Uncategorized, Writing for Children

I’m Open for Picture Book Critiques!

After a several-month hiatus for all things MRS. NOAH, I’m reopening for picture book critiques! And for the very first time, I’m excited to offer 30-minute Zoom consultations as part of my Complete Picture Book Plus critiques! Click on the “Critiques” tab for information, payment, and submission instructions for all available packages.

So, if you have a manuscript that’s ready for the next big step, I’m ready for you! Thanks for considering a PGWRites Critique. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sensibility- There is a point when a story that’s dear to your heart needs to spread its wings and test the wind.

Sense- After you’ve written, revised, submitted to your critique group, and revised some more, it’s time to take that next step and enlist a new set of eyes for a different perspective.




The Journey Begins. . .

Happy October, and welcome to all my new subscribers!

A beautiful scene from our recent trip to Beaver Island, Michigan!

I hope everyone is well and staying safe during these challenging times. Finding ways to encourage you in writing and in life is what this blog is all about, and I hope you come away from each post with joy and hope.

I’m beginning a personal and professional journey this week by turning my attention to a long-overdue middle-grade novel revision. I wrote this particular novel almost 10 years ago from an idea I had while sitting in my son’s hospital room after he’d had a lengthy and dangerous surgery to remove a large tumor from his abdomen. He was home from his first year of college for Thanksgiving break, and what was a routine physical turned into something none of us were expecting. If you’ve ever had something like that happen to you, you know the feeling of all the oxygen being sucked from the room and the sheer effort it takes to remain standing while you learn your next steps. It’s a journey I hope I never have to take again with one of my children. But God works in mysterious ways for sure. In the middle of all of that unknown, I got the clearest story idea I had ever had to that point. So, what does a writer do when something like that happens and you just don’t have the time or the strength to even think about starting a new project? You get the idea down in your notebook and start the new project anyway😊.

Right now, we’re all living our days in a situation none of us ever expected. There’s a heaviness that surrounds us we can’t explain as we work to keep life moving forward and feeling as normal as possible. But it isn’t normal, and we have no idea when things might be again. That’s how we felt 10 years ago, and it may be why I feel compelled to blow the cobwebs off a book I haven’t touched in a few years and do the work it takes to breathe life into it and make it shine. Maybe God is using that moment in time, that story idea, to remind me of his presence and not be afraid; to help me walk through these days of social distancing and quarantine with grace and peace.

So, I’m inviting you along for the journey. I’m using Darcy Pattison’s, NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS, as my primary guide. I love Darcy’s work and look forward to diving into the exercises she’s provided in the workbook as well as the other resources. I’m also doing a manuscript exchange with one of my long-time critique partners and friends so I can have fresh eyes on my work and provide fresh eyes and perspective to her work as we go. I’m using this blog as a way to keep myself accountable by sharing what I’ve learned on a bi-weekly basis, and as a space to flesh out ideas and have conversations with all of you about this process.

Now the only thing left to do is take the first step…here goes!

Sensibility- Even in the darkest times, we can hear God whisper peace to our hearts if we are listening.

Sense- If you’re feeling extra stressed or worried as the days grow shorter find a new project to energize your mind and improve your focus. Use this time to be as creative as you can possibly be.


Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Happy New Year Picture Book Critique Special!

new-year-1929847_1280Happy New Year! I hope this post finds you and your families well and off to a great start to 2017. Wow, 2017! Seems odd to see that number in print, but here we are. It’s time for setting both goals and boundaries as we each dive into projects that make our hearts sing! So, in the spirit of this brand-spanking New Year, I want to offer a brand-spanking-new picture book critique special.


For the entire month of January (OK, I’m a little behind since one week has already passed! LOL) I’m offering two PGWRites picture book critiques for the price of one! That’s right…it’s a buy-one-get-one-free opportunity that typically only happens once each year.

So, if you’re ready to start this writing year off with a bang, save those last few changes on that manuscript you’ve been working on and send it in! Then, when you’re ready, you can send in another picture book manuscript for a second critique absolutely free (a $50.00 value)!

Just visit the PGWRites Critiques page and follow the instructions for payment and submitting your manuscript. It’s that easy! Hope to see lots of amazing stories in my inbox very soon!

Here’s to the best writing year ever!


Patti Richards

Sensibility– New years are for new beginnings. Dream big and take that important first step.

Sense– Set goals you can reach in a reasonable amount of time. Biting off too much in the first few weeks of the New Year can set you up for failure!

On deck for next week. . . an interview with newly-minted picture book author, Jodi McCay. She’s stopping by to tell us all about her new book, WHERE ARE THE WORDS. And she’s also offering a MS critique (double bonus!). You won’t want to miss it!

Uncategorized, Writing for Children

PGWRites Critiques Back-to-School Picture Book Special!

