#PBCritiqueFest 2021



Happy Sunday and welcome to Picture Book Spotlight!


It's that time again...


Exactly one week from today, our annual #PBCritiqueFest will kick off for the third time! This massive one-time critique giveaway will give 31 kidlit creators an opportunity to have their work critiqued by published authors, illustrators, and literary agents. In this post, I hope to provide more information about how everything works as well as announce our festival participants. If after reading this post you still have questions, don't hesitate to Tweet at me or use the contact form on this website.


Alright...let's do this!


The good news is, if you're familiar with #PBCritiqueFest, this year will mostly feel very similar to the previous two years. There are a few changes with how you can earn additional raffle entries, but I think those changes make things a lot easier and provide more valuable engagement for the participants. Be sure to check out the details on additional entries below! (Here's a preview: we're adding Instagram and reviewing participant picture books to earn more entries!)


If you're new to the festival, winners are selected randomly, raffle-style, but you can increase your odds by earning additional entries when you help promote the festival and participant's books. The vast majority of last year's winners had significant multiple entries--it really does make a difference! To register, you have to subscribe to Picture Book Spotlight, and fill out the initial Registration Form (going live October 17th). That puts you in the running and could get you a win by itself.


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Registrations and Additional Entries can be logged during the festival from October 17th until October 31st. Once the festival has concluded and winners have been raffled, I will begin "pairing winners with their person" using the information provided on each winner's registration form. Winners and pairings will be announced throughout the day on Saturday, November 6th on Twitter, Facebook, and a Picture Book Spotlight blog post.


After November 6th, winners will be emailed with next steps info on how to get their manuscripts to their critique person. That's basically it...continue reading for specific more info and to see who will be donating critiques this year! All festival info and links to forms can be found at our #PBCritiqueFest Page here at PB Spotlight.


And now...the 2021 #PBCritiqueFest participants!


2021 Festival Participants:





How to Register:

To register for #PBCriqueFest, simply subscribe to PB Spotlight and complete our Registration Form. Boom. That's it! That locks you in the running and officially tosses your name in the digital raffle hat. Filling out the purple form (shown below) grants you ONE ENTRY. If you like living on the wild side, that's all you need to do. If you want better odds considering how many people enter (hundreds), participate in the festival activities to earn more entries!--see details below!

Our purple registration form will be live and fillable on October 17th at midnight!

2021 Additional Entries:

The purpose of this festival is to celebrate the critique and revision process and to build the kidlit community. We do that by spotlighting the great work being done by our critique donors. Theoretically, if you engaged in all of the possible activities during the 2-week festival you could earn up to 200 additional entries (giving you 201 total entries). That's a lot! As a reminder, this is a voluntary and self-paced way to potentially help you come out as a winner. It is not a guarantee. The winners are truly randomly raffled based on all participant entries. All I can say is that in both the two previous festivals the overwhelming majority of winners had significant additional entries.

The graphic below shows all the ways you can add additional entries. The three social media platforms we will be using this year are Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can earn entries by posting about the festival in general, promoting a participant's book, posting a screenshot (photo) of a review you left on Goodreads or Amazon for one of our participant's books, and by posting a screenshot (photo) proving that you purchased a participant's book. All social media posts must include the festival hashtag (#PBCriqitueFest). The only non-social media option to earn up to 50 more entries is to share a blog post about #PBCritiqueFest.


In order to actually earn your additional entries, you MUST log your activities on the Aditional Entries Form every time you do them. You will get an email receipt each time you fill out the form to help you keep track of what you've done, but it is your responsibility to fill out the form in order for it to count.


To explain the "formula" with an example, you can post about #PBCritiqueFest on Twitter up to 5 times for an additional entry every time you do that (if logged on the Additional Entries Form). Once you have done that 5 times, you can no longer receive additional entries for that particular activity. All social media posts MUST include the festival hashtag #PBCritiqueFest to officially count!


For another example, let's say you buy some of our participant's books. Can you use the same books across all 3 social media platforms to increase your entries by 60? Yes. It is not required that you purchase 15 books--you could buy 5 books to max out the 20X additional entries per social media platform if you posted on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


You are in charge of how many activities you want to log--do as much or as little as you like!

The books our participants are hoping you will promote, review, or buy are available on the #PBCritiqueFest Page under each participant's bio. There will be an author, illustrator, and agent page with all participant info available to view just before the launch of the festival on the 17th!


Our green additional entries form will be live and fillable on October 17th at midnight!

