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.





For the entire month of March, I’m offering a free “Second Look” with any PGWRites Picture Book Critique! That’s right, a free second look for no additional charge (a $25.00 value). Just follow the payment and submission instructions on the PGWRites Critiques page, and when you’ve revised your manuscript after your initial critique, I’ll take a second look for free! 

Click here PGWRites Critiques or on the tab above for more information!

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!


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!




Summer Road Trip: Finding Your Way as a Writer

It’s officially Summer at our house! Exams are over, grades are up, backpacks hang limp on their hooks, and lunch totes are enjoying a much-deserved hiatus on the laundry-room shelf. Ah Summer! That time when exhaling just comes easier, and hour after hour of blissful nothingness stretches out before me like my freshly-painted toes. But if your family is like most, summer also means…ROAD TRIP! Planning your route, making notes of things to see along the way, hiring a pet sitter and stopping the mail help add to the excitement of finally getting in the car and heading off to new territories or familiar oases.

Hichem Touihri - road trip tunisia
Hichem Touihri – road trip tunisia

But for writers, planning and plotting out the writing journey can sometimes feel more like tip-toeing through a minefield than feeling the thrill of the wind in your hair. There are so many things editors, agents and the markets ask of us that seem to change the trip at every turn. How you answer some all-important questions as a writer can set you up for success or for getting lost with your first turn out of the driveway. These five questions are a good place to begin:

  1. What am I passionate about? What you are passionate about in everyday life will come out in some way in what you write. Knowing what those things are can help you develop your own unique writer voice.
  2. What kinds of stories thrilled me as a child? If you were just as happy reading the latest Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew Mysteries as you were riding your bike, chances are you know more about mystery writing than you think. Writing the kind of books that sparked your interest in reading in the first place might be the place to begin your writing journey.
  3. Who are your writing heroes and what do they say about you? Some of my writing heroes include: Madeleine L’Engle, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Miss Read, Jan Karon, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton and Cynthia Voigt. These writers all shared stories about strong young women overcoming insurmountable odds. It is no coincidence that my main characters are strong young women that make a difference in their worlds.
  4. What kinds of books bring you joy? I love books that make me laugh, cry and feel deeply. These emotions bring me joy because they remind me that life is precious, sweet, mysterious, difficult and wonderful all at the same time. I want my books to bring others joy.
  5. What do you want to say as a writer? Your voice is important in this world. Believing that what you have to say through your writing can change or enrich another’s life is reason enough to keep on doing it.

Just like leaving home without your glasses can make your road trip more difficult, not knowing the answers to these basic questions can make you feel lost as a writer. The answers may evolve from year to year, but asking them often helps keep you on track in your writing journey.

Sensibility- Knowing what you bring to your writing and what you want others to take away from it can make your writing road trip all the sweeter.

Sense- Asking honest questions as you develop as a writer can help keep you focused and accountable for the work you do.

What questions do you ask yourself about writing when you are feeling discouraged or lost?


Coming Soon to Sensibility and Sense…

Teen Talk Tuesday!

Where real teens share real opinions about the books they’re reading and why. You’ve heard from editors, agents, critique groups and writing partners. Now hear from the ones what matter most…the audience. Teens taking on the latest in middle grade and YA fiction and letting you know what they really think! Come by next week for our first Teen Talk Tuesday and read what teens are saying about The Fault in Our Stars by John Green!



What is Your Writing Dream?

I had the chance to sit down with an aspiring high school writer yesterday and “talk shop.” This young lady was visiting her aunt, who happens to be a dear friend of mine. My friend asked if they could have a hour or so of my time so her neice could ask me questions about what it was like to be a writer for children and what it takes to be successful. Since I love young people and I love talking about what I do, it was a treat for me- not to mention there was really good ice cream involved!

We started in right away talking about what she was working on. I could see she was a little shy, and I wanted to quickly get below the surface so we could make the most of our hour together. So after she talked a bit about her book, I asked her, “What is your dream?” She looked a little bit stunned, so I asked the question again but more specifically, “What is your writing dream?”

And her answer was simply, “I want to be a writer.” We went on to talk about what that looked like, and I shared a little of my journey, about getting into a critique group, joining SCBWI and building an on-line presence. Things that are the essential building blocks to getting started in this business. A gave her a few books I don’t really use anymore to help her get started, and I sent her on her way- hopefully with some perspective about what it means to “be a writer.”

