How To Format Your Manuscript


Here’s what I do in Microsoft Word. (If you need a visual, an example is included in the book version of my Crash Course.)

Font and Paragraphing

  • 12 point font. Times New Roman. (Courier is another acceptable option – but that font hogs up the paper). Whatever you do, please don’t try to flag the attention of an editor by using splashy font.

To Draw or Not To Draw?

If you’re like many people you’ll wonder where you’re going to get that illustrator for your book. STOP RIGHT THERE. Unless you are a professional illustrator, do not try this at home, folks! This is the great thing about a writing career. You don’t have to know how to draw! So remember: writers write. Illustrators illustrate. For once something makes sense. Whooopee! I bet I know what your next question might be..”


Interested in learning how to write a children’s book? Look no further for all the nitty-gritty details of what you need to know to become a children’s book author, written by an active writer in the industry today.

Visit the Crash Course and get started!

RLGL Wrapping Up: Round 7 Results COMPLETE, Final Round Deadline for Existing Entries ONLY April 23 11:59PM CST

Dear Tiquees:

Thank you for your monumental patience while Kissy deals with a whole host of tasks related to bacon consumption, chew-toy destruction, and every pooch’s favorite time of the year: Spring Break! We are back and it’s time to start closing down RLGL in preparation for summer. This means there will be no new entries for RLGL.

RLGL Round 6 Results COMPLETE, Round 7 deadline, 11:59PM CST April 8, 2014

UPDATE: Round 6 Results are now complete. If you sent in your submission after March 27, 11:59PM (provided you have followed all of our insane rules), your submission rolls into Round 7, which ends on April 8, 2014.  Thank you all for your incredible patience. We hope you found that good chew toy to chomp to smithereens while waiting for these results.

This next week is extremely loaded for the pooch.

RLGL Round 5 Results COMPLETE, Round 6 Deadline Extended Mar. 27, 11:59 pm CST





3) DID NOT GET A NUMBER for Round 5 and


please forward your email to the Cynthea address so we can get your entry processed.

Round 5 Results are COMPLETE.  The next deadline for existing entries and new entries is now March 27, 11:59PM CST.

RLGL Round 4 Results COMPLETE


Round 4 Results are now complete.

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU SEND RLGL ENTRIES TO THE SUB ADDRESS. Woof! Cynthea’s personal email box is for addressing issues only. Put it this way: To get in line, you need to stand in the right line. Nothing worse than getting to the front of the line after waiting for days, only to realize you were in the wrong line the whole time.

Also make sure you submit the correct # of words. If you are on the first page, 125 words.

RLGL Round 3 COMPLETE, Round 5 Deadline March 20, 8pm CST


PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU SEND RLGL ENTRIES TO THE SUB ADDRESS. Woof! Cynthea’s personal email box is for addressing issues only. Put it this way: To get in line, you need to stand in the right line. Nothing worse than getting to the front of the line after waiting for days, only to realize you were in the wrong line the whole time.

If you do not see a response next to your number, please verify that your entry was sent to the correct address in the proper format, etc.

RLGL: Round 2 COMPLETE, Round 3 deadline Wed. Mar. 12, 8pm CST

NEW ENTRANTS: Wanna play? Read the rules here. You may enter at any time.

EVERYONE: Round 3 officially closes on Wednesday, March 12, 8pm CST. Submissions received after this deadline will roll into Round 4.

UPDATE: We have two Free-tique winners! Winners, do not contact Kissy until RLGL is completely over. We will let you know what to do when we come up for air.

RLGL: Round 1 Results COMPLETE


If I received your submission by 9AM CST on March 6, your results have been posted. If you did not receive a number and you did turn in your submission to the sub address before the aforementioned deadline, please email me at cynthealiu AT gmail DOT com, and forward your email submission that you sent AND explain what’s wrong.

*Do not send new submissions to Cynthea’s personal email address, only inquiries if something is wrong.

Important RLGL Update

Wowowow! Kissy has a lot of entries to gnaw on and he thanks you in advance for the glowing compliments. Please don’t hold it against him if he eats your ms.

Hang tight. We will post results gradually as we go through them. Do not email to ask about your result until we declare that all results have been posted. Doing so may subject you to complete elimination since it really screws up our mojo if we spend more time answering emails than reading submissions.

Writers/Illustrators developing Asian Content: AFCC 2013 Registration has begun

For those of you who have a keen interest in developing literature or other media featuring Asian content, you should know about this conference held each year in Singapore. I had the wonderful opportunity to act as a faculty member last year, and it was an eye-opening experience to meet counterparts in the East from all over that side of the globe.

RLGL Prize Update

*UPDATE:  All query crits submitted before the deadline have been returned.  If your query was turned in on time and you did not receive reply, please contact me directly!

Happy Holidays!  My apologies for the delay with free-tiques associated with RLGL. I’m a bit backlogged at the moment so please enjoy your holidays while I get through all of the tiques. Thank you! Woof!

RLGL Prize Announcement

Hello, everyone!

If you are a free-tique winner for novels, please submit up to ten pages (max 2500 words) of your work for critique to sub at wfcat dot com, attached as a word document.  You may also include a synopsis. The synopsis will be read for content to help inform my critique.  It will not be critiqued itself.  Title your email: Free-tique Winner #XXX: MS Title, Format.  E.g. “Free-tique Winner #999, MY MS ROCKS, MG”.

Round 10 Update; RLGL Coming to a Close

Hello everyone,  unfortunately,  our Round 10 goal was not met, HOWEVER we see no reason to disappoint people, given all that you’ve done to help our furry friends.  Kissy and I are going to keep the Round 10 and drop the Round 11 instead. The deadline to submit to Round 10 is tonight (9/24/2012 11:59pm CST).  Please be patient with us on Round 10 results.  It may not be until after October 1st before we get finished reading them all.

Goal 7 set, Round 7 Results COMPLETE, Round 8 open

UPDATE: Round 8 deadline AND the fundraising goal has been pushed until Sunday, 09/09/12 at 11:59pm CST.  We are so sorry it is taking us this long to get through Round 7 results! Now you should have time to get in your Round 8 pages and donate to keep a furry friend and RLGL alive.

Help us get to Round 8 by saving a furry life and clicking on this link and donating! We are still $200 short.  If everyone kicks something in, we should clear the goal.

Goal 5 and Round 6 Status

Unfortunately, we did not make last night’s goal deadline, and now we have to end–

Woof, woof, woof!!!

What is it, Kissy?

Arf, arf, arf!

Say what? You want to give everyone a second chance?

Uhnnnnnn, Uhnnnnnnnn…

You think humans should get a second chance, just like homeless dogs and cats?


I don’t see why not. I think we humans did a terrific job with a fantastic goal, and $45 should not bring RLGL to a halt.

Round 5 Results COMPLETE: Round 6 open

New Entrants and those of you who have received Round 5 Results, you may submit for Round 6 until Tuesday 8/28/12 at 11:59pm CST.  Have no idea how to play? Read the rules here and come back.

Kissy and I are shaking in our boots over here. This is tense.  Currently, we are $100 short of TONIGHT’S GOAL 5 DEADLINE.  If you haven’t dropped a fiver (or more!) yet in this competition, better do it now.

Round 5 In Progress: Goal 5 set!

Entrants, you may submit for Round 5 until tonight 8/26/12 11:59pm CST.  Have no idea how to play? Read the rules here and come back.

First, THANK YOU for your contributions.  We are doing so much for our furry friends. Kissy and I have been dancing around all weekend, knowing that all of your efforts  are going to help out a wonderful cause!  Arrrooooooo!

But it doesn’t end here. No, no.

Round 4 Results COMPLETE: Goal 4 deadline set


New Entrants and those of you who have received Round 4 results, you may begin to submit now for Round 5.  Have no idea how to play? Read the rules here and come back.

Want Round 5 to play out? 

Our next fundraising goal is now set at $800 by  Saturday, 8/25 11:59pm CST. Help us get there by clicking on this link and donating!

Round 5 Deadline is expected to be Sunday 8/26/12,  11:59pm CST.

Round 3 Results COMPLETE: Goal 3 deadline/surprise tonight!

Congratulations #207 PB. You’ve just won a free-tique!  But never fear, PB/ER contestants, you can still compete to win another free-tique in the PB/ER category.  #207, go jump for joy. Ask Kissy about redeeming your prize AFTER RLGL is totally over. He’s got a lot in his bowl right now.

New Entrants: Round 4 is open for New Entrants and those who have received their Round 3 results.  Don’t know how to play?  Read the rules here.

Round 2 Results: COMPLETE, Round 3 open until 8/21 11:59pm CST!

New entrants: Wanna play, but you have no idea what to do?  Read the rules and come back here.


First thank you to everyone for their contributions!  We are only $75 shy for tonight’s goal! 

To donate, visit our PAWS page here.

If the goal is not met by midnight tonight, Kissy is putting his reading glasses away; he’ll save his special surprise for the next RLGL game which may happen whenever he feels like getting around to it. Woof.

Round Two Extended until Saturday, 8/18 11:59pm, results in progress


Hot-diggity-dog. It’s the weekend, folks, and we just realized we can’t get to this many entries by tomorrow with the weekend upon us, so we are extending Round 2 until today, Saturday, August, 18th 11:59pm CST. This means if you haven’t already submitted something for Round 2, you may do so until the deadline. ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND and stay away from your computer. We promise you won’t start round 3 until Monday morning at the earliest.

