Just finished putting together my package for a school visit with Suzanne’s 4th grade class

With every school visit I make I try to provide the kids with an enriching experience that will both inspire and help them to grow. My most recent package includes:

  1. An art exercise and accompanying parent permission slip. With parental permission I will post each child’s art online so they can be proud and show it off to all their friends and relatives.
  2. An art critique exercise for the students to give me feedback on some of my clay artwork.
  3. A singed letter from me to each student to remember the experience by.
  4. A free personalized Alien Alphabet bookmark with the student’s name on it.

During the visit itself I will:

  • Explain the role of a writer’s critique group and how that helps a writer to make a better story and become a better writer.
  • Explain the journey most authors take toward becoming published. Explain the role of an agent and publisher and the writing and editing process.
  • Explain how to critique a picture book story.
  • Read one of the stories I am actively seeking publication on.
  • Have the students give me a critique on my story and explain that they will help my story to be better.
  • Read a second one of my stories that I’m actively seeking publication on.
  • Have the students critique this story.
  • Wrap up my school visit with the announcement of the freebies that their teacher is about to hand out and say goodbye and thank you!

I can’t wait, this is going to be another really great visit!

An outline for critiquing children’s books and illustrations: Critique Group Kick-off

This is what I put together for my first critique group meeting to help facilitate good, constructive feedback.  If you notice that I missed anything please reply with your suggestions.  Thanks!

Things to consider: Manuscript

  • Is the protagonist likable?
  • Is the protagonist well defined or somewhat flat?
  • What is the problem to be solved?  Is it introduced early enough?
  • Is it a problem the reader should care about? Why/why not?
  • Is there rising tension?
  • What is the turning point / Turning points?
  • Is a failure reached before the turning point?
  • How does the protagonist overcome the failure/problem?
  • Is there a satisfying ending? Could it be improved? How?
  • Is there cultural authenticity?
  • Theme: Is there a meaningful message and a satisfactory closure without being sermonizing?
  • Voice: Is there a clear voice coming through in the story? 
  • Do all the loose ends get tied up at the end and reference back to the story’s beginning?
  • Grammar / punctuation

Things to consider: Illustration

  • Does the art support and enhance the understanding of the story?
  • Do you see the character develop through the illustrations?
  • Do the illustrations convey feeling or mood?
  • Is the expression/feeling conveyed as intended?
  • Do illustrations facilitate appropriate story pacing? Do they prompt the reader to turn page fast or slow down, as intended?
  • Is the art appropriate for the story?
  • Does the story convey the tension described in the text?

Critique group principles

Be supportive of each other’s writing/illustrating goals.
Provide valuable, constructive feedback to help improve a specific story/illustration. Encourage development of each other as a writer/illustrator.

Giving feedback

 1st. Identify something you like about the story/illustration.  Explain why you like it.

2nd. Describe with as much detail as possible what you feel could be improved, why, and provide strategies to improve it if possible.

Receiving feedback

  • Even the very best and most experienced authors go through an iterative revision process, and their editors often require slashing of significant material.  Constructive feedback will help you improve your story and your writing.
  • If you disagree with what one person says, that’s good.  If you disagree with what a number of people say or feel, you may want to re-evaluate.
  • Sometimes critics are wrong!  After re-evaluating, go with your gut.

#NESCBWI Spring Conference (Friday Reflections)

Today was such a fantastic day at the children’s writing conference!  I met a whole lot of great and interesting people, and introduced myself to the writing community at the open mic.  Too many great people to mention all of them, but I wanted to give a shout out to a few specific people.

Alicia Gregoire hosted a really fun open mic session.  I signed up to be the first to speak and made some great new “fans” and even got my first groupie!  Well, okay, Jan and Karin are not really groupies but we were all having a lot of fun nonetheless.  Open mic was a lot of fun and if the video I made came out half-decent I’ll post it.  After me Matt read some interesting poetry and then @papajfunk knocked out a homerun with a great breakfast food gone wild story.

After the open mic I met up with folks from my region including Tamar Shay, another author/illustrator who a few years back invented a baby paperwork organizer.
From there Heather Kelly (@HeatherGKelly) came up to me and started chatting.  We both eventually realized that earlier in the week she had answered the questions I asked about the conference on Twitter.  It was a ton of fun to hang with Heather and her friends tonight!

When I have a chance I’ve got some photo’s to post. It’s too late now, almost 2 AM.  I’m always staying up too late!  Good night.

NESCBWI Spring Conference And My New Facebook Fan Page

I’ve been staying up late and working really hard trying to get everything done before the NESCBWI.org Spring Conference coming up in just a few days. I was hoping to have my new web site created (check), my Facebook fan page created (check), refined and practiced pitches for four books (nope) and have a meaningful display for my clay illustrations (nope). Since I’m trying to accomplish a lot with not enough time and not really knowing too well about putting such things together, I think I’ve done fairly well, but I’ve fallen a little short of where I hoped to be.

I would really appreciate it if you would take a look at my Facebook Page and let me know what looks good and what doesn’t. I read up on image size and figured out most of it, however, the image for my clay alien letter B is slightly blurred. I think this is due to Facebook re-sizing the image even though I created it in the dimensions and file size it needs to be. Oh well. At this point I’ve got about a day or so to try and print some business cards and post cards, and I also want to make a couple of iron on decals so I can wear my work while I meet people. I’m really looking forward to making new friends at the conference and trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible about writing for children. I’ve really worked hard with my writing, illustration, and my platform this year. I can’t wait to listen to what other writers and illustrators are working on, and share my story with them.

If you’re going to the conference please by all means tap me on the shoulder and introduce yourself. I really enjoy making new friends!

Welcome to my Brand New Web Site

Hello and welcome to my home.  I’m Drew.  I write children’s books and illustrate using clay.  You can find me on twitter @drewdyerauthor, and on my parenting blog parentauthor.com.  I’m also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  I hope you enjoy my book reviews and blog posts about writing.

My writing voice captures the essence of what it means to be a child.  My writing is true innocence and unbridled enthusiasm.  Imagine a young child chasing after an ice cream truck after a hot day on the beach.  I write with fun, excitement and mischief.  My words and art jump to life right alongside the gingerbread man after popping out of the oven.  

Run, run, run as fast as you can…