On my way home and throughout the evening, I thought about the very question I’d asked her, “What is your writing dream?” and I realized I hadn’t asked myself that same question in a long time. I could have answered it easily 25 years ago, and it probably would have sounded something like what my young friend said.

“Throes of Creation,” by Leonid Pasternak

But what about the dream? The spark that makes me passionate about what I do and keeps me sitting down for hours every day crafting new stories and working on revisions between other writing jobs. Is the dream anything close to what I envisioned all those years ago?

I think it’s important to get back to dreaming as writers. It’s so easy to get caught up in the social media-writer-challenge/educational-and-marketing-opportunity life that is the world of writing these days. We forget that it’s the desire to tell a good story and give something of beauty and value to the world- that God-spark if you will- that got us started in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong! Writing is a business. And like any other business, it needs feeding in order to flourish. But getting too far away from your original, starry-eyed dream of writing may begin to diminish your creativity.

So, what is your writing dream and what are you doing to keep that dream alive? Slowing down and answering that question honestly may be just what you need to add some joy to the journey!

Sensibility- Writers are dreamers. Let your mind wander this week to where your writing dream was born.

Sense Find balance between the business and creative side of writing to keep story ideas fresh and flowing.

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”

― C.S. Lewis


How has your writing dream evolved over the years?


Get Out From Under the Bus! Making Critiques Work for You

As a group of imperfect writers, we all know the value of a good critique. It’s the way we measure ourselves and have regular images (1)reality checks about our work. But let’s be honest, subjecting ourselves, our main characters and their stories to the criticism of others is scary and often (OK, always) painful. So when I receive a critique, whether it’s from my writing partner, through a contest, or as feedback from a query, how do I get out from under the bus I feel like I’ve been thrown under? Well after 20-plus years in this business, I’ve developed a few tricks to keep me sane and submitting! Here are my best tips, guaranteed to stop you from eating way too much chocolate and get yourself out from under the bus and back to work:

  • Grow a thick skin. As harsh as it may seem, part of writing for kids, or in any genre for that matter, means developing a level of insensitivity to the words of others. And I don’t mean ignoring what others say about your writing. If that were the case then there would be no point in submitting or getting involved in a critique group. What I mean is you must learn to unclench your fists and not take criticism personally. It’s hard in the beginning, and for some, the way you respond can mean the difference between using what you’ve learned and letting your manuscript sit while you lick your wounds. Don’t do it! Let a scar form and move forward. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Take what helps and throw out the rest. I know that’s blunt, but not every word of every critique is going to help you. Look for repetition in your feedback. If one critiquer says you need to completely change your main character’s personality or point of view that’s one person’s opinion. But if three people say it, you need to take a serious look at that character and do some much-needed surgery.
  • Remember critiques are subjective. Not everyone is going to get you as a writer, and not every reader will identify with your story. That doesn’t mean the critique isn’t valuable or that you’re a bad writer. It does mean you need to see your work through the eyes of the critiquer and look for ways to make your story click with more people than just your mom or your kids.
  • Choose critique partners carefully. Look for people to critique your work that do what you do. That involves doing your homework about your genre and making sure your story does what it’s supposed to do before you let anyone else see it. I never send a story to my critique partner or anyone else unless I’ve revised it at least three times myself (and most of the time I have five revisions before sending it out).
  • Be specific about what you need. Tell your critiquer where you’re having trouble so he or she can offer specifics about what to do to make your story stronger. This takes more work on your part to develop a keen editorial eye for what’s wrong in your writing, but it’s just a part of the work you need to put in before showing your work to someone else. Don’t cut corners or expect someone else to do for you what you must learn to do for yourself.
  • Let it simmer. Never make changes to your story immediately after receiving a critique. Read the comments and let them sink in for a few days before revising. It takes at least that long to get over the anger or disappointment of not writing the perfect story the first time (and you know we all feel that way). Go back to the critique in a few days with fresh eyes and apply what you’ve learned.

Are you out from under the bus yet? C’mon, I can see you peaking out from behind that tire! Just remember, getting feedback is part of the writing process, and it won’t kill you, I promise. It may sting a little, but in the end, your work will be much stronger and much closer to being in the hands of a happy reader!


Sensibility- Writing is a painfully-beautiful process. Smile and consider yourself blessed to be able to do something you love to bring light and joy to the world.

Sense- Love your characters and your words, but don’t get attached to them. It takes the sting out of the critique and makes revising much easier!


How do you apply what you learn from the feedback of others?