Arf! Arf! Arf: Please follow the rules for submission, new goal set for RLGL

Arf! Arf! Arf! Woof, woof, woof woof!

Kissy has an important announcement.

Kind, Generous Life-Saving Humans,

Many of you are sending your subs to Cynthea’s email address.  Cynthea’s inbox is mostly filled with loads of irrelevant email that no dog would ever want to read.  So, I’ll beg on my hind legs if I have to, please send your submission to the email address listed in the RULES so that I can sniff your submission.

Round 2 is Open until 11:59pm CST, 8/18

Round 2 is now officially open.  If you sent in something before the round opened, Kissy gives you a warning bark for failure to wait. That said, we’ll count your early entry toward round 2. But please don’t do it again. Our inbox becomes a huge mess when we do RLGL.  Anything you can do to keep us sane would be greatly appreciated.

This round is now open until 11:59pm CST on Saturday  8/18.

Round 1 Results: COMPLETE

First, thank you for helping us reach our first fundraising goal and then some. A new goal will be posted when Round 2 opens.

Here are round 1 Results.  *****RESULTS ARE COMPLETE*****

An asterisk means Kissy is contemplating sending your work back. So try to turn it around if you can.

For code definitions, see our free-tique feedback code list.  For those of you with later numbers, Iskipped the codes to get you the results faster. So just read the notes.

Round 1 Results will be posted soon: Free-tique feedback codes

Hello, everyone,

New participants – get your first half-page submission ready. A new round will be announced tonight. Do not send it though until the next round is open. (Round 2)

Existing participants – results for Round 1 will be posted soon.  In the meanwhile, familiarize yourself with our free-tique feedback codes.

If your work is eliminated in this round, you will receive one or more of these codes.

New Emerging Voices award for ethnically culturally diverse, unpublished writers or illustrators

This just in, fresh from my return from the annual SCBWI conference. I adore anything that supports unpublished writers trying to break in. This award in particular would have been something I would have jumped on before I got published.  From their press release:

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) announced the creation of the On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award at their 41stAnnual Conference in Los Angeles.

A Free-tique Round is Open: Free-for-All for First Pages

UPDATE: THIS FREE-TIQUE ROUND IS CLOSED. I’m responding to submitted pages as fast as I can. Please be patient as I return your free-tiques! It may take me a few days, given the number of submissions.  If you missed the free-tique round and you’d like to have a paid critique, I am booking slots for 2012.  Do sign up for the paid-critique list for rates and submission instructions.

Making the Most out of your Conference Critique

Your hands are sweating. You lie awake at night. You can’t stop thinking about your face-to-face critique with the publishing professional of your dreams. On the day of the conference, you manage to stumble to the registration desk, blurt out your name to the welcoming lady behind the table, and get your shiny folder which includes everything you need to know … including your critique assignment.

You open the folder.

What? You haven’t heard? WriteOnCon is open!

Hey everyone,

Whenever I hear of something uber-cool for writers that also happens to be free, I think to myself — my readers will want to know about this!

I hereby present to you WriteOnCon – the first online conference for kidlit writers of its kind!

Registration is open now. I heard about this through a writer-colleague friend who’s on faculty.

RLGL feedback has been returned!

Hey, everyone,

Snoop and I are happy to report that we’ve finished all feedback for this last game of RLGL. If we missed yours somehow, please forward your WHY WHY WHY email to sub at cynthealiu DOT come or leave us a comment. If you missed the deadline to formally request feedback, we’re sorry, but Snoop and I need to move on with other important writerly matters at this time. Like catching up on our favorite reality TV shows and stuff.

RLGL is officially over: how to get feedback

Well, we’ve read, we’ve mulled, we’ve chewed.

The winner for RLGL in the longer-work category is #102! #102, you do not need to do anything to receive your free-tique, other than to remind Snoop on July 1st that we promised to finish it by June 30th!

All other SUDDEN DEATH players, all of you will receive some quick criticism – in-the-style-of-“brief-and-to-the-point” automatically.

RLGL Sudden Death Results

Snoop is having trouble deciding which entry should win sudden death. He has decided to sleep on it, knowing that tomorrow will shed new light. Please hang tight – we will re-read the entries tomorrow and make a determination. Based on Snoop’s schedule, it is likely we shall have result’s by 1PM CST. Thank you! (Sorry for the torture!)

Round 7 RLGL Results, Sudden Death in effect

Snoop says, RED LIGHT!

All entries submitted before June 2, 11:59PM CST have been reviewed.   We have a winner for the longer-work category. A number of people have cleared page 7 (some, just barely).  We have a six-way tie. If you see, SUDDEN DEATH next to your #, this means you are now competing for the win.

Everyone else, the game is over for you. Please hold off on contacting Snoop for feedback until SUDDEN DEATH is complete.

RLGL Round 6 Results complete, no more new manuscripts

Snoop says, RED LIGHT.  Round 6 results are complete.

Existing racers: PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR ENTRY NUMBERS in the subject line as well as the correct page # for this contest (not what’s in your manuscript).

After page 1, do not send  more than 250 words or less than 250 words.  This ensures everyone competes equally.  We don’t care if a sentence has been cut off or if you’ve ended a chapter.  250 WORDS (including chapter titles, etc.

RLGL Round 5 Results Complete, New Racers must enter by June 1

Snoop says, RED LIGHT! Round 5 Results are complete.

RACERS: This is your last chance to enter. After Round 6 closes, Snoop will NOT be issuing new entry #s.  You have until June 1st, 11:59PM CST.  After that, only existing entries will be able to play.

Read this post for full details on how to enter.

If there is an asterisk by your X, it means Snoop is just waiting to chomp on your manuscript.

RLGL – next round is last one for new entries

Hey all,

NEW RACERS: Visit this post for full details on how this game is played.

Snoop and I are packing for Mem Day weekend and doing all sorts of crazy stunts to get ourselves together. We anticipate Round 5 judging will occur late tonight.  No worries though, you will have plenty of time to turn in Round 6 pages.  Snoop thinks the next deadline will be on Monday.  Anything sent after the last deadline (May 26, 11:59PM CST) will be rolled into Round 6.

RLGL Round 4 Results complete, New Racers may enter at any time

Snoop says, RED LIGHT! Thanks for your patience. We had quite a full day today.  Round 4 judging is now complete!

We have a winner in the PB category. *PB entries may still compete for the glory of making it the end and getting some feedback when this whole thing is done. *

NEW RACERS: Visit this post for full details on how this game is played.

An asterisk next to your X means Snoop is just looking for reasons to eat your work.

Please hang tight for results of Round 1, RLGL DEADLINE EXTENDED

Dear Freetiquees,

This is a quick update to let you know that Snoop’s once-clear calendar got royally-screwed up by some mission-critical items. And tonight, he is scheduled to man the fort while Cynthea attends a network SCBWI event. Because of this, we are extending this first round until 11:59 PM CST tonight (May 19, 2010).

Rest assured, we will do our very best to turn around results tomorrow.  We apologize for making you wait.

A free-tique round is open: Red Light, Green Light is here!


My email server is playing lots of fun games with me. It send out an old message about a free-tique round that should have gotten to you way back in May. As a result, a bunch of people, yourselves included, never got the notice about the free-tique round when it was actually occuring.

We are so sorry this happened. At this time, we can’t get another round started because of our schedule.

Another Give-Tique Opportunity: 60 min Q&A with The Snooper and moi

Hello everyone,

It must be raise-money-for-a-cause month or something! After Nashville, I was approached to offer a unique prize for bid to help keep Evanston Public Library open. So Snoop and I put our heads together and came up with … “Pick a Children’s Book Author’s Brain!” 60 minutes on the phone to discuss anything you like about the field, AND Snoop and I will offer our feedback on a 2500-word writing sample if you so wish.

Best Writing Advice Ever!

Recently, I was invited to do a live workshop on WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS: A CRASH COURSE. As I was putting together my presentation, I thought I’d leave my students with a few fabulous quotes before I let them march off into the sunset to write their first book.

To find my quotes, I put out a call to writer friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Verla Kay’s message board. I asked them to tell me the best writing advice they’ve ever heard.

Tag, you’re it! Free-tique round results

Hey everyone,

Snoop had a great time munching through your entries (over 250, way to go!). We took the liberty of modifying some of your ideas. Here is what was passed up to my publisher. If your entry was the first to inspire the final version, you were emailed already to notify you of your win.  Here are the final results.

We would love it if you could vote which ones you like best.

Freetique round: Tag, You’re it! Updates available on Twitter

Hey everyone,

The taglines are rolling in, and man, this is soooo awesome. Snoop and I are going to post our thoughts about which ones we like and offer more guidance. To see those thoughts, “hop” on over to

BTW, this is really a great exercise for everyone when they think about titling and query letter pitches. A great tagline can really help sell your manuscript before it’s sold, if you know what I mean.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich, middle grade novelist

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

This week, we have Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich. Olugbemisola is the daughter of a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father, and married to a man of Croatian descent.  So, that’s what’s up with the name. She’s worked as a freelance writer and contributing editor at various magazines, and has developed educational materials geared to educators and students.