Happy fall everyone! I took a couple of months off from posting for some much-needed R & R, and enjoyed getting images (1)together with friends and family members over the summer. I hope you and yours spent time soaking up the summer sun and making some great memories! School started in my community the day after Labor Day, but I know many of you got started even earlier. I have a high-school senior this year and a college sophomore, so we’re buckling our seat belts for a great year of surprises and celebrations.

In the spirit of learning and getting back to work, I’m offering a back-to-school picture book critique special. From now through September 30th, participants will receive 25% off the regular price of a PGWRites Critique. That’s a $50 value for only $37.50!

Your personalized PGWRites picture book critique includes: 

  1. Line-by-line markup of your manuscript with edits and suggestions. (Using track changes)
  2. A one-page written critique with a detailed explanation of the manuscript mark-up.
  3. A list of the strengths/weaknesses of the manuscript from my perspective, as well as a list of guided questions to help with the revision process.
  4. Answers to your questions about the critique in one follow-up email.

That’s right! All of this for the low price of $37.50! Now that’s what I call a bargain.

Simply visit the PGWRites Critiques tab here at Sensibility and Sense and follow the instructions for payment/submission and in two to three weeks you’ll receive your completed critique!

So get those stories dusted off and sent in. I can’t wait to read your awesome picture book manuscripts!

Happy Writing!



Late Frost

When you live in the Mitten, late frost is more the norm than the exception. We never, EVER plant annuals until after Mother’s Day, and sometimes even then I find myself covering up my blooming beauties, “just in case.” But cooler temperatures in late spring mean strong roots and beautiful blooms all summer and even into the fall. I promise you, it’s worth the wait.

We get examples of what late frost can do to fragile flowers every year. Case in point: the current state of my magnolia.

My tulip magnolia a few years ago.

She stuck some of her petals out a wee bit early this year and now they are brown and burned from a zap of cold weather. I still have hope that she’ll put on an incredible spring show like the one in this picture from a few years ago, but the many dark, unopened buds make me doubtful. It’s important for writers to beware of “late frost” in the writing life as well. Even though it may feel like your manuscript is ready to submit, if you don’t have many revisions, some honest critiques from critique partners and even a professional conference critique or two, chances are your manuscript is in danger of catching a “late frost” from editors and agents.

It’s not that there’s some kind of hidden secret agenda in publishing- a type of literary hazing if you will- but these proven steps work. Here’s a personal example that I’m excited to share…

Last week, I received a contract for a story from Highlights Magazine! This was a dream come true for me since I’ve wanted to have something published in Highlights since I was like 8 years old. I wrote the story, “The Christmas Candles,” about 15 years ago. The first version was over 2000 words (now that’s funny:), and that was the first version I submitted to Highlights (I’m so embarrassed). Of course I received a rejection straight away. In the meantime, I joined a critique group and worked on a revision based on my group’s suggestions. I then submitted the story to their yearly fiction contest and got no response. Fast forward a few years and many, many revisions later, and I submitted the story to the fiction contest again (their contest subjects are often cyclical). And I didn’t win…again! But this time, I got a letter saying they loved the piece, and if I’d be willing to do a few revisions, they’d like to consider it for regular purchase.

I was overjoyed! Of course I had already sent them what I thought was my best work, so I knew I needed the help of a professional editor to get things just right. I hired a friend of mine that I trust and admire, and she gave me wonderful suggestions that made the story even stronger (thanks Lorri Cardwell-Casey)! About six months later, I received an email from the editor telling me they had loved the revisions but needed one more thing. Because my story was historical fiction, they asked me to find a university professor to do a quick fact check and write a short review of the piece. If I was willing to do that, then they would offer me a contract. It took a few weeks, but I found just the right person for the job and the editor loved the review. The entire process from entering the contest to signing the contract took a year and a half. But the entire process from writing the first draft to signing the contract took almost 15 years! Wow!

Through this process, I learned first hand how sending out a story too early is never a good idea. You’re more likely to get burned by a late frost than land a contract if your story isn’t ready. Would I change this journey if I could? No, not at all. I’ve learned so much and am a better writer because of it. And I can’t even describe to you the joy of delayed gratification. It makes the victory all the sweeter.

So watch out for “late frost” in your writing life. Take your time and make your stories the best they can be! It’s more than worth it!

Sensibility- Delicate new blossoms need lots of TLC to grow into mature flowers. Think of your stories in this way and take proper care of them in the early days of inspiration.

Sense- Drafting, revising, re-writing, critiquing and rewriting again may seem like a waste of time, but it’s the only way to make your story the best it can be.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

What are some examples of “late frost” experiences in your writing life?

Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Fat Tuesday…for Writers!

Today is Fat Tuesday! And at our house here in the Mitten, that means pazckis (pronounced poonch-keys).

