#ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day: Let’s “Let Go of Fear” Together

Welcome! We are excited you’re here. Here’s a quick one-minute preview of our Tune-Up Day plan:

Now, grab your manuscript, pens, and courage, and join me for a live revising session for the next 13-minutes. Revising is more fun when we do it together!

Woohoo! Whether you revised for five minutes, thirteen minutes, or kept going for an hour, you ROCK!

And now, here are the exciting Tune-Up Day prizes.

myfreebingocards.com - bingo card generator

Just let us know how you did by commenting comment on today’s post, and then enter the Rafflecopter by January 31st to win!

We’ll see you on April 6th for our Spring Tune-Up Day Challenge!

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

Sign up Now for the First #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day of 2022: Start the Year Out “Write”: Let Go of Fear

Hello! Happy New Year!

All month, our brains are storming with the amazing Tara Lazar. And now, it’s just about time for a quick Tune-Up Day challenge.

First, here is this year’s #ReVISIONweek schedule and a link to more information:

Second: block out time on January 26th for #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day fun.

Third: sort through the manuscripts that are languishing in the drawer. Or better yet, take one of your Storystorm ideas and crank out a draft. (If you’re in 12×12, this can be your January draft!)


(PSA: I highly recommend you do NOT look up gifs for vomit. I made that mistake and it’s gonna leave a mark. Perhaps forever.)

Finally, keep your eyes peeled for a blog post on January 26th containing a video to help you along the way.

The theme for this Tune-Up Day is START THE YEAR OUT “WRITE”: LET GO OF FEAR!

And as always, there will be prizes!

Here’s a Quick-Read Crafty Tip to tide you over while you count down the days to January 26th:

(Disclaimer: I love to write in rhyme, but meter, rhythm, and I don’t see eye to eye, so I only write in rhyme in blog posts.)

We challenge you to approach January’s Tune-Up Day without fear.

Save all of your darlings in old drafts, and then open a blank page…a completely blank page.

Get ready to pull the words, characters, and scenes that work best, and discard the rest.

And don’t worry, we’ll help you through. Your #ReVISIONweek founders love you!

Just add your name in the comments below and you’re in. We’ll see you soon!

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

Quick-Read Crafty Tips: Holiday Season Bingo

Tis the season…

A season that in theory should be filled with joy, peace, and laughter, but in reality is often filled with exhaustion and unrealistic expectations.

Self-care and carving out time for creativity is challenging at best and impossible at worst during the holidays, but they are both critical for the creative soul. This holiday season, I challenge you to give yourself permission to take time for yourself. You can use this bingo card as a guide.

myfreebingocards.com - bingo card generator

From my family to yours, I wish you a holiday season filled self-care, self-compassion, creativity and peace.

Feel. Write. Risk.


#ReVISIONweek 2022 Dates and PRIZE Announcements

Hello #ReVISIONaries!

At long last, it is time to announce the winners of the prizes.

But before I do, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, Shannon, and I want you to know how much fun we had revising with all of you! Your comments, hard work, and enthusiasm was inspiring! Thank you for joining us on this #ReVISIONweek road!

Schitts Creek Comedy GIF by CBC

The winners are:

Kathy Halsey won the Zoom Critique from Katie

Mary Warth won the Zoom Author Visit from Katie

Dedra Davis won a signed copy of LILLYBELLE: A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS from Joana

Deborah Foster won a Zoom Session with Lynne

Wendy Greenley won a digital book from Lynne

Sara Fajardo won a non-rhyming critique from Michal

Stacey Miller won a non-rhyming critique from Lauren

Jeannette Lee won a non-rhyming PB critique from Shannon

Laurel Santini won a Zoom Author Visit from Lauren

AND, I decided to add a bonus “Ask Me Anything” prize which includes a 10-minute video or phone consultation with me. The winner is… Cindy Sommer.

Congratulations to all! You will receive an email at the beginning of next week with further information about your prizes.

And now for the 2022 dates. Mark your calendar!

This industry can certainly be challenging! Please remember:

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon


Whew! What a week! We hope you reflected on your manuscripts, reveled in words, assessed ideas, wielded your hatchet, and played with voice. And most of all, we hope you had fun! Here are a couple of final tips.

And now for prizes!

Did you read the posts?

Did you comment on at least one or two posts?

Did you revise?

Click on the prizes below to enter the Rafflecopter. You have until October 20th at midnight MST to enter.

myfreebingocards.com - bingo card generator

We look forward to seeing you next year for more #ReVISIONweek fun!

Until then…

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

P.S. Lauren is offering 25% off all critique prices exclusively to #ReVISIONweek participants from now until the end of the year.


