Friday, November 23, 2012

Rate Your Story Closed to 2012 Submissions

Hi All!

Thanks for a really great year!  We had a record number of submissions last month, and we're still getting through the last couple weeks of November submissions.

We would like to let you know that we are closed to general submissions for the remainder of the year.

(Please note that this does NOT apply to conference attendees who have received a handout with instructions for submitting even when we are closed.  Please follow the guidelines given to you by Miranda Paul at the conference.)

If you submitted on or before November 22, 2012 we will return your critique before the end of the year. Any submissions received after that date and before January 2, 2013 will be deleted (sorry, our wonderful panel of volunteer judges need some time off).

Throughout December, we'll post a few updates and possibly a giveaway or two.  And don't forget that we are accepting inquiries if you'd like to be a guest poster on Rate Your Story.  Our pageviews per month have peaked over 2,700.  Consider writing an article with the aim of getting good exposure and reaching a wide audience of pre-published and aspiring authors.  Just send us a proposal for your article to our email at the contact page.

Have a Safe and Happy New Year!

Rate Your Story

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Final Day of Celebration!

As our birthday celebration comes to a close on Halloween (and we turn back into pumpkins at midnight tonight), we're admittedly a little sad.

However, it's time for us to get back to work critiquing your manuscripts with fervor!  And that we shall do.  We've been a little lazy lately.  (OK, that's just Miranda.  But she swears it's because she's been busy writing and editing.)

As you may have imagined, however, we can't end the month without one more prize winner!

And the winner of TWO free, full manuscript critiques is...


Gary: send us an email with your contact info and we'll get you the details about submitting up to two manuscripts for a free line-edit critiques (including a pitch or cover letter if you've got them!).

Now, to end with even more good news.

The good news is:

Rate Your Story will be OPEN to submissions for a few more weeks yet before closing down over the holiday season.  Last year, we had multiple closures in November -- but this year, we're staying open until Thanksgiving Day.  That's right, folks, you've got until November 22 to get us your manuscripts–and we promise to have them back to you before the year is out, so you can polish them up and get ready to submit in the New Year!

Have a safe and happy Halloween! Now get writing!


Rate Your Story

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More Birthday Prizes!

Hi all,

It's Wednesday!  

We know you've been waiting for the drawing, so I promise to get to that very soon.  But first...a little good news.

RYS Judge Jill Esbaum has another book contract!
From Publisher's Lunch: Author of Tom's Tweet, Jill Esbaum's ELWOOD BIGFOOT, LOVE THOSE BIRDIES, in which a desperately-lonely bigfoot moves into a tree hoping to befriend the neighborhood birdies, but his boisterous personality makes it tough to convince them he's harmless, to Alli Brydon at Sterling Children's, by Rosemary Stimola at Stimola Literary Studio.

RYS Judge Lisa Albert recently presented on an amazing author panel at the Sheboygan Children's Festival along with Sarah Weeks, Ilsa J. Bick, Julie Halpern & Jacqueline Jaeger Houtman!

RYS Judge Kelly Hashway's upcoming YA novel, TOUCH OF DEATH (Spencer Hill Press), is now available for pre-order on B&N and!

RYS Judge Mira Reisberg recently watched several of her students graduate from the first Picture Book Academy, and some of her graduates have author and editor interest ALREADY!  (I actually got to participate in this course and found it immensely helpful for thinking visually and getting better at self-editing.  Recommended!).  Her 2nd Picture Book Academy will be underway soon...still time to sign up!

RYS Judge Melissa Gorzelanczyk recently made it to the second-round of Kate Ellis's YA Novel Pitch Contest!

I also have some good news - one of my co-authored Gambian folktales has now been translated into Spanish and released by iStorybooks!

Do you have GOOD NEWS TO SHARE?  Next week, we will share your good news.  Post a comment on this blog post with the announcement of your writing news and you'll be entered into a contest for a free manuscript critique from me, Miranda Paul!*  

And, we'll have another secret prize giveaway for this week for anyone who RSVPs or has already RSVPed for our month-long birthday celebration (details here).  It's a two-fer!