Outstanding Free-tique Update

As of today, I have finished all outstanding free-tiques owed to participants from the Take the Dare: Show You Care launch. Thank you so much for supporting Tulakes Elementary and my book PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE.

If you did not receive yours, check your spam box. If you can’t find it, contact me!

Authors on the Verge: Meet Rhonda Stapleton, young adult novelist

This week, we have Rhonda Stapleton. Rhonda started writing a few years ago to appease the voices in her head. She has a Master’s degree in English and a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. Rhonda works as an editor for a legal publishing company and enjoys freelance editing and offering editing workshops. Because one writing group is never enough, she belongs to Romance Writers of America, several online and local writing chapters, and Romance Divas.

Authors on the Verge: Meet L.K. Madigan, novelist

Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan

This week, we have L.K. Madigan. Lisa is married with one son, and two big black dogs. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where it’s green and gray. When she’s not reading, writing or playing with her family, she pursues hobbies like photography, music, bike riding, and sweeping up dog hair.

Here’s a little bit about FLASH BURNOUT, Houghton Mifflin, Fall 2009.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Mandy Hubbard, young adult novelist

Mandy Hubbard

This week, we have Mandy Hubbard. Mandy grew up on a dairy farm outside Seattle, where she refused to wear high heels until homecoming and hated them so much she didn’t wear another pair for five years. A cowgirl at heart, she enjoys riding horses and quads and singing horribly to the latest country tune. She’s currently living happily ever after with her husband (who, sadly, is not a Duke) and her daughter (who is most definitely a princess).

Authors on the Verge: Meet Sarah Rees Brennan, young adult novelist

Sarah Rees Brennan

This week, we have Sarah Rees Brennan. Sarah was born and raised in Ireland by the sea, where her teachers valiantly tried to make her fluent in Irish (she wants you to know it’s not called Gaelic) but she chose to read books under her desk in class instead. She lived briefly in New York and somehow survived in spite of her habit of hitching lifts in fire engines. She began working on The Demon’s Lexicon while doing library work in Surrey, England.

RLGL We Love Libraries Update

All Why, Why, Why feedback has been returned for those who have requested it. If you have not received yours, please let Snoop know and forward ALL the pages of your ms (PASTED in the email) to Snoop will return your feedback via Twitter for any remaining works that have not received comments.

RLGL: We Love Libraries, Round 10 results, new racers may enter at any time

Looks like a good chance that Round 11 will never come to fruition without your help. Help us make it to 300 comments, and the race is on!

The challenge post is here.  Please leave a comment (one per person!).

THIS JUST IN: Round 10 Twitter Thoughts from Snoop are posted.  http://www.twitter.

RLGL: We Love Libraries, Round 9 Results, new racers may enter at any time

I want to thank everyone who has participated and spread the word so far, but seriously? We can do WAY better. Get your mom, your kids (13+), and your spouses involved to keep RLGL alive. While the challenge will continue until the goal is met, RLGL won’t if it’s not bringing in more supporters. We’re not doing this for nothing, yanno.

The challenge post is here.  Please leave a comment (one per person!).


RLGL: We Love Libraries, Round 8 Results, new racers may enter at any time


Snoop and I really want to make our Library Lovin’ challenge goal, and we can’t do it without your help.  Sooo…. this is your warning (or your kick in the pants), once the comments stop on our challenge post, so do we.  We’re not doing this just for thrills, you know. There is a library-in-need that would like to receive our moolah, and we’d like to give it to them before the year 2015.

RLGL: We Love Libraries, Round 7 Results, new racers may enter at any timet

Having fun? Please spread the word about RLGL: We Love Libraries. Remember: EVERYONE WILL RECEIVE FEEDBACK ABOUT EACH WORK ENTERED IN RLGL, regardless of their standing in the race. Support a library-in-need!

Here are the full rules:

Reminder: Snoop is returning feedback now.

RLGL: We Love Libraries: Round 6 Results, New racers may enter at any time

***BREAKING NEWS:  We have TWO novelists at the finish line.  Snoop missed #88’s entry which was submitted prior to the deadline.   This means both novelists will fight to the death for the free-tique in a page-off competition.  Any other novelist who makes it through page 7 will not be able to win a free-tique. However you can still go on past page 7 if our leading novelists are still playing each other.

This will be exciting, folks.

RLGL: We Love Libraries, Round 6 Results. New racers may enter at any time, DEADLINE EXTENDED, April 9, 11:59PM

THIS JUST IN: Snoop and I had to delay this round a bit since we just got done with a school visit and WE ARE WIPED. Thought we could go through everything tonight, but realize now that this is impossible! We want to be fresh for your work, so we will be delivering results tomorrow beforeSnoop has to do his thing for Easter. So please bear with us! Good news is THE DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED. You have until TONIGHT, 11:59PM CST to turn in your stuff.

RLGL: We Love Libraries, Round 5 results. New racers may enter at any time

Someone asked Snoop a great question in this last round. “If I get sent back to start, what does it really mean?”  Here’s the answer: Snoop and I look at your work from several different aspects, much like we do when we a full critique, too. We look for fit in the overall market (does the writing and premise fit the target age range?), do we find the basic premise appealing? (i.e.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Deva Fagan, middle grade novelist


This week, we have Deva Fagan. Deva likes searching for patterns, which is how she explains both her degree in mathematics and the echoes of old fairy tales in her stories. She lives in Maine with her husband and her dog.

Here’s a little bit about FORTUNE’S FOLLY coming out in just two weeks (Henry Holt).

Ever since her mother died and her father lost his shoemaking skills, Fortunata has survived by telling fake fortunes.

RLGL: We Love Libraries, Round 4 Results. New racers may enter at any time

THIS JUST IN: Snoop will be telling all RLGL entrants why their pages were sent back to the starting line after RLGL is completely over. Unfortunately, we will not be able to go into it at great length but we will provide “reason codes” to help you understand what might have been the problem.  So everyone will walk away with feedback.  YES!!! If you are interested in participating in RLGL, read the original post for full rules and details: http://www.

RLGL: We Love Libraries, Round 3 Results. New racers may enter at any time

Snoop says, “RED LIGHT!” Snoop has examined everyone’s work that was submitted prior to last night’s deadline. New and old racers with new works, you will receive entry numbers when Snoop reviews all entries for the next round. YOU DO *NOT* HAVE TO WAIT TO RECEIVE AN ENTRY NUMBER TO SUBMIT YOUR FIRST HALF-PAGE. Just send it in.

The following racers interested Snoop enough to see where your work is headed.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Sydney Salter, young adult novelist

Sydney Salter

This week, we have Sydney Salter who held a variety of jobs before becoming a full-time writer, including her brief stint delivering pies and flowers, wrecking vans, and destroying wedding cakes in Reno, Nevada. Sydney now lives in Utah with her husband, two daughters, two cats, two dogs and two tortoises. She loves reading, writing, traveling, and, of course, baking and decorating cakes (but not driving them anywhere).

RLGL: We Love Libraries, Round 2 Results! New Racers may enter at any time.

Snoop says, “RED LIGHT!” Snoop has examined everyone’s work that was submitted prior to last night’s deadline. New racers, you will receive entry numbers when Snoop reviews all entries for the next round. YOU DO *NOT* HAVE TO WAIT TO RECEIVE YOUR ENTRY NUMBER TO SUBMIT YOUR FIRST HALF-PAGE. Just send it in along with your registration.

The following racers interested Snoop enough to see where your work is headed.

Red Light, Green Light: WE LOVE LIBRARIES free-tique contest

ALL RLGL ROUNDS ARE NOW OFFICIALLY CLOSED. Thanks for playing, everyone!

If you miss any round, YOU CAN ENTER THE RACE AT ANY TIME. You never know how this will turn out. Also, the results of each round are posted anonymously and your work will not be shared with anyone besides Cynthea and Snoop.

Snoop will also be giving feedback on entries submitted after the race is over, regardless of the entrant’s standing in the race.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Mark Fink, young adult novelist

Mark Fink, author of STEPPING UP

This week, we’re celebrating the fabuloso Mark Fink. Mark wrote and produced for television, doing shows for every major network, including Full House, Saved By The Bell, Growing Pains and many others.

Snoop says, “KEWL!”

Mark also created and produced the NBC teen comedy Hang Time, about a high school basketball team in Indiana. This show allowed him to enjoy two of his passions: comedy and basketball.

Authors on the Verge: Meet J.C. Phillipps, picture book author-illustrator

J.C. Phillipps

This week, we have the phenomenal J. C. Phillipps, who goes by Julie in regular non-author life. Julie has degrees in theater and art. She never took courses in writing or illustration, but realized her playwriting experience and art background might mesh well into picture books. Because she was twenty-five at the time and the thought of writing picture books seemed like something an older person might do – she bought a leather jacket instead.

Q: What does high-concept fiction mean?

A: When I think of high-concept fiction, I think of blockbuster-movie-kind-of-fiction. If you’ve got a “coming of age” story, where everyone is a regular human being that goes to a normal school, the girl breaks up with a bad boyfriend, but then realizes she was worthy without him, then that’s probably not high-concept.

