I received one critique on my query letter from the editor at the writing workshop. She said, “You need to have right here that you are a member of SCBWI.”
“I should join them, then?” I asked.
“Honestly,” she said, “If you want to be a children’s book writer and you’re NOT a member of the largest international organization of children’s book writers, well …”
And so, the next day I paid the hundred bucks and joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It felt good.
And the first thing I did was get myself a critique group.
My paragraph bio sat on the region’s group list for about a month. I kept meaning to go e-mail some of these people, but it was a crazy month. Thank goodness somebody contacted me.
Well, last month I couldn’t go because of all the myriad of children who need me to stay here and be a Mom. But, this month I shoved my kids at my husband and trekked the short bit across town to the group.
I took a new picture book I’ve been working on. It’s a good story. I was feeling like it ran long in places, but it was under a thousand words, so I left it.
Now, normally I pride myself on my professional writing skills. Edit this? No problem. Kill off my favorite side character? Without hesitation. I am an editing machine, excepting today. Today it stung.
For starters the lovely lady reading mine, read it slow, so slow and so sweetly. My peppery sassy little book sounded so awkward and long.
The first comment was, “I hear picture books are supposed to be under a thousand words.”
“It is,” I said crisply.
And then they talked about how the illustrator was going to illustrate it, unhelpful.
And there was other stuff. Some of which was (ouch!) very, VERY true.
So, here I am butchering and stitching back together, a cold-blooded serial editor. I imagine the road to publication littered with the pale corpses of pretty characters and turns of phrase once brilliant, now dull and peeling. In my one thousand words, not one is safe.
Except my first sentence, I’m rather attached to my first sentence. I don’t care what you or they or anybody says, I’m keeping the first sentence.