Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

The Great Critique – 2019

Date(s) - 04/01/2019
12:00 am


The Great Critique Illustrations by Erika Baird


April 1st – May 4th, 2019


The Great Critique is a month-long, region-wide event offering free peer critique sessions and paid opportunities to send pages to an agent or editor for written feedback. Paid written critiques are $45 for members, $60 for non-members.

Participants are welcome to register for a free peer critique session or paid written critiques (up to four) or both. If you choose both, you will need to register twice–once below for paid critiques and once here for free peer critique sessions.

The Great Critique faculty will accept submissions from all Great Critique participants after the event with the exception of Naomi Kirsten of Chronicle Books who will accept submissions from those that purchase a paid critique or that attended her webinar with our region on February 23rd.

To read more about our Great Critique Faculty please scroll down the page.

To register for a free peer critique session, click here

To register for a paid written critique, scroll to the bottom of the page. 

Questions? Please contact Annie Bailey at

CANCELLATION POLICY: Paid written critiques are non-refundable.


Manuscript Formatting Guidelines – Paid Critiques

Please submit ONE properly formatted manuscript per critique, not to exceed 10 pages. Participants may include an optional one-page synopsis which will not be counted toward the 10 pages (not needed for picture, novelty and board book submissions).

Manuscripts should have 1-inch margins on all sides, double-spaced, 12 point, Arial or Times Roman, black font on 8.5 x 11 in. paper. The first page of the manuscript should be clearly marked with the participant’s contact information and email, as well as genre, age category, and word count. Manuscripts should also have a header on each page (starting on page 2 of the manuscript) in the upper left or right hand corner that includes last name of writer, title of manuscript and page number.

Poetry: this includes rhyming picture books, novels in verse, and stand-alone poetry collections. Poetry submissions should conform to the guidelines above; however, they may be single spaced with a double space between stanzas. Stand-alone collections (i.e. a group of poems intended to be published as one book) must have a page break at the end of each poem.


Submission Guidelines – Paid Critiques

E-mail your submission to our manuscript critique coordinator Angie Lucas at angielucaswriter at gmail dot com by April 1st, 2019. You will receive written feedback on your submission via e-mail by May 4th, 2019.

Your submission should contain one word document that includes your cover letter, optional synopsis and your manuscript. Please do not send these as separate files. Illustrators may also include a pdf picture book dummy.

Please use the e-mail subject line “THE GREAT CRITIQUE–AGENT OR EDITORS NAME YOU ARE SUBMITTING TO” and name your document: TITLE-YOUR NAME-GREATCRITIQUE. If you purchase multiple critiques, please send one e-mail for each manuscript you are submitting. Following these guidelines will save us loads of time and make us smile!

For portfolio critiques with Naomi Kirsten, please submit one pdf file that includes a cover letter, 5-7 samples of finished artwork and 5 samples of works in progress (if available). Please include a link to your portfolio website (if available) in your cover letter.


The Great Critique Faculty – Paid Critiques

Megan Ilnitzki, Associate Editor, HarperCollins Children’s Books

Critiquing: picture books, middle grade and young adult.

Megan Ilnitzki works on everything from picture books through YA. She works on many classic programs including Shel Silverstein, C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Maurice Sendak, and Eric Carle, as well as Soman Chainani’s New York Times bestselling The School for Good and Evil series. While open to books for all age ranges, she is particularly interested in clever picture books, high concept middle grade fantasy, contemporary heart felt middle grade, and edgy teen novels. She particularly loves stories that feature unlikely heroes, magical witches, or complicated family dynamics. To get a better sense of what she’d love to see in her inbox, please visit:

Naomi Kirsten, Senior Editor, Chronicle Books

Critiquing: board books, novelty board books, picture books and illustrator portfolios.

Naomi Kirsten is a Senior Editor at Chronicle Books in San Francisco, California. She acquires approximately 20 titles each year, ranging from picture books to games, board books, and novelty formats with a focus on smart, art-driven projects. Naomi’s titles include I DIDN’T DO MY HOMEWORK BECAUSE…; THE TRUTH ABOUT MY UNBELIEVABLE SCHOOL…; New York Times Notable Book and Society of Illustrators Gold Medal Winner THE BEAR’S SONG; I HATE MY CATS (A LOVE STORY); WHEN AN ELEPHANT FALLS IN LOVE; the YOU AND ME, ME AND YOU series; and THE STAR WARS COOKBOOK: BB-ATE, WOOKIEE PIES, HAN SANDWICHES AND OTHER GALACTIC SNACKS, and ICE SABERS, projects she originated for the Star Wars franchise. She also develops publishing programs with Taro Gomi, Benjamin Chaud, Richard McGuire, and Marc Boutavant. On Instagram and Twitter: @naomi_kirsten

“My list resides at the intersection of artful and commercial with a special focus on global voices and perspectives. I am interested in smart, design-forward picture books and products with gift and adult-crossover potential. My focus at Chronicle is on conceptualizing and developing projects from the ground up, and shaping original and distinctive projects from all over the world. I am always compelled by unique illustrations, a smart sensibility, and enduring themes that resonate with a broad audience.”