*free manuscript critique of any story or picture book up to 2,000 words or fewer, or the winner may opt for a full novel critique at half price.
AND NOW, the moment you've been waiting for.  This week's winner of the 2013 Writer's Market or Children's Writer and Illustrator's Market is....

Lots of names in that bowl!

And the winner is....

Congrats, Julie - just send me an email with the address you want me to send the electronic coupon to, and which book you've chosen.  Hooray!

Now, get posting to enter the prize drawings for next week (scroll up to read how).  Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

...And the Party Continues!

Happy Wednesday again! Huzzah!  

This week, we’re continuing Rate Your Story’s month-long birthday celebration with some more swag.  (If you missed the first week of the party, you can catch up here.)

Today, we’ve got a goodie-bag surprise for all of you:  Badges!  If you’ve ever submitted something to Rate Your Story, you can now post a beautiful customized graphic on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.  Check out these lovely rating badges created by our talented illustrator, Dana Atnip!

To put one of these badges on your site, etc. simply right click (apple or control click on a Mac) and save the image to your desktop.  When you Tweet or upload the image to your site, we ask that you give credit to Rate Your Story and Dana Atnip.  We’d also love a link back!  (FYI: these badges will soon appear on our Rating Scale page as well). the best part: Another Giveaway!  Huzzah, again!

This week, we’re giving away a copy an electronic copy of the 2013 Writer’s Market or the 2013 Children’s Writer’s Market - Your choice!  To enter the contest, please read our original prize giveaway “RSVP” guidelines.  And enter more than once to improve your chances.

Good luck!

Friday, October 5, 2012

And the Winner Is...

Happy Birthday to Rate Your Story!

It's time to pull the first winner of our month-long celebration of prize giveaways.  This week, up for grabs was a critique with Rate Your Story Judge, Melissa Gorzelanczyk.  You can read more about all of our fabulous volunteer judges on our professional critiques page.

And the winner is...(chosen from a random drawing)

LJ Moz!

Congratulations!  Please email Miranda at with contact info and she will pass it along to Melissa.

If you didn't win, don't worry.  There are more prizes to be won!  You can be entered in every prize drawing by RSVPing to our birthday party.  See the original post from Wednesday, October 3 for instructions on how to be entered into the multiple Rate Your Story prize drawings.

We'll announce next week's prize on Wednesday and pull another name next Friday.  Thanks for celebrating with us!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Happy Birthday, Rate Your Story! Prizes and More!

Wednesdays are usually fun at Rate Your Story, but today is extra special.  It’s our birthday!

Happy Birthday, Rate Your Story!

Photo Courtesy Fotolia/Microsoft Free Clip Art

To celebrate, we’re giving out “goodie bags” for those of you who attend our month-long party.  

Here’s the invite!

Who:  All writers, readers, and RYS fans!

What:  A month-long online celebration with weekly prize giveaways!

When:  Through October 31st

RSVP (a.k.a. enter to win!):  You can RSVP to the party in three ways:  
1) Post a Happy Birthday message or Rate Your Story testimonial on your blog, 
2) Tweet about Rate Your Story using the #RateYS hashtag or directly to @RateYourStory, or 
3) Like the new Rate Your Story fan page on Facebook

Each RSVP = 1 entry; no limit on how many times you can enter!

IMPORTANT = Make sure to add a comment on THIS blog post each time you complete an RSVP so we can track entries.  Don’t skip this step!

Goodie Bag Prizes:  Free professional critiques, line-edits, autographed books, and more from our volunteer judges!  Check back often for the latest drawing!

First Drawing will be:  Wednesday, October 10th for a free manuscript critique with Melissa Gorzelanczyk, Rate Your Story judge!

Thank you for celebrating with Rate Your Story!  I can't believe we're a year old now!  Comments are open.  Remember to comment and let us know each time you've posted one of the RSVPs so we can track them!  Good luck!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Crazy-Busy Advice from Sarah Lynn Scheerger

It's Wednesday!

The first Wednesday in a couple of weeks that we've posted something!  (It's almost like we planned this particular article for this particularly busy time of year...)

Anyway, as we (Miranda) struggle to dole out and return your slush-pile submissions (which are fabulous, by the way), it seems that the only word to describe things right now is "crazy-busy." And when things are crazy-busy, we don't get things done, do we?