If you aren’t Polish or don’t live near a Polish bakery, you’ve probably never tried this decadent, once-a-year treat. Pazckis are donuts on steroids…literally. Apparently, the tradition started as a way to prepare for Lent, when Polish women cleaned their kitchens of all fat. That’s why these bad boys are loaded with it, along with a fruit or custard filling and drowned in sugar. You eat one, and you need a nap. Eat two, and you’re done for the night. Don’t ask me how I know this. But I digress. What in the world does Fat Tuesday have to do with writing?

Well, I’ll tell you. We all need to indulge every now and then (and in the case of pazckis, it’s a good thing it’s only once a year). Even writers need to let themselves go and write as many words as they want. It’s cathartic. It’s therapy. It’s liberating to let go of word counts, even for a few minutes, and just write the story that’s inside of you. My first middle grade novel happened this way. I did not set out to write a novel, but I needed to get something off my chest. A memory that haunted me- that made me feel guilty for something that wasn’t my fault. Writing it out until I was done gave me permission to move on to something else. I’ve never submitted that novel. I’ve never even gone back to revise it. But it’s there. I feel proud that I had the courage to get those thoughts, feelings and emotions down on paper.

But remember, tomorrow does come. Lent always follows Fat Tuesday. And for many of us, that means fasting. In writing, that means getting rid of probably more than half of the words you wrote during your fit of unbridled writer passion. But that’s OK too. Getting the words out and flowing means you aren’t done. More words will come. Better ones. Truer ones than you ever thought possible. Cleaning out makes room. Writing it out makes room for your best work. The work that is to come.

I’m reminding myself of that right now as I look at my box of Fat Tuesday revelry. Enjoy them today, I tell myself. And be grateful for a chance to start again tomorrow.

Sensibility- Writing is never just a formula. Part of who you are comes out in every word. Embrace that truth.

Sense- While embracing the writer that is you, remember, not every word you write is vital to the story. Be prepared to cut the fat!

And speaking of writing..don’t forget to check out PGWRites Critiques. If you need a fresh perspective on your picture books, I’m here to help you!



Uncategorized, Writing for Children

PGWRites Critiques- Picture Book Critique Winner!

Happy Friday everyone! As promised, I’m here to annouce the winners of my picture book critique giveaway in honor of the launch of PGWRites Critiques! The first five people who left a comment on Wednesday are eligible for this prize. Winners will receive:

  1. Line-by-line markup of your picture book manuscript (1000 words or less) with edits and suggestions.
  2. A big-picture plot analysis.
  3. A list of the strengths/weaknesses of the manuscript from my perspective, as well as a list of guided questions to help with the revision process.
  4. A one-page written critique with detailed explanation of the manuscript mark-up.
  5. Answers to your questions about the critique in one follow-up email.


So without further delay, the winners are…

Jennifer Rumberger

Danielle Hammelef

AJ Irving


Congratulations everyone and thanks for leaving your comments! Please send your completed MS in the body of an email (no attachments please) to info@pgwrites.com with CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY WINNER in the subject line. I look forward to reading your stories!




My 24-Hour, Three-Strike Submission System

I got another rejection today for a piece I’ve been sending around for a while now. For many writers that would sound the story’s final death knoll. But my reward for continuing to send this piece out is a lot of positive feedback about my use of rhyme and the story’s illustration potential. So I haven’t given up on this one, although it’s seen many rewrites and hardly resembles its original self any more. But that’s a good thing, and the primary reason is my 24-hour, three-strike submission rule. Here’s how it works:

The 24-Hour Turnaround

Big Ben, London, UK

Letting the sting of rejection get the best of you and send you into the writing doldrums is non-productive. Whether you like it or not, rejection is part of the writer life. Learning to use it rather than let it derail you is the only way to survive. When I adopted the 24-hour turnaround I began to see each rejection as a stepping stone, rather than a kick in the gut.

The 24-hour turnaround is simply this: when I receive a rejection I make myself send the story out again within 24 hours. This requires working between rejections to keep a fresh list of potential buyers for each piece. It also stops me from resting on my laurels between submissions and making the mistake of keeping all my writing eggs in one basket. Now don’t get me wrong. There are times when I can’t follow my own rule, due to scheduling issues, deadlines or other interruptions. But having this self-imposed standard gives me the regular kick in the pants I need.

Three Strikes and You’re Out! 

The other part of the equation that keeps me constantly looking at my stories with fresh eyes is the three-strike rule. Three rejections equal a serious revision for any of my manuscripts. Once a story has three strikes, it leaves the submission rotation and heads to the woodshed. Once there I typically send it to my critique partner with any editorial notes received (that happens only if I have a relationship with the editor). Sometimes I simply let it rest until I’m ready to do a complete overhaul. Other times I leave it completely until I see the market swinging back in its direction. I rarely put a story away for good, but it does occasionally happen.