Rachel Matson, Editorial Assistant, Scholastic: Cartwheel, Orchard & Branches

Critiquing: picture books, early readers and early chapter books.

Rachel Matson is an editorial assistant at Scholastic, where she acquires for Cartwheel, Orchard, Acorn, and Branches. She is interested in anything and everything for ages 0-7, including board and novelty books, picture books, illustrated early readers, and illustrated early chapter books. Some of her favorite co-acquired projects include: an adorable seasonal board book series, Teeny Tiny, illustrated by Joey Chou; a girl-power early reader series Princess Truly, about a girl who is an explorer, a builder, and a superhero (and more!), written by Kelly Greenawalt and illustrated by Amariah Rauscher; and Frog and Dog, an early reader series by Janee Trasler that is Hop on Pop for modern readers, combining simple text and humorous illustrations. Rachel studied English Literature at Connecticut College, and previously worked for Scholastic’s Book Clubs division.

Alexa Pastor, Editor, Simon & Shuster: Antheneum Books for Young Readers

Critiquing: picture books, middle grade and young adult.

Alexa Pastor is an Editor with Atheneum Books for Young Readers. She joined Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing in August of 2014, previously working under the S&S Books for Young Readers and Salaam Reads imprints. She is the lucky editor of the Anna, Banana chapter book series by Anica Rissi, New York Times instant bestseller Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, HerStory by Katherine Halligan and Sarah Walsh (a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of 2018), and several other projects by talented authors including Leah Henderson, Kathleen Krull, Amy Makechnie, Jennifer Richard Jacobson, and Mary Taranta. Prior to landing her dream job, Alexa interned at both Bloomsbury Children’s Books and Running Press Kids, was a bookseller at Barnes and Noble, and graduated summa cum laude from Villanova University (Go ‘Cats!). She completed her master’s degree in Children’s and Young Adult Publishing at Rosemont College in 2015. She is acquiring literary and commercial picture books, middle grade, and YA with fresh, honest voices that demand to be heard, and stories that make her laugh or cry enough that people look at her sideways on her long commute. You can follow Alexa on Twitter @Alexa_Pastor926.

I am looking for picture books, middle grade, and YA with outstanding literary writing, and a strong, commercial hook. In picture books I am looking for playful, funny stories that turn perennial themes on their heads, and nonfiction that brings to light stories and people whose contributions have been lost to history. In middle grade and YA, I am looking for contemporary realistic and magical realism stories that are character-driven, have unique and authentic voices, and a strong sense of heart. Anything that plays with a unique storytelling structure and has sharp dialogue is also always welcome. I am not a great match for high fantasy or historical fiction.

Christina Pulles, Executive Editor, Albert Whitman & Company

Critiquing: board books, novelty books, easy readers, chapter books, picture books and middle grade. (Fiction & non-fiction.)

Christina Pulles joined Albert Whitman & Company in December 2018, and before that worked at Sterling Children’s Books and Simon & Schuster’s Simon Spotlight imprint. After many years in Brooklyn, she now reads, runs, bakes, and eats in Chicago with her husband.

Christina is most interested in acquiring middle grade and picture books, both fiction and nonfiction. In terms of middle grade, she tends to gravitate toward realistic or lightly fantastic manuscripts. Recent acquisitions include Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, Bad Order  by B. B. Ullman, and Howard Wallace, P.I. by Casey Lyall. She wants to see picture books that tell new stories or deliver universal messages in an interesting way. A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Faye Duncan and Xia Gordon and Business Pig by Andrea Zuill are good examples of the range of her picture book tastes. Across all ages, she’s looking for projects that authentically give voice to characters from marginalized backgrounds. A compelling friendship at the heart of a story can also win her over.

Lindsay Davis Auld, Junior Agent, Writers House LLC

Critiquing: picture books, middle grade and young adult. (Fiction & non-fiction.)

Lindsay grew up by the ocean in San Diego and studied English at Bowdoin College. She began her publishing career in the children’s marketing department at Harcourt before joining the West Coast office of Writers House as Steven Malk’s assistant. She soon began representing her own picture books, middle-grade, and young adult titles and helped launch the careers of several bestselling authors. After taking time off to start a family, Lindsay has now re-joined Writers House. She has always been passionate about children’s and young adult literature. Growing up, she loved stories by Roald Dahl, Madeleine L’Engle, Philip Pullman, Katherine Paterson, E. L. Konigsburg, Lois Lowry, Beverly Cleary, and Judith Viorst.

She is Seeking: Picture book, middle grade and young adult manuscripts. She particularly loves mystery, fantasy, adventure, historical fiction, non-fiction from a fresh perspective, magical realism and stories with humor.

Jennifer Mattson, Agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Critiquing: picture books (fiction & non-fiction), graphic novels, middle grade fiction and young adult fiction.

Jennifer Mattson has been with Andrea Brown Literary Agency for a decade, and began working in children’s publishing immediately out of college—including five years as an editor at Dutton and five years as a Books for Youth reviewer with Booklist magazine. She represents all audiences and genres, from picture book through young adult, and looks for authors or author-illustrators who bring a deep professionalism, an open mind, and a fresh point of view to their work.