By Michal Babay

Hello fellow revisers, today’s the day.

The one you’ve been dreading.

But, let’s be honest, you’ve always known that this day was coming. 

At least, you’ve known since you wrote that first draft. 

It’s ok! We’ll do it together.


Take a deep breath,

place your finger on the delete key.


start killing your darlings. 

WAIT! Not ALL of your darlings! Phew. You’re a real choppy chopster, aren’t you? 

Word chopping is an art. 

Slow down, 

Be thoughtful.

Review each sentence and each word, carefully:

  1. Is it a necessary part of your story?
  2. Does it move your story forward?
  3. How about chopping a supporting character or two?
  4. Try writing a sentence in three words, instead of five.
  5. For picture books, each word must be perfect. Chop extra words like “the,” “and,” “just,” and “but” unless they’re absolutely essential. 

Master Class has a wonderful article about the art of killing your darlings: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-does-it-mean-to-kill-your-darlings#what-are-the-origins-of-the-phrase-kill-your-darlings

Of course, some characters and ideas shouldn’t be fully flushed down the toilet. 

In fact, hold onto the old as you create the new. Save your work as a new document each time you edit. And for particularly loveable words, create a BRAND NEW Google Doc titled “Words That Won’t Die”. Save all of the words you might use in the future, like “Dr. McDuckinstein” and “Shnuffle monster.” They demanded a future story. Someday I shall oblige. 

Here’s an example of ruthless chopping from my recent picture book, I’M A GLUTEN-SNIFFING SERVICE DOG. 

FIRST DRAFT: WARNING! You may not want to read it all.FINAL DRAFT: After my critique partners, agent, and I took a hatchet to my story:
Hi, my name is Chewie.
This is my girl, Alice.
She feeds me, grooms me, and plays with me. I LOVE HER!
But we aren’t just best friends.
I’m also a Gluten Detection dog.
And it’s my job to keep her safe.

Alice has an autoimmune disease called Celiac, which means her body attacks itself if she eats anything with gluten. Currently, there is no medicine for Celiac. The only way to stay healthy is by eating a strict diet called gluten-free. Otherwise they can develop other diseases too, like Type I diabetes, arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, and certain cancers.  But sometimes, even if they avoid bread/waffles/tortillas/doughnuts, it isn’t enough.

That’s because gluten is a sneaky monster, and it hides in lots of unexpected places like licorice, soy sauce, long-lasting lipsticks, certain soaps, and even in mouthwash! 

For a long time Alice was so sick she couldn’t even go to school. But now, she has me. It’s my job to keep her safe.

I wasn’t always a gluten detective. I grew up in a house with my litter of poodle-mates. One day, a woman came to play games with us.

She hid food all over the yard, and watched as we sniffed it out (YUM!). I didn’t know it then, but she was testing us. It was my first test, and I passed with flying odors! My litter mate and I sniffed out all the teeny pieces of food spread around the bushes and trees. Our noses detected every scent!

So Jillian took us home to train as allergen detection dogs.

Turns out, I had the nose for gluten.
Every dog needs a person, and Alice is mine.
I just have to graduate from training school, then we’ll be together all the time.
Alice is great at ear scratching and playing fetch.
I can’t wait to become her super-sniffing service dog!

First draft: Information dump.

Final draft: Essential information! Show don’t tell!

This story is near and dear to my heart. I wanted to share EVERYTHING about celiac, service dogs, and Alice’s struggles. But… it was waaaay too much. So I chopped. 


I cut Chewie’s background, moved most celiac information to the backmatter, and combined as many ideas as possible. My revision partners, agent, and editor cheered me on and reminded me, over and over and over, that a tighter manuscript is more powerful, and to trust my readers. 

As you wield your own hatchet, remember that less is better. Chop with precision. Trust your writing partner and readers. And most importantly, trust yourself. You’ve got this.

Michal Babay is the author of I’M A GLUTEN-SNIFFING SERVICE DOG (Albert Whitman & Company) as well as the forthcoming picture book THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING LUNCHROOM (Charlesbridge, 2022). After many years as a teacher and elementary resource specialist, Michal now spends her days writing stories, wrangling teenagers, convincing her three dogs to stop barking, and searching for the perfect gluten-free donut. Michal lives in Southern California with her family.


By Shannon Stocker

I’m a music lover. When I’m cooking, or driving, or cleaning…some Pandora station is always blasting in the background. Pop, country, Broadway, rock, Motown, the 80’s—you name it, there’s probably a station saved on my phone. Music motivates me to keep moving. But when I really want to engage my brain…

Or I really want to slow down…

I turn the music off.