First Great “Haul of China” winner announced, are you next?

Heads up, everybody. The First Great Haul of China winner was announced at One lucky contestant gets to take home a genuine Terra Cotta warrior souvenir straight from Xi’an, an autographed copy of THE GREAT CALL of China … AND… a gift certificate to ARE YOU NEXT?! If you have not entered, you have until tomorrow, March 1st, 11:59PM CST.  P.S. EVERYONE TAKES HOME A SWEET PARTY FAVOR.

Ack! Apologies for the series article hiatus!

Hey everyone,

So sorry about the series article hiatus. I was swept up in a publicity frenzy over the weekend, and I’m pushing some serious deadlines to get some stuff done for the release!

Stay tuned to learn more about the parties happening TOMORROW for writers, friends and Snoop fans! (DID I HEAR FREE-TIQUES?!)

We’ll pick up where we left off  on the article series when things die down a little.


Cynthea (and Snoop!)

BEHIND THE BOOK: How to write for a children’s or teen book series – Part V (sample chapters cont’d)

Yesterday, we talked about how to study writing style. The next thing you’re going to do is examine what happens in the first few chapters of other books in the series so you know what you should cover in your own sample chapters. How?

Read the first few chapters (or roughly 25 pages of books in the series). If you want, write a simple paragraph about each chapter you read.

BEHIND THE BOOK: How to write for a children’s or teen book series – Part IV (sample chapters)

Yesterday, we talked about cover letters, outlines, and synopses. Today we’re getting to one of the most important parts of a proposal. THE SAMPLE CHAPTERS. Here’s where you’re going to prove your worth. And for series writing, it’s not necessarily about flaunting your style of writing, it’s about showing that you know how to write in the style of the series.

BEHIND THE BOOK: How to write for a children’s or teen book series – Part III (elements of a proposal)

Yesterday, we discussed what to look for when researching a children’s or teen book series. Now we’re going to talk about developing your idea for the next book into a pitchable concept. Let’s break down what you’ll be putting together.

The Proposal

Assuming, you’ve already inquired about the guidelines from the publisher or packager, you have now reached the stage where you have been invited to submit a proposal.

BEHIND THE BOOK: How to write for a children’s or teen book series – Part II (a study checklist)

Yesterday, we covered how to find children’s and teen book series that you can write for. Now I’m going to assume that you have some good idea of whom you will try to approach. You’ve verified the publisher or packager accepts new ideas for stories, and maybe you even have some guidelines from them about the series.

For S.A.S.S. I received a series concept letter from my agent (which came from the publisher).

BEHIND THE BOOK: How to write for a children’s or teen book series (Part I)

Are you curious about how authors get in on multi-author series books like S.A.S.S. Students Across the Seas?

Do you want to understand what skill set and experience is required to write for any established series?

Would you like to know how to approach a publisher to get your idea sold?

Then this is the article series for you. In the coming days, I’ll talk about how to get started writing for a series based upon my own experience with S.A.S.

Don’t ask, and I shall receive? And a new article series for my launch …

My book S.A.S.S. The Great Call of China is coming out in 10 days … And recently, a fellow writer friend of mine decided to celebrate! Her name is Tara Lazar and she posted this on The Blue Boards.

I cried.

That post has led to many great things, including a wonderful free critique opportunity offered by Roxanne Werner.

Also to celebrate, I’m giving back again with a new article series called BEHIND THE BOOK: WRITING FOR AN ESTABLISHED SERIES …

Authors on the Verge: Meet Cynthea Liu, middle grade and YA novelist

Well, I debated if I should interview myself for my own column (I mean–have Snoop do it!! Woah, where did that come from?!) And I decided I probably do owe everyone a little bit more about myself here on Writing for Children and Teens. Plus, my book is coming out in a couple of weeks … So … without further ado, here it is. Snoop, ask me the tough questions!

( *Snoop clears his throat.* Ahem.)

Q: Many publishers have multiple editors in charge of acquisition. Which one do I contact?

Q: I’ve written a picture book and I’m perusing the CWIM. Many publishers have multiple editors or
people in charge of Acquisition. How do I know whom to contact?

A: Great question. Read my article on submitting to editors here. It details in length how to find which editor to pick.

Q: Should I email my submissions?

Q: A book I’ve reads says so many times that it is inadvisable to email publishers as they simply won’t respond. But some publishers say they are open to email submissions. Is it still ok to do so?

A: If the publisher’s guidelines say it is okay to email them, then yes, follow the publisher’s guidelines. The book may simply be advising writers not to blindly email publishers as a way to break in.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Kurtis Scaletta, middle grade novelist

This week we have the scintillating Kurtis Scaletta. Kurtis was born in Louisiana and grew up in New Mexico, North Dakota, England, Liberia, Brazil, and a few other places. He now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and several cats.


A little bit about Kurtis’s book MUDVILLE (Knopf, February 2009).

Welcome to Moundville, where it’s been raining for longer than Roy McGuire has been alive.

Q: Italics or underlines in a manuscript?

Q: A writer asks: When writing a manuscript, does one indicate that words are italicized by
underlining the intended words or simply italicizing them? I read online that
one should underline any phrase meant to be italicized because that makes it
easier for the typesetter to find. What is your experience?

A: It’s a matter of personal taste. Personally, for all of my manuscripts, I do NOT underline. I italicize.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Jenny Moss, middle grade novelist

This week, we have the ingenious Jenny Moss. Jenny is a former NASA engineer who was secretly writing at night [prior to getting a contract]. As a child, she loved words. As a teen, she dreamed of hanging out in French cafes with other writers. But she also loved numbers, which led to a career in engineering. Now a full-time writer, she still hopes to hang out in those French cafes one day.

Authors on the Verge: Meet C. Lee McKenzie, young adult novelist

This week we have C. Lee McKenzie. In her other life-the one before she began writing fiction for teens and middle grade readers-C. Lee was a teacher and administrator at California State University, San Jose. Her field of Linguistics and Inter-cultural Communication has carried her to a lot of places in the world to explore different cultures and languages.

Tell us a little about your first book SLIDING ON THE EDGE (WestSide Book, coming April, 2009).

Drive-by free-tiquing at Kidlit Central News

Snoop just did some drive-by tiquing over at Kidlit Central News for Fun Friday.  The round was so small that Snoop didn’t feel good about sending all of his free-tiquees an email about it.  (So, sorry if he didn’t email it to the list!).

At any rate, you might find it interesting to see what a short version of Snoop’s free-tiques look like.  And bonus, you just might learn something new about Writing for Children and Teens.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Samantha R. Vamos, picture book author

This week we have the sensational Samantha R. Vamos. Samantha grew up on the East coast where she attended law school and practiced law. She spent her 30’s in the Midwest, managing to keep warm in the Windy City. Now she and her family reside in the Pacific Northwest where she writes as much as she can and heads outside whenever the sun shines.

(Snoop says, hmm, sunshine? Maybe I should move.

Authors on the Verge: Meet J.E. MacLeod, young adult novelist

This week, we have the magnificent J.E. MacLeod who lives with her husband and son near the Canadian Rockies. Before becoming a full-time writer, J.E. was a copywriter in radio and television. She was also a DJ and still thinks that might have been kind of cool. Waiting to Score (WestSide Books, February, 2009), is her first young adult novel.


Tell us about your first book.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Erin Dionne, young adult novelist

This week we have the ever-amazing Erin Dionne, who has lived on two coasts and in four states. Her debut novel, MODELS DON’T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES (Dial, February 2009), was inspired by events that occurred in seventh grade, when she wore a scary peach bridesmaid dress in her cousin’s wedding and threw up on her gym teacher’s shoes (not at the same event).  Although humiliating at the time, these experiences are working for her now.

Want a huge dose of inspiration? Check out AuthorsNow!

Hey everyone,

Okay, I can’t apologize enough about how much Snoop and I have been in hiding lately, but seriously, we have lots of good reasons. This latest one though is pretty good. Need some major inspiration? Check out what we’ve been working on at  I hope that by browsing through this site, you’ll get a good idea of where you could be in a blink of an eye.

NAME THAT BOOK: Winner announced!

And we have a winner for the contest to name Josh’s book….. drum roll please…… (Snoop?  A bit louder.) brrrrrrrrmmmmm, brummmm,  brummmmmm!


Thanks you so much to all of you for playing “Name Josh’s Book!” I feel really fortunate to have the collective brain of such a fun & creative group working on titling my book. There were so many great titles and kind messages.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Laurel Snyder, picture book and middle grade author

This week we have the lovely Laurel Snyder. So there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is Laurel got skipped during my hiatus from the web, so we completely missed her debut. (GAH!) The good news is Laurel’s books are out now, and she’s got two of them! She is the debut children’s book author of UP AND DOWN THE SCRATCHY MOUNTAINS (Random House, 2008), and INSIDE THE SLIDY DINER (Tricycle, 2008) .

NAME THAT BOOK: A free-GUEST-tique round is open!

Here it is: an opportunity of a lifetime—win a critique from Josh Berk and a chance to name a real book coming out from Knopf. But first you ask …

Who is Josh? Josh Berk is a librarian and author from Allentown, PA who signed a two-book Young Adult deal with Knopf. The first book comes out in early 2010 and he needs a title! And he promises he will deliver a brutally honest critique of the first three chapters of your children’s or teen novel (25 pages max).

