Wednesday, April 1, 2015

On Writers For Hope, and a Query Critique Giveaway by Joy McCullough-Carranza

I’ve been struggling lately, Project Mayhem readers. My last post was about how I haven’t been feeling like I have much to contribute as a middle grade blogger. The team graciously gave me a couple months off to focus on the play I had in production, and I took it.

As the production closed and my next post has drawn nearer, I’ve been grappling with how to proceed. When I found out my next post date would be April 1, I realized that today is also the date of an online auction in which I’m donating a full manuscript critique (MG or YA). So first of all, I want to draw attention to that. I’m one of forty-five donors (many of them amazing agents and published authors) donating query critiques, manuscripts critiques, and more.

The Writers for Hope auction rules are here and a list of the auction items are here. I encourage you to check it out. It’s raising money to support RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and it’s a reminder that this kid lit community is more giving and supportive than any other community I’ve ever been a part of.

I love my theater people—they are giving in completely different ways—but kid lit people drop everything and show up IN FORCE to support other writers and important causes. I’ve seen it in my own life with my critique partners who have become my closest friends, and on a bigger scale with things like the We Need Diverse Books campaign. RAINN is a cause close to my heart and I’m so heartened to see so many wonderful community members giving of their time to support it—and provide critiques that might push newer members of the community to the next level.

But I know that when I was querying, auction items like these were usually out of my financial reach, as much as I would have liked to support the causes. Because of that, I’d like to offer a query critique to one commenter here at PM, who I’ll choose at random. If you’d like another set of eyes on your MG query, just mention it in the comments and make sure I have a way to contact you. I may do more than one, and I may do this periodically. Maybe sometimes I’ll offer more than a query critique.

Behind the scenes at Project Mayhem, we have been talking about the most useful ways for the middle grade writing community to support one another. What do you feel is lacking? What could you use more of, or what do you wish you'd had access to at an earlier stage? More query support? Critique partner match-ups? Opportunities to be mentored? To mentor?

What would serve you? How could you serve?


  1. What a great cause~ thanks for sharing links to the auction, and for your generous contribution of a manuscript critique (and a query critique for a lucky person here)! Like you, I've seen how compassionate and rallying the kidlit community can be. Love my kidlit peeps :)

  2. Great cause Joy! I too have found the writer community, and especially the children's writer one, so supportive. For me, I'm actually navigating a new world as I'm transitioning from being an author of thrillers for adults to an author of thrillers for kids - and that's truly a different world. Things like school assemblies, presenting at conferences, talking in the classroom, reaching educators and librarians - a scary new world I am just learning about. So for me, these are things I would love to learn more about from my fellow kidlit author peers. Thanks for sharing and opening up the dialogue!


    1. I'm mentioning this here as might get lost in my "editoral" below (Smile)

      A podcast I listened to this morning talked about this very same charity, so it was "fated" that I share it here-

  3. I'd LOVE to see more mentoring and workshopping opprotunities for MG authors specifically.

    Picture books have a lot of community and mentoring opprotunities now, as do YA, but MG has so few menotring programs geared I know we debate endlessly about the "Writing is writing, it's all the same at the core" but there just are differences in writing a novel for MG versus YA (especially if we don't write YA ROMANCE) and picture books where the illustrator often does more than the author (minimal text, especially if the author and illustrator aren't the same person,etc), or the ones I've seen are either in person in L.A. or NYC (places not all writers live or can travel to) or online courses and workshops that are in the $400-$1000+ range, and understand, I'm not at all suggesting any given course in that range isn't merited for they offer in knowledge, value and reach.

    As much as we writers value teamwork, especially in indie publishing, and just outsourcing in general, limited finances can get in the way of building said team so we don't have to be a one-person crew.

    I don't mean to whine or come off unappreciateive of what I've worked hard toward already, I'm just being honest about the struggle in getting to that next level where you can grow and expand in ways that matter for you and your business.

    Like you, Joy, I wish I could participate in more of those auctions where writers get a competent crituqe from an agent, editor or experienced author (whether it's for a query, partial, or full manuscript) but bids go far bewyond what I can afford, and understand I say that knowing this goes to GREAT causes, but this can be a similar challenge for those who're publishing themselves, and they just can't afford all the "must haves" that are considered best practices.

    But I'll not go on that soapbox here. (If you're intrested, you can see one of my op-eds here...)

    I guess at the very least, I'd like to see more ways for authors to do more to improve their writing nad career as a whole when they can't travel to opprounites or afford online courses.

    I know Project Mayhem specially mostly deals with authors in the trdational publishing camp, and I understand why, but with more authors who either find indie publishing's the best (or only) fit for them, this is a challenge that gets in the way, and telling those authors "invest, period." does more harm than good...

    1. I know for me with "GABRIEL"I'm working on While it is a tradtional deal in the sense of having an editor who's helped me strengthen the book and see what I can't (and keep in mind, it took 9 YEARS to get it to the state it was first sold in), being a small press, they can't afford the cover and illustrator that I know will get this book to reach a level that will help in the long run, but the upfront cost is a barrier.

      So, I'm going to launch a crowdfunding campaign to help with that. Yes, I have a plan b if I can't make plan a happen, but I believe in it enohu to do something that not only scares me, but stretches me in areas I'm frankly (e-mail list building and a decent campaign video's that's not too slick but not super ameturish...)

      Plus, since this is my first, I do feel an extra effort is called for because of the whole first impression thing, but also This book was a DECADE of my life overall, it deserves better than a clip art genreic mess (being extreme to make a point, LOL)

      Understand if I sound mad, I'm not at all, but as much as I see this as an adventure, an opprounity to take my career in my own hands, and ultamitely freeing, it's hard and scary because I don't have the team or resources some of my writer friends do, and I know they worked hard to get them (despite my repressed jealously in the moment that I eventually get over)

      I'm hoping having that backing of a publisher (RE: Editing and the phyiscal process of printing tangible books, that still matter despite the ebook revolution)

      All that said, thanks for the query opprotunity, and while I can't be part of the bid, I can certainly spread the good word to those who can.

      Take care,
      Taurean W.

    2. I contacted you through your website, Taurean!

    3. I got it, Joy. Thanks, I'll send something when it's ready.
      Taurean W.

  4. Joy, You've made generous offers in both places. As others mentioned, it seems MG just doesn't have the buzz that other age groups get, or at least I haven't found it yet. I was a middle school teacher, and then principal, and I am driven by the lack of books that really interest that age group, especially boys. I think part of the problem is that voice is so important at all levels, but especially MG. And voice is so hard to quantify or define. I'd love to be more involved in MG communities. I'm @SherLHoward


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!