Thursday, February 4, 2021

Check Out Rate Your Story's Targeted Speedpass Judges for February, 2021

Rate Your Story is NOW offering Targeted Speedpasses with our "Judge of the 
Month" for both Members and Non-Members. We have three options available -- a Two Speedpass Judges that will rotate and and option to get a Rating and Feedback from our owner, Lynne Marie. All three Judges are published in rhyme and take rhymed picture book manuscripts, but Kirsti and Lynne Marie will also take regular picture book manuscripts, and Lynne Marie is published in non-fiction and will take non-fiction picture books. 

These can be accessed through this link: Speedpass

We are pleased to show our love for Targeted Speedpass Judges of the Month, Kirsti Call and Brenda Reeves Sturgis. 

First, let's learn a little bit about Kirsti.  

1. To what do you owe your success in becoming a picture book author?

Grit, determination, and knowing success lives in the neighborhood of failure.

2.  If you could recommend one craft book for Members to read, what would
it be?

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul

 3.  Name a picture book that you love and tell us why?

I adore DANDY, by Ame Dykeman, illustrated by Charles Santoso because it combines the perfect amount of humor and heart.

4.  Where do you find inspiration for your stories? 

My kids, my childhood, news stories, my work as a therapist, music--anywhere and everywhere...

5.  What do you feel is your strong suit in picture book writing? 

Wordplay.  And idioms.  Puns.  They moooooove me.  (I can't help mo-self with the cow puns. See bio below)

6.  What kind of books do you like best? 

I love books that make me laugh out loud.  But I also adore books that tug at my heartstrings. 

7.  Red or Pink? Why?

Impossible choice. My coat and glasses are red. But if I had to choose a pen color?  Pink all the way.  

8.  Share something you are passionate about.

I'm passionate about writing books that make people feel, and helping writers use their gifts to change the world for the better.

9.  What is something that no one knows about you? 

I speak Portuguese.  

10. What writing tip do you have for our Members? 

Read your manuscripts aloud and listen for the way your story sings. Change any words that don't flow, and have someone else read your story to you.  
Sing. Revise. Sing. Revise. Repeat until every word in your story harmonizes beautifully.

Kirsti Call co-hosts the PICTURE BOOK LOOK podcast and co-runs ReFoReMo. She's a critique ninja and elf for 12x12, a blogger for Writers' Rumpus, and a Rate Your Story judge. She's judged the CYBILS award for fiction picture books since 2015. Kirsti is a therapist trained life coach for creatives. Her picture book, MOOTILITA'S BAD MOOD (Little Bee) released last fall. COW SAYS MEOW (HMH) and COLD TURKEY (Little Brown) release in 2021. Kirsti is represented by Emma Sector at Prospect Agency.

And now, let's meet Brenda Reeves Sturgis...

We are pleased to introduce another one of our Resident Rhymers - Targeted Speedpass Judge of the Month, Brenda Reeves Sturgis. Among Brenda's books are TEN TURKEYS IN THE ROAD, STILL A FAMILY, THE LAKE WHERE LOON LIVES, (fill in, please.) She will be only taking rhyme at this time. 

1. To what do you owe your success in becoming a picture book author?

That is a really great question. When I began my writing journey in 2004, NOBODY ever told me how difficult it is. So, being as green as I was, I jumped off the dock and plunged in and swam, and believed I could. At that time nothing was done online, submissions were snail mail. I had the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market Guidebook, and Kelly DiPucchio was featured. She is incredible, a fabulous rhymer, so I emailed her and asked her if she would critique for me. She agreed. I was nervous, as most new writers are, I waited with bated breath. Here is exactly what she said, “You have a natural ability to hear and write rhyme. You write rhyme better than people that have studied it for years.” She talked about how good my meter was.  Do you want to know what I said? I responded, “What is meter?” Honestly, it is so embarrassing now, but it’s the truth and an important part of my story. Throughout the years, through the mountains of rejections, her words sparked a desire in me to keep going, and so that is what I do. I continue on...

2. If you could recommend one craft book for Members to read, what would it be?

I do not have just one that I would recommend. I would say READ whatever books on writing picture books that you can, because you will extract what speaks to you. I would also say to read rhyming picture books. As many as you can, from as many different authors that you can, because you will see what works and you will see what doesn’t. Rhyming picture books are a different beast all together, children’s publishing is difficult, getting published in rhyme harder even still. But, the traditionally-published ones can be such an auditory gift. Read Lisa Wheeler, read Kelly DiPucchio, read Karma Wilson, read my late critique partner’s (Carrie Clickard’s) books, read the late Linda Smith, Mrs. Biddlebox, read, read, read. The more you read, the more you hear. 

3. Name a picture book that you love and tell us why.

I have a few that I love, that make my heart soar. Mrs. Biddlebox, by the late Linda Smith. I love it, everything about it, it is a little dark but the story I heard, was that she was in the hospital having been diagnosed with cancer and she wrote it on napkins and on her arms, it is a strong piece of writing. I adore John Lithgow’s Micawber, sublime writing. When I judge for Rate Your Story, sometimes I come across something that just leaves me breathing heavy, that makes me want to cry, that’s when I know something is spectacular. 

4. Where do you find inspiration for your stories from?

I find my inspiration in little every day things, turkeys blocking a road, the hoot of a lakeside loon, or an online discussion about the need for a book on homelessness. 

5. What do you feel is your strong suit in picture book writing?

My strong suit is my ability to hear and write in any rhyme in any meter. I only have to read something once or twice and then like a musician that plays by ear, I can convert my stories into that exact meter. It gives me the ability to have some versatility, but sadly it isn’t a very useful skill for everyday life stuff. :) 

6. What kinds of books do you like best?

I love rhyming books, but reading for pure enjoyment, I love biographies and non-fiction. 

7.  Red or pink? Why?

Red is a powerful color, a color of confidence. Pink is a sweet color, a color of innocence. I love them both depending on the day, but my favorite color is lilac. 

8. Share something you are passionate about. 

I am passionate about making a difference every day, wherever I can. It’s my motto in life, “Give everything you have and a little bit more.” Somedays that means going the extra mile for the family I nanny for by doing all of their laundry, somedays its paying for the person behind me, (this is something I do often) sometimes it’s buying a coat and a meal for someone that is homeless, sometimes it’s offering a compliment or a kind word, sometimes it’s leaving a $100.00 tip for a hardworking waiter or waitress. 

9. What is something no one knows about you?

I love the smell of skunks, I have a learning disability, and I always always have a pillow on my lap!

10. What writing tip do you have for our Members?

Above all else, you HAVE to believe you can. No matter what! Work hard. Be kind. Be gracious. Be appreciative. Go the extra mile.  

Brenda Sturgis is the author of 10 Turkeys in the Road - illustrated by David Slonim (Marshall Cavendish/Amazon/Scholastic, 2011), The Lake Where Loon Lives – illustrated by Brooke Carleton (Islandport Press, 2014) and Touchdown -- illustrated by Trey Chavez (MeeGenius, 2014). Her latest picture book, Still A Family, came out in 2017 and was named a top 100 book from the New York Public Library and a top 20 book from Mighty Girl. You can visit her at

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