She represents authors of YA and middle grade fiction (such as Katy Louzenhiser and Kate Hannigan), authors of picture books (such as Kim Norman and Linda Ashman), illustrators (such as Katy Wu), and author-illustrators (such as J. R. Krause and Geisel Honor winner Paul Meisel). Her list primarily focuses on fiction, but she’s also open to impeccably researched nonfiction projects. She’s currently especially looking to add more novelists to her roster, especially those from backgrounds underrepresented in mainstream publishing, and she has soft spots for mindbending fantasy and gripping survival stories of all kinds. But she’ll always give more than a passing glance to a slam-dunk of a picture book!

To give a broader sense of her book personality, some favorite titles (by non-clients) include Marla Frazee’s The Seven Silly Eaters; anything by Russell Hoban, Arnold Lobel, or Beverly Cleary; Chris Barton’s Shark vs. Train; Mac Barnett’s Extra Yarn; Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes; Esther Hautzig’s survival memoir, The Endless Steppe; and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials cycle. She has also spent much of the past two years reading the works of Anthony Trollope.

Jennifer is based in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys running for fun and exercise and dance as both audience member and participant. You can occasionally find her speaking at SCBWI and other writers’ conferences in Chicagoland and farther afield; or on Twitter (@jannmatt).

Jenna Pocius, Agent, Red Fox Literary, LLC

Critiquing: graphic novels, middle grade, young adult and picture books from author/illustrators. (No text only picture books please.)

Agent Jenna Pocius of Red Fox Literary has a background in children’s editorial and is also a children’s book author (Robyn Hood series, ABDO 2019). During her time as an editor she acquired everything from board books to YA novels, and many of her books have gone on to receive starred reviews and awards, including The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits by Douglas Florian and Small by Gina Perry. As an agent she’s had numerous exciting sales since joining Red Fox in July 2017, including the forthcoming picture books This is a Sea Cow by Cassandra Federman (Albert Whitman, Fall 2019); Betty Robinson by Allison Crotzer Kimmel (HarperCollins, Summer 2020); The Longest Letsgoboy by Derick Wilder (Chronicle, Spring 2021); and more.

Jenna is looking for character-driven novels with strong voice and world-building, author-illustrated picture books, and stories across age groups that highlight female empowerment and diversity, especially #ownvoices. She is also a sucker for animal stories, especially dogs.

Jenna lives in Connecticut with her husband and their precious rescue pup.

Alexander Slater, Agent, Trident Media Group, LLC

Critiquing: graphic novels, middle grade and young adult. (Fiction & non-fiction.)

Alexander Slater graduated from the University of Connecticut with a B.A. in English Literature and a Concentration in Creative Writing. As Fiction Editor for the university’s literary journal, Alex participated in the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia. His first job in publishing was shortly thereafter, as intern and then literary assistant at the Maria Carvainis Agency in Manhattan. In 2010, he began working as an assistant to two agents at Trident Media Group, and has been with the agency ever since. Within Trident, Alex spent several years as a Foreign Rights Agent, specializing in representing the company’s middle grade and young adult authors in the foreign marketplace, securing hundreds of translation and English language in the U.K. sub rights  sales, and placing books with publishers in dozens of countries. Alex has been Trident’s representative at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy multiple times, and has also routinely attended the London and Frankfurt Book Fairs. The perspective and knowledge gleaned from his extensive experience in the foreign market continues to guide his work today as a Literary Agent.

Since beginning to build his list in 2014, Alex’s clients include Ali Novak, Molly Booth, Jodi Kendall, Kelly Yang, and several other star-reviewed and bestselling authors, like Dana Langer and Michael McBride. He is most interested in stories that blend genres, in characters that have been historically underrepresented, and in voices that enrapture him to the point of missing his subway stop. His list focuses intently on middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction, but peppered throughout are adult thrillers, literary fiction, Coen Brothers-esque crime noir, pop culture, narrative nonfiction, and in particular, graphic novels for all ages.

Alex lives in Brooklyn with his wife and their cat, Mishmash. Follow his infrequent tweets @abuckslater.

Laurel Symonds, Agent, The Bent Agency

Critiquing: picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult. (Fiction & non-fiction.)

Laurel Symonds launched as a literary agent at The Bent Agency in Fall 2018 after nearly a decade of experience in the publishing industry. She began her career in the editorial department of HarperCollins Children’s Books/Katherine Tegen Books in New York City and has also held positions in the marketing department at a small publishing house, in a library, and as a bookseller at one of the nation’s best independent bookstores. As a literary agent, she is seeking children’s fiction and nonfiction, from picture books to young adult, particularly focusing on voices that have previously been underrepresented and stories that have been overlooked.

At this moment, I’m especially seeking STEM-focused picture books, day-in-the-life chapter book series, middle grade fantasy, and light contemporary or physiological thrillers for young adults. I am also open to illustrators.