Maybe for us.  But today's guest poster does!  She's crazier-busier than most of us, because her new book came out TODAY.  And she still managed to pull off an awesome guest post.  How??  Read on, my friends. 

Please welcome the  talented author / calendar-juggler,

Sarah Lynn Scheerger!

Sarah's First Book, Published by Marshall Cavendish

Sarah's new book - that came out TODAY!  (And she still got her RYS post submitted in time).

Making time for creativity in a crazy-busy world

By Sarah Lynn Scheerger

    People ask me, how do you have time to write?
At first, I sort of laugh. Because time? What’s that?
I have no time. I’ve got three kids, a nearly full-time career, a husband, and a mountain of laundry that never seems to get any smaller.
Writing is just my hobby.
    But as my hobby, it’s my “me” time. It’s one of the things that actually nourishes me, similar to taking a yoga class, eating frozen yogurt, or having a date night with my husband. I can actually feel my mood lift when I’ve had time to do some productive writing. So I know I have to make time for it.
    I find little pockets of time after my kids are in bed. I bring notes on scrap papers to soccer practices and type in story ideas on the notes page of my iphone. Occasionally I’m able to escape to Starbucks for a couple hours with my laptop in hand.
    To be honest, though, the issue is more complicated than just finding time to write. There’s always laundry to avoid or the possibility of going to bed one hour later. The real issue is finding time when my mind is clear. Time when I can actually sit and create. When I’m not in the right frame of mind I just wind up surfing the internet or eating a snack.
A clear mind means I can’t have the stresses of the work day on my mind. I can’t be worrying about what homework project my son’s been assigned, or whether I’m giving my kids the most nutritious foods to eat. I can’t be fretting about whether my best friend is irritated with me or whether I remembered to call someone back.
I have to have a blank mind. A fresh mind. An alert mind.
    That is truly the most difficult thing.
    And, I must confess, one I have not entirely mastered.
    What I have discovered is that different tasks require different levels of creativity, alertness, and concentration. I need to be at my best for the initial writing of a story. Brainstorming and revising can be done in chunks. Social media-based marketing can easily be done at night and when I’m more fatigued. Other evening tasks, like returning emails, housework, and mindless paperwork, can definitely be saved for when I’m not in the writing mood. I informally triage my projects, and try to schedule them in the pockets of my life when I’m most likely to be productive.
    Another key component of a writer’s life, her critique group, can easily be held online rather than in real time. I have found this is the only way for me. An on-line critique group means the writing and the critiquing can happen on your own time, in bits and pieces, or all at once, whatever works.
    It’s all about figuring out what works for you. What works for me may not work for anyone else.
    A first step is to analyze yourself and your working habits. What kind of environment is conducive to your fresh-alert-creative mind? Think of physical setting, time of day, sound level, etc. How can you achieve that? Triage your tasks, and identify how and when to carve out a bit of writing time.
    When life is so busy and so emotionally laden that you can’t find that fresh-clear-creative mind, take a walk. If nothing else, you’ll feel better.

Sarah Lynn Scheerger, writing as Sarah Lynn, is the author of
1-2-3 Va-Va-Vroom and Tip-Tap-Pop1-2-3 Va-Va-Vroom, released today, has a book trailer you can watch online.  Learn more at

Comments are open!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Meter Maids Lay Down the Law (of Rhyme!)

Happy Wednesday!

And, happy new school year for many of us!  I returned almost two weeks ago already, and my students are fabulous.  As usual, we laid down the ground rules on the first few days of class.  Here to set the "ground rules" of rhyming stories and picture books are the "police of poetry" -- that is:


Employ These DO’s and You Can’t Lose!
By The Meter Maids

When you read an article about writing in rhyme, you often hear about what you should NOT do.

DON’T invert your syntax
DON’T use imperfect rhymes
DON’T choose predictable rhyming words

As Meter Maids, we constantly urge writers to avoid these crimes of rhyme.

But even if your manuscript is free of these pitfalls, it may not be strong enough to make it out of the slush.  There are certain things you need to DO to elevate your manuscript to a level that will get an editor's attention.. 

You manuscript can’t just be “fine”...  it needs to SHINE! 

It must be rip-roaring, rollicking “fun on the tongue.”

