Friday, August 3, 2012

Friendspiration Friday: Lori Alexander on Kellie Dubay Gillis

Its Friendspiration Friday and today we continue to celebrate the special people who inspire us to be all we can be.  Today, we focus on critique partners. 

Let's face it, finding a good critique partner can be as difficult as finding a soul mate!   When Lori contacted me about sharing this wonderful Friendspiration, I jumped on the idea!  Afterall, I am a HUGE cheerleader for Crit Partners!  

May we all be as lucky as Lori and Kellie have been.

Thank you, Lori, for joining us today!  Take it away...

WANTED: PB Critique Partner
MUST LIKE: Quirky characters, humorous plotlines, unique settings
MUST DISLIKE: Bad rhyme, stories without tension
OTHER: Must be willing to show not tell
LOOKING FOR: A serious relationship; long distances okay
*Please respond in 500 words or less*

A trusted critique partner is an absolute must for a writer. But like dating, finding that perfect match takes time. After striking out with a handful of writers, I completely clicked with my now dear friend, Kellie DuBay Gillis. We found each other in the “Queries and Critique Requests” section of Verla Kay’s Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Chat Board, otherwise known as the Blue Boards (check out this fabulous resource, if you haven’t already). Kellie and I have been swapping stories for over two years now. Here’s why she’s a fabulous critique partner and my friendspiration:

-She’s dedicated. Kellie is a working mom with two young children, yet she devotes much of her free time to staying up to date on the kidlit market. Not only is she an avid PB and MG reader, she’s an active SCBWI member, conference goer, and one of the hosts of a weekly MG twitter chat. Did I mention Kellie has multiple picture books in the works as well as a middle grade novel?

-She’s knowledgeable. Kellie’s critiques are spot on. From her, I learned how to raise the stakes in my own writing. I learned that my PBs need layers—my main character has to face internal and external struggles. I can email Kellie a half-baked idea or a fully polished manuscript. She knows my style of writing and her suggestions always make for a stronger text.

-She gets it! More than just critiques, Kellie and I have shared ups and downs over the past few years. We’ve queried agents, dissected editor feedback, and traded nuggets of info gathered from conferences/webinars. We’ve crossed our fingers. We’ve waited. And we’ve weathered plenty of rejection. Kellie understands how huge it is to go to acquisitions and how heartbreaking it is when your best PB is rejected again. Even though I keep my husband semi clued-in to my dream to be published, he can’t talk in depth about word count or coming up with a PB idea that has universality and a strong commercial hook. Kellie can. She knows how difficult (and how rewarding) this business can be. When I got my good news* last week, Kellie’s cheers could almost be heard from her home state of OH (I’m in AZ). We’ve never met in person, but she swears she’ll be first in line at my launch party next year. How great is that!

Thanks, Kellie, for all your support and encouragement. And blog readers, here’s to hoping you’ve found your perfect crit partner as well!

Finally, a big thanks to Marcie for letting me rave about my Friendspiration!

Lori Alexander is a member of SCBWI and volunteers as the Fiction Editor for the online Stories for Children Magazine. *Her first picture book, BACKHOE JOE, will roll out in 2013 from Harper Children’s.

Do YOU have a Friendspiration you would like to introduce us to on a future Friday? Please send an email to and we will make that happen.


  1. Well this is making me cry on a Friday morning! Happy tears, of course. I so appreciate all those kind words coming from Lori. Now,if you take what Lori said and multiply it by a million, that's how I feel about HER. I am one very lucky person to have Lori as a crit partner and a friend. I call her my long-lost writing sister. I'm so very grateful she feels this way about our crit partner relationship because I hope to have her as a partner for a very long time! Hugs to you, Lori. I cannot wait to finally meet Lori in person for the launch of BACKHOE JOE in 2013 (although I do hope the universe lets us meet before then). And thank you Marcie for a lovely feature on your blog. We can't do anything in this business without our cheerleading writer friends!

    1. Thanks, Kellie! It was fun to reflect on our writing time together. In the process, I dug around in my Word files and found some old gems I had sent to you for feedback. *cringe* But it really shows how thoughtful critique can help a writer learn and grow.

  2. Congratulations! It sounds like you two have been really lucky yet committed to actively strengthen each other's work. Do you email or also phone each other? Any other process tips?

    1. Email mostly. I know some crit groups have a formal structure where each member has a specific week to share their work. Our partnership has been more informal--we just swap when we have something ready to go.

    2. And I have called to scream into her voicemail when completely jazzed about something and need her advice/magic good luck sprinkles. Informal has worked well for us. But I think setting some sort of parameters/expectations with your CP is important. Skyping would be fun though!

  3. What a wonderful friendship. I'm getting all weepy over my keyboard now. Thank you for sharing. My Kellie is named Evelyn. I don't know how I would get by without her.

    1. Perhaps you would like to introduce us to Evelyn on a future Friday? I am looking for others to guest blog. Let me know! :)

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