Today I am delighted to have fellow Poets’ Garage member Carrie Finison as my guest blogger. Like me, Carrie is passionate about poetry and rhyming. I also recently discovered that we share another love – berry picking. Take it away, Carrie!
When it comes to berry-picking, I’m a lot like Robert McCloskey’s Sal — one for the bucket, three in my mouth. Recently, I started thinking about the parallels between “berrying” (I’ll invoke my poetic license for that one) and the critique process.
You have to look hard to find the best berries.
Good berry patches are often hidden. But once you discover them you can go back year after year. Similarly, it takes time to find quality critique partners. I’ve gathered mine in several places: community education classes, SCBWI conferences, Verla Kay’s Blueboards, and online challenges like Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month and Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge.
Some berries (and critiques) are sweet; some are sour.
Like berries, some critiques ooze sweetness. Some are so sour your lips pucker. The best critiques are a mix of the two — they blend encouragement and specific comments on strengths with constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement. And they taste just right.
Watch out for prickles!
Sometimes you must guard against prickles when harvesting critique comments. Nobody understood the scene you loved. The words you carefully selected were deemed “bland.” Your main character was not likeable. But press on through these thorns, and learn from them, and your work will be stronger – and you might learn some tricks for avoiding prickles the next time.
Timing is everything.
Berries are delicious when they’re ripe — but can be inedible when picked too early or too late. I’ve found that my manuscripts also have a ‘right time’ for critiquing. If it’s too early, the comments focus on issues I knew were problematic and should have fixed. If I wait too long, it gets harder to scrap my precious words in favor of another approach.
Take care of your berry patch. A berry patch needs pruning and care to produce great berries. As a writer, I try to take care of my critique partners by making the critiques I give as thoughtful as I can. It has been just as valuable to be on the giving end of critiques as on the receiving end.
Carrie Finison tries to read, write, and rhyme every day. She writes a variety of forms for children and her poems and stories have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Babybug, Ladybug, High Five, and Highlights magazines, and the sports poetry anthology And the Crowd Goes Wild! (August, 2012). In addition, she writes and develops content for educational publishers. She does all this from an ever-shrinking amount of space on her kitchen counter in Arlington, Massachusetts.