How do you accomplish this?

DO use alliteration  (and the less-often-mentioned assonance and consonance).

The repetition of sounds gives your stanzas some zany, zonky, zip! 

From BEAR SNORES ON by Karma Wilson

An itty-bitty mouse,
Pitter-pat, tip-toe 
Creep-crawls in the cave
From the fluff-cold snow.

DO include internal rhymes.

Extra rhymes here and there always add a lot of flair!


   From OLLIE AND CLAIRE by Tiffany Strelitz Haber (Spring, 2013)

Toe shoes and snow shoes and go-with-the-flow shoes, 
a thingamajig and a kit. 
She mushed and she pushed and she squished it all in 
and then zipped it right up and it fit!

DO play with words.

Not in the dictionary?  Inventify it yourself!  (Who says nouns can't be used as verbs?)

From MY LIFE AS A CHICKEN by Ellen A. Kelley

To the brooding woods I scramble,
Prickly briar’d, bristly brambled.
I am chased by hungry brutes.
I am spooked by swoopy hoots.*

*This line is also a great example of assonance- repetition of a vowel sound

DO vary your sentences lengths.

If you don’t vary your sentence lengths, your stanzas will eventually become monotonous and sing-songy.  Trust us!

From TOM’S TWEET by Jill Esbaum

“Dadburn it!” said Tom.  “You’re too skinny to eat.
Why, you’re nothing but feather and bone.”
He started to leave…
but the shivering tweet
looked so frightened.

Put it together and there is no doubt... you'll have a story that really stands out!

Corey & Tiffany
            Always on patrol.

For more tips on rhyme, visit us at

Corey Rosen Schwartz is the author of HOP! PLOP! (Walker, 2006), THE THREE NINJA PIGS (Putnam, 2012) GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS (Putnam, forthcoming) and NINJA RED (Putnam, forthcoming). Corey has no formal ninja training, but she sure can kick butt in Scrabble. She lives with three Knuckleheads in Warren, NJ.

Tiffany Strelitz Haber is the author of two rhyming picture books: THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN (Henry Holt Book for Young Readers, 2012) and OLLIE AND CLAIRE (Philomel, 2013). She will eat any food she is served, be it fried witchetty grubs on a stick or calf’s brain ravioli, and loves to be high in the air or deep in the sea. Tiffany lives in NJ with her two little monsters, Jack Dalton and Travis Hawk.

Comments are OPEN!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


It's Writer Wednesday!

First, let's welcome three new judges to Rate Your Story!

1.  Linda Skeers LOVES children's books! She's the author of picture books, children's nonfiction, magazine stories, poems and articles on the craft of writing. She is a former instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature and co-teacher of the annual Whispering Woods Picture Book Writing Workshop. Linda enjoys mentoring aspiring writers and does private manuscript critiques. For more information go to

2.  Mira Reisberg - 

Mira is the Director of the Picture Book Academy where she hosts extraordinary online courses including the upcoming Craft and Business of Writing Children's Picture Books and provides free teaching picture book video reviews on her blog. You can also find her at and on her personal website at You can read her article on plot here or contact her directly at

3.  Lisa Albert - Lisa Albert’s thought-provoking young adult novel, Mercy Lily, debuted from Flux in 2011. Lisa’s also written three nonfiction titles including, Stephenie Meyer: Author of the Twilight SagaLois Lowry: The Giver of Stories and Memories, and So You Want to Be a Film or TV Actor? She’s been a contributing writer for The Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market where her author profiles and articles on the craft of writing have appeared.

Lisa has presented workshops on writing and the publishing industry for the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and has appeared events held by the American Library Association, the American Association of School Librarians, the Wisconsin Book Festival, and the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books.
In addition to being an author, Lisa is a Library Assistant at a K-8 school library and loves being surrounded by books and children every day.  

Find out more about Lisa’s services as a manuscript consultant and critique provider at 

And now, for the continuation of last week's article from:

The Chester County Children's Writers Group!