I breathe deeply.

And I embrace…



Don’t you feel calmer already?

Why is that? Why is it that reading can make us feel calm? Or excited? Or nervous? What kinds of tools can writers use to increase the emotional impact of a manuscript?

One of them is space. Making use of gaps, pauses, and space on the page can be powerful tools to slow our readers down when we want them to FEEL something. When we do this, we create read-aloud magic.

But how

Sometimes, the most effective gaps happen when a page has no words. For example, when Tabitha and Fritz decide that their vacation spots are not all they had hoped in Katie Frawley’s TABITHA AND FRITZ TRADE PLACES, Laurie Stansfield fills two full spreads brilliantly, showing us these beloved critters bidding farewell to their new friends, then traveling back home through busy airports (always great for animal-watching, by the way). 

Other times, pauses can be created in the manuscript itself using a variety of tools. One of my favorites (which lends itself to exciting page turns, too!), is the ellipsis. In I’M A GLUTEN-SNIFFING SERVICE DOG, Michal Babay effectively slows the reader repeatedly. Consider:

“I wish Alice were here to rub my belly. I snuggle her sweatshirt. Alice believes in me. But…”

But…but what? What happens next? The pause is there, effectively building tension and forcing us to turn the page.

When writing in verse, I love to create gaps by dropping an unstressed syllable in a foot, usually in the middle of a line (and separated by a comma or period). For example, in CAN U SAVE THE DAY, I wanted the reader to pause at the height of tension. The letter B is riding an uncontrolled, sleeping tractor, about to plow into the rest of the alphabet, but he can’t say anything or warn them because the vowels have gone on strike. The story reads:

“So no one heard. No one cared.”

So where is the gap? Well, I’ve written in iambic tetrameter, which means each foot should have an unstressed syllable followed a stressed syllable (da-DUM). “Tetrameter” means there are four feet per line. So the meter should read like this: da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM. In the line I’ve shared, however, the meter reads like this: da-DUM, da-DUM. DUM, da-DUM. As you can see, I’ve dropped an unstressed syllable in the middle of the line, and I did this purposefully. The pause highlights the tension, the sadness, and the loneliness of the moment.

Onomatopoeia is another great way to encourage pauses. Illustrators will often use these points in a manuscript to let their imaginations run wild (which always serves to improve the story!). Lauren Kerstein is a pro with this device, frequently having Charlie do things like GASP! DASH! CRAAASH! (as he does in ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES). This lends itself to a perfect double-spread of illustrations by Nate Wragg.

In fact, empty space is often most effect when the manuscript and illustrations are perfectly married. On one page in THE BOY WHO GREW A FOREST, Sophia Gholz writes:

“Alone, he canoed down the muddy river. He wished he could cover all the land with trees…”

This same page is almost completely covered by an illustration showing nothing but a muddy river, an empty muddy bank, and a tiny canoe with a single boy as the rider. There is space all over this page, but it screams at the reader, drawing us in and begging us to move onto the next spread. Which, of course, we will do. 

Likewise, Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple open A KITE FOR MOON with this line:

“It was morning and Moon sat alone in the sky.”

This two-page spread is almost completely blue sky, with words against a blue sky on the left and a solitary moon on the right. There is so much space on the spread…but it is filled to the brim with meaning.

And finally, a few words on read-aloud magic. Tara Lazar (SEVEN ATE NINE, among others) is the queen of puns, in my opinion. If you want to know how to weave puns meaningfully through a book (or how to craft an entire manuscript around one pun), pick up one of Tara’s books. She’s a genius.

Lynne Marie is a master of verb choice. Take this example from MOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE SCARES:

“Plasma tracked the intruder upstairs. The three Scares shuffled behind.” 

How much more “read-out-loudable” are these sentences than, say, “Plasma went after the intruder upstairs. The three Scares followed him.” 

I mean, really. Zzzzzzz.

And finally: REPETITION. When a child knows what to expect, or hears a phrase repeated, it’s like hearing a good chorus in a song (there’s that metaphor again. Told you I love music). You can’t help but sing along. In LILLYBELLE: A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, Joana Pastro repeats two phrases: 

“Too-da-loo!” and…

“…but not LillyBelle.” 

These phrases are spaced perfectly within the manuscript and are simple (and cute) enough that young readers will pick up on them and want to repeat them with our heroine over, and over, and over again.

So there you have it. Pauses, gaps, space, and a few pearls on read-aloud magic. As a rhymer and a musician, of course I also adore poetic devices, such as alliteration and assonance.