2020 Winner Testimonials:


Through Brian’s #PBCritiquefest, I was able to receive an incredibly thoughtful and helpful critique from Clelia Gore. She helped tweak some areas of my manuscript and it truly helped to get her perspective on the industry. Brian works hard to put this together and I amso grateful for how he gives back to the writing community generously. Liz Sites

I was so excited to win #PBCritiqueFest and thanks to Brian was paired up with the amazing illustrator, Flavia Z. Drago. I submitted a work-in-progress dummy that I had been struggling with and Flavia’s insights helped me flesh out stronger compositions and had me considering ideas for alternative page sizes and pairings of text and visual. Not only did she provide me with written notes but offered to do a virtual call with me to review her suggestions, which of course I jumped at the opportunity to do so. I know my #PBCritiqueFest with Flavia helped strengthen my work and allowed me the unique chance to connect with a talented Kidlit creator! Thank you! Amanda Davis


I won a critique from Brian Lies through #PBCritiqueFest 2020. It was great to receive feedback from an illustrator on an all dialogue manuscript that I was working on. Brian gave big picture feedback, as well as line edits, and it answered a lot of the questions that I had around all dialogue picture books. It was clear that Brian spent a lot of time on my manuscript to ensure thoughtful and useful feedback. Brian even offered to look at my manuscript again after I revised! I'm very appreciative to Brian Lies and Brian Gehrlein for giving their time to help fellow writers learn and grow. Thank you! Jessica Haster


I learned about #PBCritiqueFest 2020 at the last minute and was shocked to win a critique. The list of authors and illustrators was amazing, and I was thrilled to win a critique from Susan Verde. She gave me a lot to consider on my manuscript and identified problem spots along with what was working well. And her feedback translated to other WIPs too. I was encouraged to connect with a PB all star like Susan and felt honored to have her review my manuscript. Thank you, Brian and Susan! Good luck to everyone entering this year. Amy Leskowski


I was thrilled to win a critique from one of my picture book idols, the amazing Queen of Rhyme, Diana Murray. She offered line level suggestions and edits on my rhyming manuscript. Her ideas improved the flow and heart of the story, which really helped polish it and make it shine. I now feel confident that this manuscript is ready. Thanks to Brian for #PBCritiqueFest and Diana for this stellar opportunity! Jen Raudenbush


I was thrilled to win a critique from Cori Doerrfeld. Her thorough feedback and guidance helped me tighten my story and rework it from top to bottom. She opened my eyes to use of art notes, which I’d never considered before, and gave some great suggestions on playing up the theme in a fun way. She also suggested a handful of mentor texts which were spot on. I am very grateful for critique fest, being a brand new writer I was given insight and confidence take my ms to the next level! Elizabeth Holladay


I was thrilled to receive a manuscript critique from Alastair Heim in Brian’s 2020 #PBCritiqueFest! I thought I would email my MS to him and receive feedback through a reply email. But Alastair wanted to meet on Zoom. I thought the call would be around ten minutes, but to my surprise, we talked for 45 minutes! After chatting about all things sports and Wisconsin (he grew up in Wisconsin), Alastair read my story out loud and gave me great suggestions as we went along. But the best part…he was SO enthusiastic, encouraging, and supportive about my writing which has given me more confidence. Thanks Alastair for a fun critique and Brian for this opportunity! JoLynne Ricker Whalen


I was very excited when I won a critique from Rodolfo Montalvo during last year's #PBCritiqueFest. Rodolfo's comments on my story were incredibly useful and helped me think more about theme, character motivations and stakes. He also asked thought provoking questions which have helped me with edits on several of my other picture books too. Thank you so much for taking the time to help me Rodolfo and thank you to Brian for organising the contest! Catherine Friess


I was thrilled to win a critique last year from Rebecca Gomez through #PBCritiqueFest. Rebecca was so generous in her critique. She sent me a nice letter about my story arc, language, voice and notes about my main character. Plus, I received inline comments on the manuscript itself. I could tell she spent time with it and the critique was very thorough. It definitely inspired me to take it to the next level. Thank you, Rebecca and Brian! Tracy Hora

I won a critique from James McGowan, who gave me very insightful feedback that helped add more heart to the story. This was my first brush with an agent and it was a very positive one! It felt incredible to win this. Thanks so much Brian, James, and PBCritiqueFest for making this happen. Rozana Rajkumari


I was thrilled to win a critique from DJ Corchin during #PBCritiqueFest 2020. DJ gave me a lot to think about regarding the structure of my story and also the current market and how my story would fit into it. He was very gracious, kind and encouraging and I’m extremely grateful for both DJ’s time and comments as well as Brian’s dedication to helping the kidlit community. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! Renée Neubauer



Still have questions? Tweet at me or use the contact form on this website.





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October 19, 2021 (34)_edited.jpg