Critique Services


“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, 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, 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)

The Nitty Gritty:

Hello! Thank you for your interest in my critiquing/editing 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.

My Qualifications*

* 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. (In case you’re wondering, my critical thesis was about creative approaches to picture book biographies.)

* I have worked with multiple editors on a variety of projects, both trade and educational.

* 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 and chapter books, 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 — Due to time limitations, I am currently accepting:

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. They average chapter book is 6,000 – 15,000 words. If you need further clarification, feel free to contact me.

What You Can Expect From my Feedback: 

Firstly, I will read your manuscript multiple times over several days, allowing your story to objectively simmer. The time stamps in my comments often illustrate this contemplative and dedicated time. In addition to embedding comments, I will provide in-depth feedback and suggestions in the margins of your manuscript using track changes. I will also prepare a one-to-three-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 might comment on include: structure, voice, word choice, narrative arc, scope and story angle, dialogue, 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.

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.

If you have a MG or YA novel you’d like critiqued, I can refer you to qualified folks if I don’t have time to give your manuscript adequate attention.

Mentorship / Coaching

Are you looking for ongoing mentorship? Would you like in-depth instruction and coaching using an MFA model of assigned new work, revised work, required reading, and critical analysis to help get your manuscript submission-ready? Contact me for more information.

Any other questions? Contact me.