Authors on the Verge: Meet Saundra Mitchell, young adult novelist

Saundra Mitchell

This week we have the stupendous Saundra Mitchell! A screenwriter and author, Saundra penned the screenplays for the Fresh Films and Girls in the Director’s Chair short film series. Her short story “Ready to Wear” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her first feature film, Revenge Ends, debuted on the festival circuit in 2008. SHADOWED SUMMER, her debut novel, launches in February of 2009, and has been chosen as a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Aprilynne Pike, young adult fantasy novelist

This week we have the amazing Aprilynne Pike. She has been spinning faerie stories since she was a child with a hyper-active imagination. She completed her BA in Creative Writing at the age of twenty at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. When not writing, Aprilynne can usually be found at the gym; she also enjoys singing, acting, reading, and working with pregnant moms as a doula. Aprilynne currently lives with her husband and three kids in Utah, and dreams of warmer climates.

Authors on the Verge: Meet David Macinnis Gill, middle grade novelist

This week we have writing dynamo David Macinnis Gill. David is the author of the debut novel, SOUL ENCHILADA, due out in May 2009 from Greenwillow/HarperCollins. His stories have appeared in several literary magazines. He is the current President of ALAN (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) and an Associate Professor at UNC Wilmington.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Cyn Balog, young adult fantasy novelist

This week we have the sensational Cyn Balog! She’s a normal, everyday Jersey Girl who always believed magical things can happen to us when we least expect them. She’s also the Race & Event Manager for several national fitness magazines. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and young daughter. Both are 100% human, or so she thinks. FAIRY LUST is her first novel (Delacorte, Summer 2009).

Tell us a little bit about FAIRY LUST.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Nancy Viau, middle grade novelist

This week we have the notable Nancy Viau, but here’s the thing. Snoop and Cynthea have been away for the last several months, and you might have noticed AOTV had to go offline for a while. As a result, Nancy, our latest Author on the Verge, is now an Author in Print! (AIP!!!) Her debut novel Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head has just been released with Abrams/Amulet. Gooo, Nancy!

Here’s a bit more about this lovely lady.

Come say Hi at SCBWI-LA 2008

If you’ll be at the annual SCBWI conference in LA, come say Hi! I look forward to meeting you! And if you’ve never gone to this one before, it’s a must-do!  My first annual conference experience was truly unforgettable. You can read about it here.

Here are more highlights from last year.

And the year before.

Happy conferencing,

Authors on the Verge: Meet Gayle C. Krause, picture book author

This week we have Gayle C. Krause whose debut picture book Rock Star Santa will be released this winter with Scholastic. Rock Star Santa depicts a unique Christmas Eve involving a child and a different side of Santa. Gayle also writes MG and YA historical fiction, fantasy and contemporary novels. She is a reviewer of children’s books for Children’s and holds a M.S. degree in Elementary Education.

Authors on the Verge: Meet Emily Ecton, middle-grade novelist

This week, we have Emily Ecton, middle-grade novelist and writer and producer for Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, the NPR news quiz. She has also been a playwright, a chinchilla wrangler, an ice cream scooper and a costume character. While Emily doesn’t have a groovy rabbit like Snoop, she does live in Chicago with her dog, Binky. And we here at Writing for Children and Teens love Chicago and all of our furry friends.

See me at Chicago’s Printers Row Book Fair

Come to one of the most celebrated book fairs in the country–I’ll be working the SCBWI booth at the Printers Row Book Fair, happy to answer your questions about writing for children and teens and signing my book, WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS: A CRASH COURSE. See you there!

How to get there:

The book fair is located on historic Printers Row, in the blocks surrounding Dearborn and Polk street.

AuthorsNow! is coming to a website near you!

Hey everyone,

I just wanted to let you know that I’m creating a website for debut children’s book authors and illustrators called AuthorsNow! I think this will be a great opportunity for new authors and author groups to spread the word about themselves and their books! If your first traditionally published children’s or teen book (fiction or non – all age-levels, publisher listed in CWIM or CBC) will be coming out in 2009 or beyond in the U.S.A.

What’s up, Doc? Free-tique office hours from 9 – 11PM CST tonight


Hey everyone,

In this special free-tique round, Snoop puts on his white coat and stethoscope and steps into his office. You may ask him anything about fiction children’s writing or your work. Your question must also be specific–something Snoop can answer with one quick peek and a written prescription in his bad handwriting.

Free-tique round ends today 4PM CST


Just an update:

Thanks to everyone for their title submissions. The contest is closing soon (4 PM – CST TODAY). Keep them coming! I have nearly 500 entries. You’d be surprised that some of the “bad” titles are actually quite good. Don’t afraid to be silly with them. But keep in mind 1) play-on-words 2) the country 3) the character or plot.

I am cool by association!


In case you haven’t heard yet, my illustrious critique partner Beberly is co-pres of the Class of 2k9! (whoot-whoot!). And in case you also haven’t heard, my other illustrious critique partner Tamarak was featured in this issue’s SCBWI bulletin! (OMG!)

I am cool by association!

Congrats, gals!


Hi everyone, the crits are complete. If you did not receive yours for any reason, feel free to forward me your original email again and let me know.   Stay tuned for another free-tique round next month!

still working on it!

I’m still working on the quick-crits. They’re supposed to be quick, but with so many entries it’s hard to be THAT quick!  I hadn’t expected to get nearly one hundred entries! Yowza.
Have patience–your crit is coming soon.


We’re baa—ack! A free-tique round is open…



First, a big thanks to those of you who wished Baby Liu a warm welcome to the world. Your messages were lovely, the presents divine, and the good vibes were very much appreciated! With that said, I can’t wait to get back into writing-mode, and what better way to start off the year than with a free-tique round for everyone. Woohoo!

Traffic Cop is going on now.

Jarrett Krosoczka’s PUNK FARM raffle RAWKS!

I thought this was such a kewl idea, I had to blog about it (EVEN THOUGH MY REVISION IS DUE TOMORROW. Yes, I’m working, I swear!) If you like Jarrett Krosoczka’s PUNK FARM books, you’ll LOVE THIS–your chance to win an original PUNK FARM character painting! Enter the raffle now.
BUT now that I told you about this, YOU CANNOT ENTER FOR THE PIG. THE PIG IS MINE. SO LAY OFF THE OINKER, alright?

Q: How do I make a picture book dummy?

A: If you are both a writer and a professional illustrator, then what you will want to do is create a picture book dummy. I’m not an illustrator myself, but I can point you to a great article on how to make one.

If you’re only a writer, then follow the steps in my crash course to learn how to submit your picture book manuscript.

Results of the Free-tique Contest with Agent Jennifer Jaeger!

Snoop would like to announce the results for the Free-tique Contest with Agent Jennifer Jaeger of ABLA!

FINALISTS – (you have won a quick-crit)


* Sarah Tregay, YA, A KISS IN PARIS
* Steve Arnold, YA, TRIPLE THREAT
* Gregory Stephen Fields, MG, BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE
* Cherie Colyer, YA, BLOOD TIES

Free-tique contest with Jennifer Jaeger of ABLA is now open!

Free-tique contest with agent Jennifer Jaeger of Andrea Brown Literary Agency is open for Entries!

Why do you want to enter?
1) It’s a chance to see how you stand among your competition FOR FREE.
2) If you pass Snoop’s muster, it’s another way to get yourself in front of a notable literary agent QUICKLY!
3) It’s just plain fun, y’all.

Submissions are open from now until 11:59PM (CST) Friday, October 26th.

Q: What elements make for a good hook, particularly at a story’s outset?

Q: What elements make for a good hook, particularly at a story’s outset?

A: Hook is really hard to define. But here’s how I look at it (in terms of opening pages)

It’s something that draws you in.

It could be a first line.
It could be a character’s unique voice.
It could be an interesting situation on the first pages.
It could be the style in which the piece is written.

Q: I want to write for teens, but I’m much older than a teen…

Q: I want to write for teens, but I’m much older than a teen and don’t really know if it’s something I can tackle without coming across as unauthentic. What’s the best way to learn how to write for the teen audience in particular?

A: The best way to get to know how to write for YA is to read a bunch of YA novels. You don’t even have to read the whole book; opening chapters say a lot about the great range within YA.

Q: If a publisher’s guidelines says to address all submissions to a general submissions editor…

Q: If a publisher’s guidelines says to address all submissions to a general
submissions editor (e.g., acquisitions editor or something similar) versus a specific person, is it acceptable to “break those rules” if I learn about an editor there who has preferences for the kind of work I write?

A: Almost all houses have submissions guidelines that are generic or say to send something to SUBMISSIONS EDITOR, or something like that.

Q: I am writing a picture book manuscript. Should I include art specs for each page?

Q: I am writing a picture book. Should I include art specs for each page? Or should I just explain the general idea in the cover letter and hope the editors will “get” what I’m visualizing for the art?

A: A picture book text is 50% of the story. The other 50% is what the illustrator brings to the table. Specifying art direction for every page of a picture book is strongly discouraged and will flag you as an amateur.

Q&A: Is winning a free-tique round something I should include in my query letters?

