortlist wasn't much shorter than my original list. Most applicants did a good job of sending a story on a topic that would appeal to me!

But my main point here, is that not once did I consider or not consider anyone based upon personal details. And please know that editors, also, are not reacting against you, either! They are merely going with the story that speaks to them (for whatever reason personal to them). Don't give up -- make your story the best it can be and find someone who your story speaks to!

GOOD WRITING
There were so many well-written manuscripts. But there weren't quite as many well-told stories. I hope this make sense, as I think it can prove entirely helpful. A phrase I often repeat is: "Good writing and a token can get you on the New York City subway." Because it takes more -- it takes good storytelling, and if you can start to appreciate the difference, your picture book manuscripts will improve greatly.

Put your manuscript away for a bit, and the next time you read it, shake yourself out and try to listen with some distance (not as the author). Read it aloud -- is the beginning hooking? Is the story engaging? Is the language lyrical? What bumps you out of the story or confuses or distracts you? Start to train your inner critic. Don't just write well, tell a compelling story.

THINGS THAT NEEDED WORK
Of course, these are things that I will address with my chosen Mentee in our Mentorship, but for those wonderful, promising authors that I regrettably will not be able to work with (since I can only select one), here are areas of concern.

Surprisingly, there were quite a few manuscripts that:

Didn't have an intriguing title.

Gave away the ending in the title.

Didn't present a hook in the beginning to keep the interest flowing.

Didn't really have a lot of conflict (if at all) or tension.

Felt quite common and didn't stand out quite well enough. Even as a reader, I was looking for fresh new slants that stand out above the rest.

Didn't have a compelling problem.

Had adult interference or distraction early on in the manuscript. I really wanted to read about the child and see what they wanted and what drove them and their story.

Had language that was kind of blah.

Didn't focus on emotional reactions of the characters.

Didn't have a main character that drove the story forward to a satisfying ending.

Didn't hit on that quality that a kid will be able to readily identify with and a flaw/problem that will inspire a child to root for it.

I do hope that you find these comments helpful. Please sign up to follow this blog for more helpful tips and offers.

IN CLOSING:
I have spent the better part of the day since 8 AM on this have only completed a quick first run.

I will be reviewing again tomorrow, looking at a list of other items of consideration which I hope to have time to also share with you.

I hope all of you know that we Mentors are striving to make the best possible match with our personality and style and do not in any way get discouraged, but merely dust yourself off and stay in the game (tip: that's how to win). I am happy to offer a FREE PITCH CRITIQUE to anyone who follows this blog and who does not get selected for a Mentorship on 7/30. Believe it or not, once you have perfected your pitch, it is often enlightening and helps you write and make sense of your story.

Please note that this is a first-come, first served offer, and that there is no promised time-frame for return as I often get very busy with critiques. But I will do each one, and I will return them in the order received. They must be sent to THEPICTUREBOOKMECHANIC@GMAIL.COM. And you must comment here, that you have sent an e-mail with a pb title pitch and any other comment you wish to make. I will post here when the offer has expired. Until then, feel free to submit (1) pitch for critique.

JUST KEEP WRITING, JUST KEEP WRITING! 





BOOK A VACATION PACKAGE, 
GET A FREE MENTOR SESSION
(when you return from your trip!) 


51 comments:

  1. While I didn't apply for your mentorship because I didn't think my ms was a good fit, I've found your tips and suggestions very helpful and keeps it all in perspective. Good Luck finding your mentee!

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    1. Awww, thank you, Lisa Lee Furness! I am so happy that you are finding the tips and suggestions helpful. I wish you all the best and hope you find a match!

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  2. Thank you, Lynne Marie, for your valuable tips and suggestions. I can already see where I can make improvements. It's wonderful to be part of such a 'giving' community. I have emailed a pb pitch to you - A Turtle Called Moe. (I hope I understood your offer correctly.) Good luck choosing the manuscript that's right for you! Announcement day can't get here soon enough. :)

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    1. Oh, Jill! That is so wonderful to hear. That is just what I had hoped for. Thank you for sharing this with me. I am happy to take a look at your pitch as time allows and hope that you will find that exercise helpful as well!

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  3. Thank you, Lynne for the great writing checklist! I will start training that inner critic. And thank you for giving back to the writing community!

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    1. You are very welcome, Lori! I will be expanding on it, so please check back. Training your inner critic will help you run the publication marathon better each time! Good luck in all you do!

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  4. Wise words, Lynne. I'm taking your advice very seriously and plan to review, revise, and reconstruct my ms/s as needed. Your generosity is greatly appreciated. Sending a pitch for LUCY LEFTOUT!

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    1. I am glad you can see the importance of it. These are check points that helped me make progress so I am happy to share them. I look forward to reading the pitch for Lucy Leftout and will return as soon as I can.

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  5. Great suggestions! Thank you for sharing insight so that many of us may benefit. Much appreciated!

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    1. Awww, thanks, Marci! I'm happy that you found it helpful.

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  6. Such excellent tips, Lynne Marie. I choose my mentors by my mss and what they wrote, so I kinda already followed a bit of your advice. Above and beyond to write this post for us pre-pubbed peeps. TY for the time, expertise, and for being a mentor.

