“The time and care that Donna took with my recent manuscript were obvious in the spot-on thoughtfulness of her editorial comments. The changes I made in response to her feedback were the ones that got this story over the hump and out on submission. Sharing that manuscript with Donna was one smart move, and it’s one that I’ll be eager to repeat.” —Chris Barton, award-winning author of THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH (Eerdmans, 2015) and WHOOSH! LONNIE JOHNSON’S SUPER-SOAKING STREAM OF INVENTIONS (Charlesbridge, 2016), and THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS (Charlesbridge, 2009)
Donna has helped me with just about every book I’ve had published. She has a knack for getting in there and helping a writer to narrow their focus, to find the core of their story. Recently on a picture book project, when I was stuck on a plot point, Donna offered feedback that helped me to strengthen my story arc while understanding my character’s motivation better. That manuscript is now in acquisition with a major publisher. Thank you, Donna, for helping me to see the world through my character’s eyes. —Don Tate, award-winning author, illustrator, and author/illustrator of many picture books including IT JES HAPPENED: WHEN BILL TRAYLOR STARTED TO DRAW (Lee and Low, 2012), and POET: THE REMARKABLE STORY OF GEORGE MOSES HORTON (Peachtree, 2015), and STRONG AS SANDOW: HOW EUGEN SANDOW BECAME THE STRONGEST MAN ON EARTH (Charlesbridge, 2017).
“I couldn’t possibly have written my debut picture book, The Youngest Marcher, without Donna’s guidance. Her expertise in structure, voice, plot development and resolution, setting, and character made all the difference. I highly recommend her critique services; they’re worth every penny.” —Cynthia Levinson, author of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER (Atheneum, 2017), WE’VE GOT A JOB: THE 1963 BIRMINGHAM CHILDREN’S MARCH (Peachtree, 2015), and HILARY RODHAM CLINTON: DO ALL THE GOOD YOU CAN (Balzer & Bray 2016)
“Donna digs in deep. Her expertise with non-fiction picture book biographies surpass the typical one-page critique. She will help you find the heart of your story and which way to focus your efforts moving forward. With years of practice, including an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, her critique will get you to the next level.” — Cate Berry, soon-to-be VCFA graduate and author of the forthcoming picture book PENGUIN AND TINY SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME P(Balzer & Bray/Harper Collins, 2018)
“I had struggled with a story for some time when I invested in a critique with Donna. Not only did I receive fresh insights, I felt like my book gained a champion – someone who would join me in willing it into the world and would also share the tools to help me find the universal in what had become intensely personal. Donna delivers – with kindness and compassion, grit and grace. Your best work deserves her focused attention.” –Aimee Thomas
The Nitty Gritty:
Hello! Thank you for your interest in my critiquing/editing services/teaching services.
We hear it all the time. We have one chance to make a great first impression. Even well-published authors have their manuscripts critiqued before submitting to their agent or editor. It is doubly important for pre-published writers.
For years I have enjoyed helping writers finesse their manuscripts through thoughtful and informed feedback. I always feel honored to be part of a story’s evolution and a writer’s self-confidence, so it seems natural to expand my offerings in this broader way. I would be delighted to help you, too.
* I studied the craft of writing long before earning an MFA in Writing (concentrated on Children’s and Young Adult Literature). As a Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) student, I critically analyzed hundreds of titles, from picture books through YA.
* As an author, I have worked with multiple editors on a variety of projects, both trade and educational. I’ve written for magazines and newspapers, too.
* I currently have five published books, two additional forthcoming titles, and others (various genres) in progress. Click here to learn more about my most recent acclaimed picture book biography, Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness (Lee and Low, 2016).
* I have unique expertise in picture book biographies and nonfiction, though I adore fiction picture books, chapter books, and novels, too.
* I have taught and mentored writers through SCBWI events, in various critique groups, as former critique group coordinator for Austin SCBWI, and as a teacher for The Writing Barn.
The Genres I Welcome for Critique —
Picture books—fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, including those intended for trade or educational publishers.
Chapter books—fiction and nonfiction. Please understand the difference between chapter books, early readers, and middle-grade novels. Clementine, June B. Jones, Magic Tree House, Captain Underpants, and Critter Club are examples of chapter book series for different age ranges. The average chapter book is 6,000 – 15,000 words. If you need further clarification, feel free to contact me.
Middle-grade novels—up to 50,000 words.
What You Can Expect From my Feedback:
Firstly, I will read your manuscript multiple times, allowing your story to objectively simmer. The time stamps in my comments often illustrate this contemplative and dedicated time. I will provide in-depth feedback by way track changes as well as a one-to-five-page editorial letter that provides global thoughts about your story, potential mentor texts or comparable titles, and observations about any publishing trends that might relate to your story. Some specific craft elements I comment on include: structure, voice, word choice, narrative arc, scope and story angle, dialogue, theme, pacing, setting, and story concept.
*30-minute Skype or telephone call included with every critique!
Rates vary, depending on manuscript length, the complexity of the content, and anticipated time commitment. We will agree upon the rate before I begin. Average rates are below:
Picture books under 1,000 words— $150. Package deal: Three p.b. manuscripts for $400.
Longer picture books (most likely nonfiction) up to 2,000 words total—$250. (longer works will be prorated)
Second look critique, post-revision—$50.
Fact-checking or bibliography formatting—contact me for information.
Chapter books up to 15,000 words— contact me for information.
Middle-grade novels— Contact me for price and availability.
Mentorship / Coaching
Are you looking for ongoing mentorship? Would you like in-depth one-on-one instruction and coaching based on an MFA packet model? Whether you’re looking for continuing help with specific manuscripts or interested in foundational instruction on the writing craft, I would be happy to customize a monthly mentorship plan that works with your schedule and individual needs. Contact me for more information.
I Teach Writing
For fifteen years, I have been the beneficiary of great instruction through workshops, classes, conferences, and an MFA program. Now, I’m happy to be in the role of teacher/instructor. While I am qualified to teach general writing and story topics, I have especial expertise in picture books and picture book biographies—a unique literary form that is in great demand today. Not only have I sold three picture book biographies and have others in stages of revision and submission, but I conducted deep research into the components of, and creative approaches to, picture book biographies for my graduate critical thesis. My research also included a study of how the Library of Congress, publishers, and awards committees define nonfiction and how they feel about creative elements. The results might surprise you. All writers and illustrators should understand how books are classified. I enjoy sharing my expertise with other adult writers in classroom, conference, and workshop settings. Contact me for more information.