I joined SCBWI December 2010. Stepping into the society of writers and illustrators was like stepping into a foreign country. It seemed everyone knew so much and assumed that I knew just as much. I was in the land of Oz.
I made my first blunder when I passed out my story "Adolfo and Athena" for one of the critique groups to read. Rather than shutting up, absorbing all the comments, and being thankful, I defended my writing decisions. Silly me. I know better now.
I received great advice from Sally E. Stuart's Christian Writer's Market Guide. The book suggested that I attend a conference for writers. I dutifully signed up. I also signed up for a critique of my story.
My precious story - I read and reread and worked and reworked my story. Until at last, I had a finished product. Then, I sent it off to have it critiqued by one of the professionals at the conference (a picture book author). I couldn't wait for the day of the conference. What words of wisdom would the great wizard say. I was so excited.
The time came for my critique. I sat calmly ( the reserved adult on the outside/ giddy for Christmas on the inside) before the picture book author.
He looked pained. "What were you thinking?" he asked me. The material I had handed him was too violent for a picture book. He shook his head and told me he had read the first page and quit. This could never be a picture book. I had brought the poisoned apple to Oz.
I sat stunned. The story was good. It was clever. It was funny. Yes, there was a scary moment where the cat caught the main characters (2 little mice), but they had tricked him - cleverly turning the whole situation upside down.
I left crushed. He hadn't even bothered to read the story. He hadn't given it a chance.
It was later that I realized my mistake. Because I am a writer/illustrator, I had illustrated the story. Thus, I thought I had written a picture book. In reality, I had written a storybook. Oh, ignorance!
So, I learned 2 more things as a writer. First, a picture book is for little ones. A storybook is the next level up. Second, IF I ever critique someone's work for pay, I will read all of what they give me and try to understand what the heck they were thinking when they wrote it!