Question: So a fellow tiquee has asked, “is winning a free-tique round a credential for a query letter?” Good question.

Answer: As much as Snoop would like everyone to believe that he is world-famous, Cynthea must deflate his ego and say, “No, you should not include any mention of your success in a free-tique round in your query letters.

A special free-tique round is opening!

A SPECIAL FREE-TIQUE round will be opening on Wed, August 8th. But if you want to participate, you’ll need to jump on my freetique list between now and then (that’s August 8th, 11:59 PM) to find out the details. There will be a special contest to qualify and this one should be fast and fun and informative for those writers who want to know if their work can grab the attention of an agent or editor (or Snoop’s!) from page 1.

Good luck!

Cynthea and Snoop

The easiest-free-tique round-ever is open!


Well, I promised one and here it is. A free-tique round is open, but before you spazz and madly try to locate the file you want to send, READ THIS FIRST.

All you need to do this time is just add your email address to my free-tique list. You will automatically be entered in a drawing sponsored by Snoop. The winner will be announced no sooner than Friday, 5PM (CST), June 29th. And remember, CHILDREN’S FICTION work only, any genre.

Guess who’s on The Purple Crayon?

In writing news:
Harold Underdown, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, Second Edition just featured one of my articles on his website The Purple Crayon! If you’ve never been there before, do check it out for a plethora of free children’s articles and tips. And don’t forget to stop by my own site for new articles on How to Interview an Agent and How to Avoid Children’s Book Scams.

Snoop says:


how to avoid children’s book scams

I have run into countless writers who have spent hundreds of dollars on literary agents, vanity publishers, and book doctors, in the hopes of making it big in children’s publishing. It really breaks my heart to hear this because the truth is, there are people out there feasting on hopeful newbie writers, turning a very legitimate business into something reeked with fraudulence. THIS ANGERS ME.

How To Interview a Literary Agent

I’ve been asked this question quite a bit since I wrote my series of articles on How To Find a Great Agent For Your Children’s Book. It occurred to me that I never provided detailed information on how to execute the agent interview. But before I get into that, here are the conditions under which you will need to interview an agent.

Costco is SO DEEP!


I rarely do any leisure reading these days, but when I do, I am amazed by what I find.

In this month’s COSTCO CONNECTION (the mag that goes out to devoted members like me), I read an old adage I had never heard of before. Here it is.
“Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”

Wow, Costco is so deep, man.


“The grass is always yummier on the other side.”

I’m in!


All this conference talk has made me feeling a bit left out. So I promptly registered for the SCBWI-LA conference this summer. Look out, folks, I’m joining the party!


What about me?!

In deep concentration…(free-tiquees, listen up)


There has been a lot going on in C-LIU-land and I am going to need to go into a deep state of concentration. Free-tiquees waiting to redeem slots may turn them in during this time. However, the usual speedy turnaround may no longer be in effect. In addition, I am happy to extend expiration dates if asked. Now excuse me while I hole myself away. I may re-emerge now and then to say Hi and let you know I am still alive.

Take care, everyone! I’ll miss you.

RLGL winners announced!

Snoop read and read till he couldn’t read no more.
The winner of the FULL-TIQUE is #5-YA, exceeding 12 pages.
The winner of a free-tique slot, stopping at 12 pages is #24-YA.

Winners, you may redeem your tiques no sooner than May 1st (due to various reasons) and no later than August 31st.
Congrats to everyone. We hope you had fun playing the game!


Bon voyage!

RLGL: round six

Woah, we have five, not four, entries that cleared page six.

I have one PB entry clearly in the lead in the last round.

Because this contest has to end tonight, at least the semi-real-time portion of it, we have to make some decisions here.

Novelists: The five entries that cleared page six, you will play SUDDEN DEATH. Submit your first 25 pages by tomorrow 9PM CST and Snoop will announce the winner as soon as he can read your manuscripts. (Probably Friday).

RLGL: Round 5

Do no be eliminated because of a technicality. Please include your entry number, your page number, your MS title in the SUBJECT of your email. If you have just entered, don’t worry about your entry number. Snoop will give you one.

Coming down the home stretch. Because we lost a round due to the email glitch, Snoop and I have conferred and we’ve decided that SIX pages will be the limit to qualify for a free-tique. And bonus play.

RLGL: round 4

Do no be eliminated because of a technicality. Snoop is going bonkers trying to find entries that are improperly labeled. So please include your entry number, your page number, your MS title in the SUBJECT of your email. If you have just entered, don’t worry about your entry number. Snoop will give you one.

A word of warning: Novelists: some of you are taking the long way to tell your story. Uh-oh….

RLGL: round three

Please remember to include your number, genre, page number, and your MS title in your email subjects. If you’re just joining us, don’t worry about the number. You’ll get one. Anyone who fails to do this will be subject to elimination!

If your number is missing from the results, do not hesitate to let us know.

Finally, PB people, you must clear your last page to win a slot.

New Entries: 41-51.

We broke Snoop’s email!

K, tiny technical difficulty here. Snoop and Cynthea’s email boxes are both down. I have no idea when they’ll be back up. If you are competing in RLGL, please go ahead and send your next page. Just send it on by 9PM CST.  If my email is up, I will announce both rounds’ results somewhere after 9PM CST.  If I can do Round 3 sooner, I will.
If you need to communicate with me now, you can try leaving a public comment on this post.

RLGL results: round two

Just an FYI: Please remember to include your number, genre, page number, and your MS title in your email subjects. If you’re just joining us, don’t worry about the number. You’ll get one.

Lots for Snoop to keep track of.

Oh, and if your number is missing from the results, do not hesitate to let us know.

Finally if you are on page 2 or higher, please send FULL pages (dbl-spaced). Don’t worry about formatting when it’s pasted into email.

RLGL results: round one

First, if you saw the password protected page, that’s your signal that I’m working on the results. Do not ask me for a password. You won’t need it. Just wait until I publish the page, my dears.

Second, if you don’t advance to the next round, you should not feel upset or rejected, even though your mind and body might try to tell you you should. You’re looking for a match. And if Snoop isn’t it, c’est la vie. He’s a fickle bunny.

SPEED Red Light, Green Light begins!

First Red Light: Today, 9PM CST. This means get your stuff to me before then. Results of Round 1 should be announced soon after.
Here are the revised rules for SPEED RLGL.

SPEED RED LIGHT/GREEN LIGHT (not to be confused with TRAFFIC COP) is open to all tiquees – new and “re”. Also you may be agented and/or published (plenty of you guys already participate), but the work you send in should not already be published.

On rejection…

I saw this post from one of my dear Livejournal buddies and I thought, well ain’t she speaking the truth? With Dot’s permission, I’ve posted it here for my readers. It’s something to think about when rejection threatens to overcome you.

Excerpted from “Goin’ all Pollyanna” on

Working to get published SUCKS. It just sucks all the time until it doesn’t anymore.

The ending won’t write itself!


Well, well, well, after over a month of complete insanity, I have just realized one thing: the ending to my latest ms won’t write itself. I can take care of my loved ones, see my writing buddies, deal with a gutter thief, redesign my entire website, open all my mail, and pay my bills…but….the ending won’t write itself.

So I guess you know what that means…
I’ll be holding one giant Red Light, Green Light round soon.

A word about free-tiques…


Just an FYI: my schedule will be a bit tight in the next couple of months. Free-tique rounds will be few, I imagine. If I do hold a round, I’ll probaby do something like Traffic Cop or RLGL. I know many of you enjoyed that the last time. If you like to be notified of a round in advance by email, you may subscribe to my free-tique list.

Less free-tiques rounds? You’re going to let me starve?!

a free-tique round begins…


DOORS ARE CLOSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Remember how this works?

  • You ATTACH your first three chapters or your full PB. CHILDREN’S FICTION ONLY.
  • You vow to the Solemn Tiquee oath.
  • You answer this question: Who is the fairest rabbit of them all?
  • Then you email your entry to SNOOP AT CYNTHEALIU DOT COM.
  • I am accepting 1 retiquee and 1 new tiquee.

    Whassup, Doc?



    Snoop is in the office to take your questions. If you can’t remember how this goes….you may ask Snoop any question (about children’s fiction writing) between 11AM CST and 1PM CST.

    Only one question at a time. Please paste any sample work, if necessary, in your email to SNOOP AT CYNTHEALIU DOT COM.

    For more details, see OFFICE HOURS rules.

    The doctor is in.

    A fellow tiquee would like some help…


    A fellow tiquee asked Snoop for help on a manuscript title based on a query letter synopsis. As Tamarak and Snoop’s agent know, Snoop really really stinks at titling. So without further ado, can anyone help this writer with a title?

    Melanie Ratsnester never, in a million years, imagined she would be teased about anything other than her name. But then her single mom since forever decides to completely ruin her life by marrying a Mortician.

    Everyone say, What’s up, Doc?


    DOORS ARE CLOSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You might have heard there’s a new free-tique round called OFFICE HOURS. Here are the guidelines to participate…

    1) You may only ask one question at a time….Be as specific as possible. You can not ask another question until your first one is answered.

    2) PASTE your children’s fiction sample in an email.