Linda Brewster, Ellen Ramsey, Jane Resides, and Shannon Wiersbitzky  


by The Chester County Children's Writers Group:
 Linda Brewster, Ellen Ramsey, Jane Resides, and Shannon Wiersbitzky 

In this post, we continue our discussion of what we've learned through many years of critiquing together. If you missed the first half, you can catch up here on Cheerleading, Regular Writing and Critiquing, Information and Brainstorming, and the Tough in Tough Love. Now for the last four letters in CRITIQUE--  

I: Ideas and inspiration 

Group collaboration is splendid way to gain inspiration and shape ideas. One of us came to a critique meeting with the kernel of an idea. When she shared the idea, within a few minutes the kernel turned into a bushel basket full of ideas.  

In Jonah Lehrer’s book Imagine: How Creativity Works, he explains how this works. It isn’t just a group collection of individual talents. Instead, it is a chance for those talents to exceed themselves, to produce something greater than anyone thought possible. When the right mixture of people collaborate in the right way, what happens often feels like magic. Sharing ideas and creating new ideas is part of the magic of a critique group. 

Q: Questions to ask your characters and yourself

You're writing a story. You know what you are going to have your character do -- but do you know your character?  Critique group members frequently ask questions that prompt you to explain a character's motivation, change a scene, or alter your plot. 

Questions to ask yourself:
What do you want to accomplish with this story?
Do you know how your characters feel in every situation?  
Do your characters have any weaknesses? 
Is there something you don't know about your characters and wish you did? 

Questions to ask your characters:
What do you really want? 
What do you do best? 
What scares you? 
Do you have a secret? 
What do you hate doing?

The art of critiquing is the art of asking the right questions--questions that get to the heart of characters and the heart of the story.

U: It's not about you; it's about the work. 

Check your ego at the door and listen. It's not by chance that "silent" and "listen" have the same letters—listen for the "why" behind the comments. 

And remember….it's business! The one person in your group who never “gets” your work and is always critical….no, they don’t hate you personally. They are simply expressing their opinion, and their opinion likely represents that of thousands of other readers…so listen!   

Not defending is hard. We all want to jump in and say, “but, this is why it HAS to be that way.” But in reality, it doesn’t. 
Someone thinks your character is unlovable…WHY? What gives them that sense? A plot twist comes out of the blue….WHY is it so surprising? WHAT made someone think it would go in another direction?

Listening to critique comments is your chance to hear how others have responded to the words you put on paper. 

E: Editing expertise and objectivity

“The only real writing is rewriting.” So says Miss Butler, teacher in Richard Peck’s A Year Down Yonder. Critique group comments are an excellent way to guide rewriting. 

When it’s someone else’s words, it's easier to spot inconsistencies and to suggest ways to cut and trim and speed up the pacing. 
Consider carefully comments, even those you may disagree with at first. Try alternative suggestions about plot lines and characterization. You can't tell whether something will work for your story until you try it. 

Avoid the perils of trying to respond to every critique comment. You don't want to lose the focus of your story or end up with a manuscript that sounds like it was written by a committee. 

Take the comments from your critique group, digest them, see how you can use them to create a stronger, more exciting, more moving story. 

Go Forth and Critique! Please share with us your best critiquing ideas. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TOUGH LOVE - Chester County Children's Writers Group

Look, new LOGOS!  Thank you to the wonderfully talented DANA ATNIP.  Shower her with praise.

But that's not all, folks.  Today we've got an awesome guest post for anyone who is in (or wants to be in) a critique group, and it's written by

...not one...

...not two...

...not three...

...but FOUR amazing authors!

Buck up and get ready for some tough love with:

The Chester County Children's Writers Group!

Linda Brewster, Ellen Ramsey, Jane Resides, and Shannon Wiersbitzky 

TOUGH LOVE: THE ART OF CRITIQUING: PART 1 (yes, that means more next week)

By The Chester County Children's Writers Group:
 Linda Brewster, Ellen Ramsey, Jane Resides, and Shannon Wiersbitzky

Tough love? We writers need both love ("this is great! keep going!") and toughness ("too much—cut and trim to keep the story moving"). Our critique group has been critiquing together for many years. When we began, none of us had been published in the children's market. Now among us we have two published books and many stories, articles, and poems in magazines and anthologies. In two posts, we'll share what we've learned through hundreds of meetings, thousands of emails, and countless drafts and revisions.

