Seeking Critique Partners

This post is inspired by the #PitchWars mentors, who have said time and again that this contest is about community. Finding friends, CPs, commiserators, etc. And it occurred to me, “Why am I not talking DIRECTLY to the other wannabe mentees? We’re hopping to each other’s blogs, we want to get to know each other!”

So, this is me talking to you, my brothers and sisters in arms. This is about what I’m like as a critique partner and what I’m looking for in a partner. Please do not be shy about reaching out! I’m the shy one here. There can’t be two of us. (Actually, another shy introvert would be awesome.)

What I Write

Fiction about women, usually strong ones. That’s always my starting point. Lately I’ve been focused on contemporary YA, but my next WIP is NA paranormal romance. (I know, I know, poor market. Too bad. It’s in my brain.) I’ve got some fantasy and historical sitting on my hard drive that I want to get back to. Here are the pitches for three WIPs to whet your appetite.

  • In UNCHURCHED (PitchWars submission 2015), agnostic, feminist Janine is taken aback when her father joins an evangelical church. He’s delighted to help put on a purity ball, but Janine is horrified by the idea of making a vow of chastity in public. Taking the vow would be a lie and she’ll hate herself forever, but standing up to her dad will break his heart.
  • Based on the ballet of the same name, GISELLE follows a young woman with epilepsy who begins to see and hear strange messages from beyond the grave. These voices warn her away from Ali, the boy she’s been crushing on since high school. When he betrays her, Giselle is sucked into a world where disloyalty has deadly consequences.
  • In THE SILK THAT CUTS, a harem overthrows an empire. Twice.

What I Read

Almost everything? I’ve never been into horror, sorry. And I don’t read much middle grade, but I do read a lot of YA and adult. I love fantasy and historical, and really enjoy science fiction and diverse contemporary. (Please share your diverse stuff. It needs to be seen.) I’m a politics junkie, and love tackling controversial issues from religion to international relations (I skew progressive but I’m open to reading about more than that–if you’re doing it right, I’ll love your characters anyway).  I love funny stuff. I love irreverence. I love being surprised by twists and turns. I don’t shy away from hard stuff that may trigger others, but I don’t delve into really dark things very often. I do like sexy times, so erotica is totally ok.

Some faves:

  • Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
  • Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
  • The Heartland Trilogy by Chuck Wendig
  • The Black Dagger Brotherhood books by JR Ward
  • The Temeraire books by Naomi Novik
  • The Confessions of Georgia Nicholson by Louise Rennison
  • Various books by Tamora Pierce

How I Critique

I like to comment as I do my first read, catching typos (I can’t help it, they stand out and I just can’t leave them) and giving first reactions. I tend to ask questions rather than make suggestions. I trust you to know what you intended, and I’m just here to confirm that the way you depicted it worked or not. I’m a member of Scribophile and I can give you the link to check out my review work there.

I’ve been likened to movie slashers because I can turn a page red. I’ve also been told that I have a great combo of encouraging and relevant comments. I bring my sense of humor to the table, so if you use the same word four times I may tease you a little because I’m genuinely and affectionately amused. You will get squeals and gushing over things I love. I’m happy to reread portions or the whole thing.

If you’re looking for diversity research, I can help you out with: atheism, depression, and immigration.

My best communication methods are text-based (email, instant messaging) but I’ll suck it up and talk on the phone or meet in person, too.

What I’m Looking For in a Partner

Please, please, please hack and slash my stuff to bits. For years I’ve been plagued by comments that just kind of say it’s good but not why or how or what’s slipping or augh. Vagueness. Get in there and get messy, please. Demand high standards. Ask a million questions.

I love brainstorming. My best friend and I are constantly poking and prodding each other’s worlds to expand them. Again, I ask a lot of questions, and I love getting them back.

I can’t keep, say, a weekly schedule. Too much pressure. I’m happy to swap a chapter at a time, or a whole book. I don’t mind sharing as soon as a chunk is drafted to get a first read. Tell me how polished it is and I’ll read accordingly.

Reach Out

Send me an email! I would lovelovelove to hear from you, especially if something in this profile sparked for you. There’s no such thing as too many eyes.