But that’s for a different song.

Stay tuned…

(see what I did there?) 😝

Shannon Stocker is a writer, singer/songwriter, and fierce advocate for those who are differently-abled and/or chronically ill. She is the author of picture books LISTEN: HOW EVELYN GLENNIE, A DEAF GIRL, CHANGED PERCUSSION (coming from Dial/Penguin UK in April, 2022), and CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press, 2019). She’s a frequent contributor to Chicken Soup, her memoir is currently circulating among publishing houses, and she just completed her first middle grade novel. The proud word nerd lives in Louisville, KY, with her husband, two children (including one cancer warrior and one with ADHD), and stash of hidden dark chocolate. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville and is a 12×12 ninja. Cool facts: Shannon survived medical school, a coma, and once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. She’s also proud to announce that LISTEN was recently selected by the JLG as a book club pick!

#ReVISIONweek 2021: Day #5: Quick-Read Crafty Tip: Play the Uniqueness of Your Manuscript

By Lauren Kerstein

Welcome to Day #5!

Yesterday, we talked about identifying weak words and phrases. Today, we will play with them and spice them up!

Fight Tackling GIF

Let’s explore a few examples before we jump right in:

Instead of saying: “She walked into the room,” you can say:

She trotted over to the couch.

She blasted through the door.

Her footsteps echoed in the room.

Instead of saying: “She felt sad,” you can say:

She hugged her arms around herself and rocked back and forth.

Tears threatened to spill out.

An emptiness hollowed her stomach.

Each of these connotes a different feeling, setting, sensory experience, resonance, etc.

Now it’s your turn to be a word wizard.

Step One: Write the words you want to spice up in the chart below. If the chart format doesn’t work for you, you can brainstorm with a fun pen and paper, directly in the manuscript with a different color font, or in a comment box in your manuscript.

Practice Exercise: Find five different ways to say: “And then he left.” How can you SHOW this instead of TELLING the reader?

Step Two: Explore synonyms, verbs, and sensory language to determine a stronger word or phrase and add possibilities to the “new phrases or words” columns.

Step Three: Read the words aloud. Read the words in your head. Do they convey the emotion, setting, mood, etc. you want to convey? If yes, HOORAY! If not, play around with other possibilities.

Step Four: Think about the way your words sound. Employ literary devices such as alliteration, consonance, assonance, etc.

Pro Tip: Delete anything tell-y, unless you are strategically breaking the rules. 

Have fun with words. Let yourself PLAY! Strengthen those words in a way that leaves your reader feeling all the feels! Your manuscript will be more unique, resonant, and powerful!

Feel. Write. Risk.


Lauren Kerstein is an author and psychotherapist. She’s a Jersey girl at heart who currently lives in Colorado with her husband, their two dragons…er, daughters, and their rescue dog. Lauren is the author of the Rosie the Dragon and Charlie picture book series (Illustrated by Nate Wragg/Two Lions). Her latest picture book, HOME FOR A WHILE (Illustrated by Natalia Moore/Magination Press) moved into bookshelves February 2, 2021. Lauren also writes books in her field about sensory challenges, emotion regulation, and flexible thinking. Lauren is one of the founders of #ReVISIONweek, a judge with Rate Your Story, runs a critique business, and is a long-time member of 12×12 and SCBWI. Her writing goals are simple. Read voraciously. Embrace feedback. Grow each day. Work hard. Be passionate. Write courageously. Touch children’s hearts. Visit her at www.LaurenKerstein.net, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@LaurenKerstein) and FB (https://www.facebook.com/laurenkersteinauthor). 

#ReVISIONweek 2021: Day #4: Quick-Read Crafty Tip: Whet Your Word Whistles

By Lauren Kerstein


Let’s whet our word whistles.

Let’s write words that evoke as much feeling, emotion, and meaning as this gif:

lego room GIF

Take a moment to write down five descriptions of this picture. Feel free to post your descriptions in the comments.

What is this adorable little one seeing, feeling, doing, thinking? Can you condense this into a strong sentence or two that might appear in a picture book? Hone in on this small moment and let yourself PLAY with words.

Words are incredibly powerful- both in a positive way and in a negative way. And words impact people in different ways (as Aixa Perez-Prado reminded me in a wonderful and powerful 12×12 PB Webinar). (Thank you, Julie and Kelly for enlisting the most incredible speakers!)

Jason Chin also reminded me of the power of finding just the right words. Here is an example of a fine sentence that he turned into an exquisite one.