Before You Hit Send

The most important thing to remember about any submission process is knowing when a piece is really ready. That’s truly where my system begins. If you have not work-shopped your manuscript in some way- critique group, conference, professional critique service- and already have many, many revisions, trust me, it’s not ready. And after you’ve done all of that, take time to do your homework about where to send your very best work. The shotgun approach may work for some things, but not typically for publishing.

So that’s my system. Having it keeps me sane in this bunny-eat-bunny world of children’s publishing. I’d love to hear about yours!

Sensibility- Writing with passion requires writing with discipline. Having a disciplined approach can actually enhance your creativity.

Sense- Have a system that keeps you organized and on track as you draft, write, revise and finally, submit.



It’s the Season of Giving!

It’s official, the Christmas season is in full swing at our house!

Our Christmas tree!

I’m almost finished decorating, and I’ve actually purchased and mailed one Christmas present (for me that’s way ahead of the game). I was feeling pretty good about things until I actually looked at the calendar this morning. Yikes! I’ve only got 23 days to finish everything on my list. No matter what holiday you celebrate, I’m sure you’ve had that moment of panic yourself a time or two. What is it about this time of year that pushes us to make everything perfect? Down to the right stocking stuffers and yummy smells coming from the oven, we need to give our families an amazing holiday experience to feel fulfilled every December.

But isn’t that true about writing as well? We feel the need to adjust every comma, place every period in that just-right spot, take out words, add words, rearrange words…and that’s before we ever show a story to a critique group, much less submit it to an agent or publisher. The writing life is like preparing for Christmas every day of the year. Being that perfect all the time is exhausting—and I hate to tell you this—impossible.

So how can we writers take our imperfect selves and make this holiday season one of great inspiration and productivity? By giving back. Yes, you heard right—give back. With each word you write you give something of yourself to this world. Hopefully, what you write fills others with joy, hope and the promise of a better tomorrow. What’s the use of it otherwise? But as a writer, you can also give to others in ways unique to what you do.

So for the next few weeks, turn off your computer for an hour or so, set that manuscript aside, and try these “give back” writing ideas:

  • Offer to critique a writer friend’s work that you’ve never reached out to before. Not a critique exchange, just an offer of help to someone you know is struggling with a new manuscript.
  • Volunteer to read books to homeless children during a Christmas party or after serving meals.
  • Donate books to your public library or get your critique group together and purchase a few new books for a needy classroom or school library.
  • Advertise your friend’s books to others for gift ideas. Authors need all the help they can get when it comes to selling what they’ve created.
  • Help an adult or child learn to read.

Taking time away from your work to give back may feel like you’re not doing your job. But I promise you’ll get back more from the giving than you ever thought possible.

Sensibility- Writing is a gift that is unique to you. Find ways to share that gift with others this holiday season.

Sense- Work hard on your writing, but don’t forget to enjoy these days of celebration. They only come once each year, so learn to savor every moment.


What are other ways you can give back this holiday season? Share your ideas here!


It’s a Back-to-School Writer Giveaway!

I know it’s difficult to think about, but in just a couple of weeks it’s time for the kids to go back to school!

Highland Park Elementary School- Photo courtesy of WFIU Public Radio

But children and teens aren’t the only ones who need an education. Writers never graduate, and the best writers know when they need an infusion of craft-related learning to help inspire even greater heights of creativity and progress.Thanks to the Internet, there are lots of ways to find writer education without ever leaving the comfort of your office- or in my case my dining-room office space. I know, it’s sounds less than glamorous but it works! Writer webinars, online writing classes, and low residency graduate programs are all great resources when it comes to getting the education you need to keep up with current trends and continue developing your own writer voice and style. Whatever your writing goals for this fall, consider taking a class, reading a new book on craft, joining a critique group or attending a conference. I promise you’ll be glad you did.

So in honor of all this back-to-school business, I’ve selected two must-haves for your writer book shelf this fall. The winner will receive one copy of the following books:

  • The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson
  • Novel Metamorphosis by Darcy Pattison

All you have to do is leave a comment about a writer education experience you’ve had that you would recommend to others, or comment about your writer-education plans for this fall. It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose. Even just “I plan to read all of this year’s Newberry winners by December!” is a great goal full of learning potential. I’ll throw all of the comments in a hat and pick a winner! It’s that simple. All comments must be posted by Sunday, August 24, and I’ll announce the winner here one week from today!

So good luck and happy back-to-school goal setting!

Sensibility- Like flowers need fertilizer to be at their most beautiful, writers need an infusion of creativity and craft to produce their best work.

Sense- Set a goal to educate yourself this school year on the craft and business of writing.

Tell me about your writer-education experiences or your education goals!