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Alanna, Tamora and Me

When I made the transition from picture books to middle grade I devoured everything in my path. Amelia Bedelia. Mrs. Piggly-Wiggly. The Egypt Game. All of the American Girl series. Most of the Babysitters Club–we’re talking twenty books at a time. I was voracious, because I was still searching for something.

When I was twelve, I found it. Tamora Pierce’s In The Hand of the Goddess, a book set in a medieval world, with royalty, magic, adventure, gender politics, and a BAMF for a heroine. I thought to myself, This is it! I knew then that there were books in the world that could be what I wanted, and I think that played a big role in my pursuing writing.

It’s sort of analogous to seeing yourself mirrored in media. When you see yourself depicted, you’re reassured that you exist, that you matter. Hand affirmed that my wants and desires existed in the world beyond my head.

For those who don’t know, Tamora Pierce is known for writing books about strong heroines. The Song of the  Lionness Quartet is about Alanna, a girl who decides at the age of ten that she wants to be a knight, not a lady, and disguises herself as a boy to do so. (Yeah, Hogwarts looks like a cakewalk now, doesn’t it?) She befriends a Prince and the King of Thieves. She battles boys bigger than her and forgotten gods. She learns to appreciate her body despite what she hates about it. The books follow her through her early twenties, experiencing love, hatred, magic, romance, danger, fear, heartbreak, and friendship. Basically it had everything I wanted omfg.

Alanna remains a member of my core head cannon, alongside Buffy the Vampire Slayer (who deserves her own post). She will forever be who I picture when people say strong female character. A lot of her strength comes from sheer stubbornness, a refusal to accept that she is somehow less capable than anyone else. Even in her darkest moments, she pushes through.

That was all in line with the Girl Power messaging of the 90s, which I absorbed a lot of, and so I had no qualms about picking up a pen and writing my own stories. I was a girl, I had heroines like Alanna, and I could do what I wanted. If I wanted to write stories, that’s what I would do. I would make more books as wonderful and amazing as Tamora’s. I was convinced I had a career as a fantasy novelist ahead of me.

Within a few years of discovering Alanna, I found Sailor Moon and the online fan community with its mountains of fanfiction. That’s where I really got started writing in earnest. Sailor Moon was BIG at that time, whereas Tamora Pierce’s books didn’t have a massive online fandom. Nowadays there’s fics and amazing fanart and fan theories like QueeringTortall, which is my new favorite thing. If I were fourteen right now I’d be in-freaking-heaven. Also less prone to drawing anime eyes. But I digress.

My point is, Tamora Pierce opened a door for me. For years I emulated aspects of her fiction, or held it as the standard to which I aspired. I still want to capture that sense of rightness I felt reading In the Hand of the Goddess for the very first time. I hope someday I’m able to do so. And that what I write will positively impact the next generation of readers, as I was impacted.

Obsessive Love in YA

V and I were having a discussion about what we call ‘obsessive love’. It often starts as instalove, but not always. It’s what happens when a character just can’t stop thinking about–and, more importantly, behaving in relation to–their love interest. Everything is about this person. They invade every thought, every scene.

I do not like obsessive love. Worse, I don’t like it for YA. Teens are already predisposed to be obsessive, they don’t need encouragement. They don’t need the message that it’s okay and romantic to be all about the lourve. It’s unrealistic for the adult world, which teens are supposed to be maturing into. </moralizing>

Anyway, as V and I were talking we bemoaned how frequent these obsessions are in YA fiction. Famous example? Twilight.

Which got me thinking about a great counter-example, Cinder by Marissa Meyer. (I know, the names make for great irony.)

Cinder is a sci fi take on Cinderella, complete with royal prince. The character Cinder is clearly attracted to him and gets rather befuddled in his presence, but she doesn’t start factoring him into everything that she does. The girl’s got bigger issues, life or death issues. Instead she plays the, “He’d never be interested in me” card, and for once it works. Her reasons are legit. Here we have a pragmatic young woman who realizes she needs to get shit done, not pine over a boy.

It’s really, really refreshing.

Here’s to the books that go beyond obsessive love.