Here's what CRITIQUE means to us--

C: Cheerleading

When you're feeling discouraged by writer's block, depressed by rejection letters, baffled by a recalcitrant hero or a villain too evil to be true, who do you call? Critique group cheerleaders! Critique group cheerleaders help counteract writer's block and writer's blahs, provide motivation, identify writing strengths, and celebrate successes!

To provide motivation, we issue challenges--write a back to school story, enter the Highlights fiction contest. One year we awarded a prize for the most rejection letters in a 6-month period. The critique group member who won also had the most acceptances, which was an impetus to polish our manuscripts and submit them.

And the happy ending--when stories and books are published, critique group cheerleaders spread the word via email, Facebook, Twitter!

R: Regularly scheduled meetings...which means regularly scheduled writing!

Critique group meetings are like writing—if you do it regularly, the group becomes stronger and the quality of the critiquing and the writing soars. Whatever decisions you make about meeting structure, times, and submitting materials, keep the focus on critiquing, not socializing.

In critiquing, focus on the big stuff—Does the story work? Do the characters change and grow during the course of the story? Is the conflict clearly defined and resolved? 

Establish rules for your meetings, but be flexible in adjusting the rules when needed—sometimes brainstorming and building on each other's ideas may help an author resolve a story problem. Remember the "constructive" in constructive criticism—ask questions, be specific about what didn't work for you, suggest alternatives. And remember, critique meetings don’t take vacations!

I: Information and brainstorming

There is a great quote by Owen Arthur, “Often, we are too slow to recognize how much and in what ways we can assist each other through sharing such expertise and knowledge.”

Sharing is critical to a group--it enables us to be more efficient and productive. We don’t all attend the same conferences, but whenever we do go to one, we share what we’ve learned, tips to make our craft better, information about editors and their likes/dislikes.

This requires a great deal of trust. We’ve met authors who wouldn’t share the name of an editor or an agent with their own mother. Our group isn't like that.

And we run a 24-7 advice service. Say one of us has reached a difficult point in a story and is looking for a way for a gerbil to disarm a nuclear weapon. The critique group can be counted on to supply intriguing suggestions!

T: Tough love and honest opinions

Writers need honest opinions. Because what is in our minds is not always what is on the paper. Sometimes we say more than we needed. Sometimes we leave out important information.
As writers, we need to learn that critiques aren't personal. A creative writing professor once said, “Don’t see your words as golden.” When we forget that, responding to critique group comments is almost impossible. Be wary of the reader who loves everything you write. Good critiquers know how to say "cut/delete/not needed" to help keep stories moving along and readers interested.

In the movie The Christmas Story, Ralphie is sure he's written a masterpiece and his teacher will rave about it! Turns out it was just a dream. Ralphie's story needed to be critiqued. 

Tough love may be hard to take, but "running criticism" is essential to ensure that our goal of writing splendid children's stories is more than a dream. 

Check back next Wednesday for Part 2 of Tough Love. And please comment and share your best ideas about critiquing.

Linda Brewster, an author/illustrator and photographer, published her first book, Rose O’Neill: The Girl Who Loved to Draw, in 2009. This book, a biography of America’s first woman cartoonist and Kewpie Doll creator, won two USA National Best Book finalist awards.

Ellen L. Ramsey writes fantasies, mysteries, and humorous stories. Her work has been published in magazines like Highlights and Hopscotch, and one of her poems is included in And the Crowd Goes Wild!: A Global Gathering of Sports Poems (published in August 2012). She won the SCBWI 2012 Magazine Merit Award for Poetry for "Hippity Zippity," published in Highlights High Five.

Jane Resides writes poetry, picture books, and historical fiction. She has published stories, articles, and poetry in Highlights, Once Upon a Time, Penn & Ink, and When I Can’t Get to Sleep, a West Chester Library poetry book. Her husband and grandson are beekeepers, and her article “Emme Loves Bees” was published in Highlights.

Shannon Wiersbitzky was born in North Dakota, but grew up all over the place. Her first middle-grade novel, The Summer of Hammers and Angels, was published by namelos in July 2011. It is the story of an amazing summer in a girl's life, a summer of surprises and challenges, discoveries and friendship, and loneliness and community.