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    1. Oooh, I am so glad you did, Kathy! I'm hoping you hit the mark and get a match! Wishing you all the best!

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  7. Thanks for the insight and the amazing offer! I sent an email 😊

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  8. Mentees haven't been announced yet, but I didn't want to miss out on this generous offer for a pitch critique, so I emailed you! Thanks for sharing your expertise, Lynne.

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    1. I don't know if you got a Mentor, Susan Johnston, but fingers crossed!

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  9. Great, thank you for subscribing, Susan Johnston! E-mail received and in the queue! Good luck!

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  10. Hi Lynne Marie, thank you for this brilliant opportunity, I have emailed you my pitch for my PB manuscript, Punkerella.
    Thank you so much,

    Stacey Miller

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    1. Got it, thanks! Will get to it as soon as I can! Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground.

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  11. Thank you Lynne Marie! I have emailed you a story pitch. I also appreciated your comments on this blog post... a great list to refer to for revisions! Any tips on how to write an intriguing title... I'm currently struggling with this! Thanks again:)

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    1. OOOh, thanks, Vashti! That gave me a great idea -- I can make a post on titles and offer some title tips. Have a great day and thanks for stopping by My Word Playground!

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  12. I've sent you an email with a pitch for GROUNDHOG CAN'T CLIMB. Thanks so much for doing this, and for being a PBChat mentor.

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    1. Thanks for participating, Jim, and thanks for stopping by My Word Playground!

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  13. Thank you, Lynne, for your insight and time in looking at my submission. I appreciate your dedication to this community!

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    1. You came up as unknown...perhaps there's away to fix this? Not sure who this is. But thanks for your kind words, nonetheless and thanks for stopping by My Word Playground.

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  14. Great post and offer, Lynne Marie. Thanks for taking the time to put it together. It doesn't seem as if we had to have applied to you specifically for a mentorship (just thought a couple others were a better fit for my work) if that is the case, I'd love to take you up on the offer for pitch critique--when you have the time. Happy Friday!

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    1. Please do -- I am making my way through them, slowly but surely! Nice to meet you Elizabeth! Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground! Please remember that you must be subscribed to the blog.

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  15. Excellent tips, Lynne. Thanks for all you do for the kid lit community and for this generous offer. I'll be sending my pitch for IF YOU WERE LIKE A SLUG.

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    1. Thanks, Cheryl -- I am looking so forward to reading this and am happy to be a part of your journey!

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  16. Thank you, Lynne, for the encouragement and the tips that you shared in your post. It's super helpful! I would love help with a pitch for one of my picture book stories, if there is still room. I will send you an email shortly. I wish you a great weekend.

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    1. You are very welcome. I do hope you found the feedback helpful! Good luck!

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  17. Thank you so much, Lynne, your critique for my pitch was brilliant and very helpful, thank you so much.

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    1. Awww, thank you so very much, Blondie! I am so very happy to hear this! Good luck to you!

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  18. Understanding this decision making process is incredibly helpful, Lynne. Thank you for sharing this and your generous offer to critique a pitch. I'll send it along in moments.

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    1. The title of the story for my pitch is WHOA, MARTHA CHICKEN!

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    2. Thank you, Dea! I do hope you find the feedback helpful! Good luck!

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  19. Lynne, this is very generous of you. I have emailed a pitch for STORY TIME!

    Kristina Cooper Castillo

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    1. Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground, Kristina! So nice to meet you!

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  20. Thank you for the advice within your blog! Since you were a mentor I applied to, I'll be looking over my manuscript again with those tips in mind. The title of the pitch for critique I am sending you is THE GREAT MUSHROOM HUNT. Thank you again!

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    1. I'm so happy to hear on Twitter that my feedback was helpful. Thank you for sharing. Good luck to you!

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  21. All of this advice is so helpful! Thank you for volunteering your time to offer pitch critiques. I will be sending the pitch for DRAGON DANCE. Thank you so much for this offer.

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    1. I am so pleased that the advice proved helpful. Best of luck to you with Dragon Dance.

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  22. Thank you for this opportunity! That is so generous of you. I plan to be working at my MSs pitches by reading jacket flaps. Your idea from the CBA webinar you did, which had marvelous tips. I sent you my pitch for SAM, THE LONELY SCARECROW.

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    1. Dear Tracy: I hope you found my comments helpful! Write on!

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  23. Lu Pierro here. Thank you Lynne. I found your blog very helpful. I appreciate your insights into my newest PB MARY JANES. Thank you for all you do for the lit. community.

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    1. Dear Lu Pierro! I am glad you are finding the blog helpful and hope my feedback on Mary Janes was inspiring. Wishing you all the best!

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  24. Thank you so much for your kind offer and words of encouragement. I just sent my pitch your way. Thank you! - Mary Ann Blair

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    1. You are very welcome, @MalChipper. Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground!

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  25. Thanks for your blog post Lynne, there are some good gems here. And thanks for your offer of a PB pitch critique - that's super generous of you. I have emailed a pitch for my PB Albie Listened. Thanks again)
    Cheers Kirsten

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    1. Thanks for sharing Albie Listened, Kirsten. I hope you found the feedback helpful!

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