I heard about something new a writer-illustrator friend of mine is doing to help kidlit creators succeed (for FREE) and I thought it was worth sharing with you all. SO here we go!
A writing friend of mine recently decided to take a break from writing. She was discouraged by the mountain of rejections she’s received for years now and I honestly understood exactly where she was coming from. It also made me sad. So when I talked to Fred Koehler about his latest idea, I instantly thought of my dear friend. I thought Fred’s endeavor was worth sharing if it would help her, so I invited Fred to talk about it with you all here. Maybe it might help someone else too.
Mega-huge hello to all of Jena’s followers! I’m so excited to be here and to share a quick story about how the pandemic transformed my local writers group into a publishing technology startup with a growing network of editors and agents.
(For the record, no–I never thought I’d write those words.)
Like Jena, I’m a working artist and writer, as well as a longtime SCBWI member (past ARA / past Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI Florida). I also hosted a local writers group that had to shut down when COVID hit.
Undeterred, I sent a survey asking our members what would be helpful for their writing careers, and the responses I got back were exactly what you’d expect: education and opportunity. Everyone wanted expert training on craft and access to industry gatekeepers. So I got together with my agent Joyce Sweeney and some fellow authors including Sarah McGuire and Janice Hardy of Fiction University, and we built a system.
We knew that wherever we could get a bunch of writers together, we could also invite editors and agents. Especially if we could figure out a way to discover and promote writers who were ready for that next-level opportunity. So we envisioned and designed a Peer Critique Forum, a free platform where writers can give and receive feedback on sections of their stories.
What makes it different is in how we measure the feedback. Yes, we’re asking users to write a couple of sentences to their fellow writers, but we’re also measuring on rubrics so every post ends up with an aggregated ‘Story Score.’
And guess who thinks Story Scores are the best thing ever? Publishers. When I showed the platform to the owner of a publishing company out of California, he had one question: “Hey Fred, how can we get access to the stories on your site with the highest Story Scores?”
My response? “Easy. Let me introduce you to some awesome writers.”
The publisher went on to explain that most stories they acquire are based on a gut feeling, but with hundreds of data points helping identify stories that are ready, our stories de-risk their publishing decisions. It seems like a win for everyone.
So to celebrate the launch of our Peer Critique Forum (which could use a snazzier name), we’ve invited agents to judge the finalists in a series of writing contests where you ‘earn’ your entry in the contest by critiquing other writers. Here’s the link to the Launch Party Page. While we’re starting out with mostly novel-length stories, picture books are not excluded and we have plans in the works for contests just for picture books.
The continuing development of the platform is being funded through a masterclass writing program, but the contests and the forum are free. At the end of the day, we’re all part of the greater writing community, and we just want to see writers win.
I do too Fred and I love that you’re doing this. Thank you for taking the time so share with us. Dear readers, I hope this might be of interest to some of you and I hope it helps! If it does, I hope you’ll let me know one day.