    Congrats to Cynthia Lord

    Soooo, did ya hear? Put your paws together for Cynthia Lord. A Newbery Honor for RULES. A Schneider Family Book Award. Double whoopee!
    I can only hope I have more in common with this talented woman than just my initials. Cindy, donate some of your talent to me–puh-lease?!!!


    Do I get to wear Cindy’s Newbery sticker? Across the chest, like a badge–that would be turr-iffic!

    Snoop makes postal history…

    You won’t believe this but Snoop got his first piece of mail today.


    For me? It’s for me?! Wow!!!!
    Hey, do I have to wait until Christmas to eat it? Huh, huh?!

    Maybe I could just start with the envelope…


    If you haven’t voted for Snoop’s best carols 2006, get on it. Enjoy what your fellow writers have shared with all of us this holiday season.

    Vote for this year’s best Snoop carols!

    Alright, folks, tune up the singing voice in your head, OR sing them out loud. We need two winners! One from the new-tiquee category and one from the re-tiquee category. Votes must be placed by 11:59PM CST. Place them by commenting below with the appropriate numbers. Good luck, contestants (you may also vote, but please don’t vote for your own. No cheating)! In the event of a tie, Snoop will decide.

    Isn’t it about time…

    It’s Friday night. The perfect time to admit you have nothing better to do than win a free-tique slot. I am only giving two away. One for a new-tiquee, one for a re-tiquee (see my free-tiques page on my website if you don’t know what I mean). To win, you must re-write at least one STANZA of any holiday song for Snoop, about Snoop, (cuz he really likes that kind of stuff).

    Congratulations, Tamarak! and who wants a free-tique for Christmas?

    Well if this isn’t another piece of fabulous news from one of my esteemed critique buddies! Who had any doubt she’d hit yet another homerun in the picture book category?! (that makes three, in the last twelve months, baby. Count ’em. THREE! Holy cow.) And they said the PB market was bad. WhatEVER!


    Who wants a free-tique for Christmas to celebrate Tammi’s good news? GET READY. Doors are not open just yet. But they will open today.

    Five vet visits, thirty-six dumplings, and a 20-hour plane trip later…


    Look, guys, I’m back. Just wanted to say…five vet visits, thirty-six dumplings, and a 20-hour plane trip later, things are finally under control.

  • Snoop may have a bacterial infection of sorts but the good news is, it doesn’t look like he’ll be a reliving the movie ALIEN. (Initially, the vets thought he might have cuterebra. Google the word and prepared to be horrified.
  • Calling all free-tiquees…


    If you’re a free-tique winner and waiting for a tique from me, please drop me a note and attach the latest version of the work. If nothing has changed, drop me a note anyway so I can find your original email. Thanks!


    My paw hurts, I hate my medicine, and I don’t want to go to the vet again (her hands are cold). Please brighten my spirits by sending “get well soon” gifts to Snoop AT cynthealiu DOT com.

    shameless promotion for Yoo and a free-tique round

    People, will you quit it with the good news?!

    I have one more announcement to make. David Yoo’s GIRLS FOR BREAKFAST is out in paperback. If you haven’t read this book, well WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? This one is a must-buy, must-read! And NO, Dave and I are not related (but we might look alike.) And yes, he did pay me to say this–somewhere there’s a free fountain pen in it for me.
    And now Yoo’s brilliant novel can be yours for $5.99.

    congratulations, beverly patt!

    You know her as Beb. Bubba. B.

    I know her as the woman who just landed a Blooming Tree Press contract for her novel OF ATVS AND ANGELS!

    Bev will be coming to an LJ near you. But until that time, feel free to leave your Whoot-Whoots! here.

    Bev, as some of you may know, is also my treasured crit partner. (Yes, that’s right. She gets Free-tiques whenever she wants. Everyone, be jealous.)

    And get this, I had the honor of taking Bev out to celebrate.

    me? trying to do too much?

    Yes, I think so.

    I can no longer keep up with the free-tiquing as I have been. I need to scale back (Snoop says so). However, I’ve become quite fond of working with all of you and I know I can’t give it up entirely. My free-tique rounds will probably be announced more sporadically. Less frequently. Or I may change the format altogether to free up more time for Snoop and myself.
    People who have reserved slots, no worries. I will honor those slots.

    free-tiques: traffic cop round begins!

    DOORS ARE CLOSED!!!!!!!!! 

    Before you send anything, read this post in full and carefully (the email address has changed among other things).

    I know many of you have been killing to send me stuff already under consideration with agents and editors. SO guess what? I WILL ALLOW IT FOR TRAFFIC COP. Since it’s only a 1/2 page look. You may not send work under contract or published work (DUH!).

    anyone hungry? photo of the feast

    Hey everyone (pardon for the interruption again. I’m learning how to use FLICKR. Neat!),

    Anyhow, here’s a photo of the “I need an emergency dessert” feast I held a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to everyone for the suggestions and recipes. Just wait until the next party. Oh-la-la!

    (Click it to make it big). Anyone hungry?

    Now I must get back to work. For reals.


    Enh. Paper tastes better.

    snoop in action

    This is why I love Snoop doubly much. Guess what I’m feeding him?

    Snoop, you ready?

    Get set! Go!

    Now how can you beat that? (Click a photo to see a larger version.)


    BURRRRPPP! Now I must clean up.
    P.S. I’m not full yet. Watch for a Traffic Cop Free-tique round today.

    what’s here

    Under [submissions->submissions], you’ll find another popular series of articles (Anatomy of a Query Letter, Synopsis, etc.,. You’ll learn everything you could possibly want to know about submitting to editors and agents, down to the WEIGHT of the paper to use and the # of the envelope. These articles are that detailed.

    Have a suggestion for an article? Can’t find your answer here? Leave a comment.

    what’s here

    Under [free-tiques->], you’ll find all my announcements and updates on free-tique round openings, contests, and so on. Get your “send” button finger ready. You never know when your turn has come. Muhahahahaha!

    what’s here

    Under [Revision->Revision], you’ll find one of my most popular article series: Revision 9-1-1. These articles help pinpoint common things I notice when I look at works for free-tiques. Maybe reading these posts might save you some time, refresh your memory, or make something “click”.
    Have a suggestion for an article? Can’t find your answer here? Leave a comment.

    what’s here

    Under [Editors->Editors], you’ll find articles on beginning your editor search, how to communicate with editors, submisson protocol, as well as a monster list of editor links.

    Have a suggestion for an article? Can’t find your answer here? Leave a comment.

    free-tique round: doors are closed!


    1) Tell me if you are a re-tiquee or a new tiquee. See if you don't know what you are.

    2) In that email, ATTACH, ATTACH, ATTACH your FIRST three chapters OR your full PB/ER to cynthealiu AT gmail DOT com. <note the new address>

    3) I will check my email during a 24 break (I'm watching the show on DVD right now) and I will declare winners by email.

    firedrill results: congratulations!

    Here it is folk, the results…

    BUT FIRST, let me say (for Snoop), that this was a very hard decision to make. Snoop saw the time and care that went into each of these scenes. And Snoop wants to remind you: everything is subjective. What Snoop may be drawn to may not be the very best writing OR the very best story. But he might be attracted to a little something-something he sees in that scene that makes him want to work with it again.

    scbwi-la: part deux and a word about firedrill

    Ah yes! I just finished another round of free-tiques. People, you're making my brain hurt with all this fabuloso writing. AGH.

    Which brings me to talk about SCBWI-LA again. Since I can't blog about tiquees without exposing their identities, I will do a shout-out for SCBWI-LA'ers I haven't blogged about yet.

    (in no particular order)

    • Michelle Lin – You are so freaking smart I could see the neurons firing in your brain as you spoke.

    top ten from scbwi-la and a chance to win a full-tique


  • Saw my first taping EVER. (Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, featuring guest Carlos Mencia). And apparently I was cool enough to sit in the front row. Woohoo!  AND there's more. I won a whole six-disc DVD set of the hit show 24!  
  • Met up with Tammi Sauer and Flora Doone for dinner where I missed the entire meal (I was late–too busy whooping it up with famous people and winning free DVDs, yanno).
  • free-tique round anyone? something new. it’s called FIRE DRILL

    DOORS ARE CLOSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

    Hey, everyone. Dude, I've been so busy. Congratulating all the W.I.Nners and getting back into the groove takes a lot of work. Also I just finished another revision today. So yay to that. But now here's the part you've been waiting for. FREE-TIQUES! Unfortunately I don't have much time to do really heavy stuff so I'm ruling out PB manuscripts for this round.

    congrats tiquees: you rocked W.I.N.!

    Well, well, well. Snoop does the Tiquee count. How many W.I.N.ners does Snoop personally know as tiquees? Can you guess?

    Six! No, Seven? Or Eight?

    Of course Snoop has not personally tasted all the winning tiquee works. BUT he will say TWO of the authors were also recent RLGL winners!

    Can anyone out the tiquees for Snoop? Speak up so Snoop can post their names in all their glory!

    One person has been outed.

    my precious seven days

    In case you were wondering, I'm back!

    Here's what happened to my precious seven days:

    • Day 1: Ah. I am free of email, tiques, etc., Time to work on my own stuff. That I did. And I checked Verla's and LJ 80 million times.
    • Day 2. Ah yes! I am free of email, tiques, etc., I shall work on my own stuff. That I did. Put a few chapters under my belt. Checked Verla's and LJ 160 million times.
    • Day 3. Oh my, I am missing the emails and the tiques.

    taking a week off

    Snoop and I are taking a break. Snoop already went hiking but now he wants to wear mudboots and a fly-fishing vest. He's hung up the Gone Fishing sign and set out for a river somewhere. Meanwhile, I will be hunkering down to meet some deadlines.

    This means I will not be accepting free-tique redemptions, Why, why, whys, or emails which require my immediate response. No free-tique round this week either.

    top ten things Snoop learned from red light, green light


  • Some of you have not been reading Cynthea's Revision 9-1-1 articles. See them here:
  • The most common reason Snoop rejected a PB? a PB that read like a novel/chapter book. Snoop estimates at least 50% of the PB entrants fell under this category.
  • The second most common reason? a rhyming PB that didn't scan (probably another 25% of all entrants, and 80% of all rhyming entries).
  • red light, green light sudden death results

    Snoop read the remaining standby submissions and noted where he decided to stop reading. When two contestants surpassed the highest pages, he marked them as winners for the two reserved slots available.

    These slots expire at the end of September. If you can't remember what a reserved slot was, it is a three-chapter look at your manuscript. The first chapter will be line-commented and the rest will be read for perspective.

    final results: red light, green light

    Artwork provided by fellow tiquee Jack. Everyone ooo and ahhh!

    WE HAVE A FULL-TIQUE WINNER. Snoop is so happy he has literally taken off for the heavens in a permanent state of green-ness (as indicated by the picture. He's not dead, guys. He's just floating, okay?)

    The winner is entrant #23. You made it at 19 pages. Congratulations!

    Now that RLGL is over, entrants, feel free to out yourselves if you so wish. And pat #23 on the back.

    round nineteen results: red light, green light




    YA-18, please go back to start. Snoop wants you to know he is crushed to have to do this. But he hopes you will view this as an accomplishment, not a defeat. Please do ask Snoop why. He hopes to hear from you.

    PB-80* proceed to page 2.

    MG-48*, YA-82 – proceed to page 4.

    MG-74 – proceed to page 7.

    MG-41 – proceed to page 16.

    round sixteen results: red light, green light

    Congratulations #55! You have won the remaining PB/ER slot. Go dance with your bad self. Phew! 




    YA-5, YA-81 – please go back to start.  YA-5, SNOOP IS VERY VERY SAD to see this number go back to start. He hopes you'll view this as an accomplishment to get this far, not a defeat.  You may ask Snoop why he made this decision, of course.

    red light, green light entrants: you may ask Snoop WHY?! now

    An important message from The Snooper:

    My workload has lightened considerably now that Red Light, Green Light is down to a handful of entrants (I have eaten about 70 entries so far). I am opening my doors to questions about WHY I found your manuscript so edible.

    So if you participated in RLGL and were asked to go back, please send your WHY (Feel free to put WHY?! WHY?! WHY?! in the title) along with the pages you subbed (PASTED, PASTED, PASTED INTO THE EMAIL).

    round eleven results: red light, green light

    Congratulations 24 and 41!  You may proceed to page 8 for Bonus Play. OR STOP here and standby to win a reserved slot if others who came before you go down. What will it be?

    New entries:



    PB-63,YA-67, PB-68- go back to start. Snoop says, "I'm sorry but it just wasn't right for me."

    69,70 – proceed to page 2. 

    MG-66 – proceed to page 3.

    round eight results: red light, green light

    We have another winner. 1 novel reserved slot goes to #18. Congratulations!

    (Art work provided by fellow tiquee Jack.  Everyone ooo and ahhhh!)  

    Also #5 is participating in Bonus Play!

    #18, you may continue to sub so long as you do not get the "go back to start" command (herein, known as Bonus Play). If this happens, you forfeit your reserved slot. But if you win Bonus play, you earn a FULL-TIQUE.

    round seven results: red light, green light (two winners!)

    We have two winners. 1 PB slot goes to #37. 1 novel/chapter book slot goes to #5. Congratulations!

    Note: the above drawing was created by Jack, a fellow tiquee, and I think it is highly appropriate for the occasion. It’s gorgeous!

    #5, you may continue to sub so long as you do not get the “go back to start” command (herein, known as Bonus Play). If this happens, you forfeit your reserved slot.

    round six results: red light, green light

    Hi everyone, two new rules:

    When you see the password protected page, please hold off on asking me for a password. I'm working on the results and your emails slow me down. When the results are ready, you will not need a password. Just refresh the page until the results appear.  🙂

    Also, when you're subbing a new page one, I assign it a new number. So please don't include old entry numbers with new entries. I number the entries, not the people.

    round five results: red light, green light

    Hi everyone, PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR ENTRY NUMBERS AND BOOK TYPE in your future email subject lines (if you have a number). I will begin disqualifying participants if this rule is broken. I'm starting to get irritated. 🙂 

    Also let me know if I missed you somehow. 

    New entrants:



    29,33,34,35,36,38 – go back to start.

    37,39,40,41,42 – proceed to page 2.

    27 – proceed to page 3.

    round four results: red light, green light

    If you held back from sending me your next page after third round results (20,21,24,26), please go ahead and send page 2 and 3. Let me know you are behind one round because of the disruption.  I will let you catch up to the others (if you clear the pages).  

    If you do not see your number posted here, let me know.  

    Do not forget to put your entry # and the book type in your email titles.

    third round results: red light, green light

    New entrants:


    All partcipants: please add entry numbers and book type to your future email titles. Like so: entry #29, MG novel, page 3, MS TITLE. Something like that. It helps me tabulate things faster and I'll be able to post what type of books have made it as far as they have. If you're just beginning the race, something like, "page 1, Chapter book, MS title" is fine.

    free-tique round: red light, green light!


    Hi everyone, just back from a wonderful holiday. I am caught up on my emails, my voicemails, etc., AND I got a major chunk of work done. So guess what it's time for…

    A FREE-TIQUE ROUND! Woohoo! Read on…Snoop has planned something special.

    It's called RED LIGHT/GREEN LIGHT (not to be confused with TRAFFIC COP). This round is open to all tiquees – new and "re".

    morning coffee with Cynthea: topic? editor interviews, blogs, and more

    FIRST, I want everyone to know I have finished a manuscript and it's gone off to the agent for a look. There is real work going on over here. Seriously!

    SECOND, in my second largest procrastination effort yet, I've compiled a monster list of children's book editor interviews, blogs, and more.

    THIRD, the list will be updated as I go along (I'm only about a third-done). But IF YOU have something I can add, feel free to let me know.

    The Monster List of Childen’s Book Editor Interviews, Blogs, and More

    LAST UPDATED ON May 25, 2009. For the latest information, please visit the Children’s Book Publisher Directory

    Do you have a massive case of web-head–a medical condition caused by prolonged surfing of the Internet? Do symptoms include dizziness? Blurred vision? And a sudden loss of ability to Google?

    Look no more. I have a cure. I’ve done a lot of the work for you and compiled it here. As I find more interviews and blogs, I’ll add to the list.

    Status Updates: When and How To Do It

    Do you know the difference between a status query and a status update? It goes something like this:

    • Status Query: You’re asking about the status of your manuscript. You hope information will come back.
    • Status Update: You’re notifying someone about the status of your manuscript. You do not require information to come back.

    mid-afternoon COFFEE with cynthea: topic? status updates

    This is a rush job, so pardon the more than usual typos, etc.,

    The topic today is STATUS UPDATES. When to bug editors and agents….

    Now I must get cracking on some more work.   


    Excuse me. *tap, tap* EXCUSE ME!!!!!!! When are you going to _______?!  (you fill in the blank).  

    holy moly: am I allergic to caffeine?!

    I've just made a brilliant discovery. I drink Diet Dr. Pepper. I break out into hives. I drink coffee. More hives. I guzzle more DDP. MORE HIVES!!!

    For the last week, I've been suffering from this problem. Now I've finally put it together. 

    Have I developed a late-bloomer allergy to God's greatest gift to mankind?!

    SAY IT ISN'T SO!!!!!


    Caffeine? Can't touch the stuff.

    Revision 9-1-1: Writing Mechanics

    I decided to classify this post so it applies to both PBs and longer works. If you’ve been following my Revision 9-1-1 articles, you’ve read a lot about “big” issues which crop up in manuscripts I’ve reviewed. But what’s contained in here is MORE IMPORTANT. Why? If an agent or editor senses you haven’t mastered the basics, your wonderful plot, brilliant characters, and awesome setting won’t matter.

    more on rhyme

    Dori Chaconas, author of picture books and easy readers, has just written a great article about rhythm and rhyme for picture book texts. [Read the article, icing the cake->].

    Also visit a guest article by Kelly R. Fineman featured on this website. [Read post, how to critique rhyming children’s poems->].


    Revision 9-1-1 For Fiction: Picture Books

    Here are the common things I notice when I evaluate picture book manuscripts.

    Tuneless Picture Books

    • In my opinion, a picture book’s structure and rhythm are much like a tune. If I can’t hear your song when I’m reading your manuscript, the result is a text which reads like “heavy metal”. Discordant and jumbled. A tuneless picture book may have a beginning that’s too long, a middle that’s too short, and an abrupt ending.