“The universe is the biggest thing we know of…”

“The universe is the grandest environment we know of…”

Let’s explore our manuscripts and determine whether or not our language is evoking the images, feelings, and experiences we want to create for our readers. Don’t forget to think about Katie’s post about voice as you embark on your word journey. Try to think about how your character might say something.

We will begin with Steps One and Two today. Tomorrow I will lead you through and activity that will help you strengthen the words and phrases you’ve identified.

Step One: Read through your manuscript and highlight the word or words you want to strengthen. Be brutal.

Step Two: Take pictures or write down language you love in books you read, no matter the genre. This will help you sharpen your word mind.

Here are a few examples of phrases I loved and saved from THE ENGINEER’S WIFE (Tracey Enerson Wood):

“Her heels ticked across the oak floor…”

“The sun, which would never have the temerity to be absent from one of her events, shone high in a cloudless sky.”

“My insides crumbled.”

“I went to bed alone after Wash fell asleep with his paper wives.”

These are obviously different words than we might use in a picture book. They are from a novel. But I think they really highlight the ways in which we can use language to evoke the feelings we want readers to feel and the images we want to create.

I’ll see you tomorrow!

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren Kerstein is an author and psychotherapist. She’s a Jersey girl at heart who currently lives in Colorado with her husband, their two dragons…er, daughters, and their rescue dog. Lauren is the author of the Rosie the Dragon and Charlie picture book series (Illustrated by Nate Wragg/Two Lions). Her latest picture book, HOME FOR A WHILE (Illustrated by Natalia Moore/Magination Press) moved into bookshelves February 2, 2021. Lauren also writes books in her field about sensory challenges, emotion regulation, and flexible thinking. Lauren is one of the founders of #ReVISIONweek, a judge with Rate Your Story, runs a critique business, and is a long-time member of 12×12 and SCBWI. Her writing goals are simple. Read voraciously. Embrace feedback. Grow each day. Work hard. Be passionate. Write courageously. Touch children’s hearts. Visit her at www.LaurenKerstein.net, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@LaurenKerstein) and FB (https://www.facebook.com/laurenkersteinauthor). 

#ReVISIONweek 2021: Day #3: Quick-Read Crafty Tip: Revising with Voice in Mind

By Katie Frawley

Hello, revising friends! What have you brought to work on this week? A brand-new, stinky first draft? A stubborn WIP you’ve whipped out of the drawer a million times, only to stuff it back in again? A nearly-polished manuscript that’s just lacking a certain something? Whatever you’re revising this week, focusing on voice can help bring your manuscript to the next level. 

In this post, I’m going to focus on authorial voice rather than character voice. A great example of distinctive authorial voice is Jon Klassen’s hat trilogy (I WANT MY HAT BACK, THIS IS NOT MY HAT, and WE FOUND A HAT). If you’ve read one or more of these books, you know the voice instantly. Deadpan, dry, irreverent in the most stoical way. It’s not about the style of one particular character. The book as a whole conveys a uniquely hilarious feeling. 

Picturebook Makers | Jon Klassen

Other examples of memorable authorial voice are THE GIVING TREE (Silverstein) with its quiet, simple power; ON THE NIGHT YOU WERE BORN (Tillman), a whimsical, lyrical, and majestic story; and anything written by Sandra Boynton. In each of these examples, the book as a whole has a distinctive feel, whether it be comical, poignant, stirring, or silly. 

The Giving Tree by [Shel Silverstein]
Boynton Board Books Set - Greatest Hits Collection: Sandra Boynton:  Amazon.com: Books

Think of a story you love that has a voice that might fit your WIP. Read that story several times through, from beginning to end, then go back to your story, and see how you can bring a similar feel to your words. I did this with THE GIVING TREE when I was working on my upcoming (not yet announced) book. I read it over and over and over, sometimes to my kids, sometimes to myself. And I thought about the feeling that book evoked in me when I sat down to work on my story. It had a stillness, a steadiness, and a strength that I wanted to draw out of my own story. And when my acquiring editor finally read that manuscript, she said, “It kind of makes me feel like THE GIVING TREE.” GAH!!!! Jackpot. 

Voice can be a slippery concept. It’s a bit hard to pin down and define, but you know strong voice when you see it. Comb through your shelves, hit the library and browse, find the books that speak to your soul, and sink your teeth into them. Absorb their magic into your brain, and see if you can cast a similar spell as you revise.

Katie Frawley studied English at the University of Florida (GO GATORS!) and earned a Master’s degree in British and American literature from Florida Atlantic University. Before having children, she had the distinct honor of teaching English to rowdy teenagers. When not banging away on the keyboard, Katie can be found testing new recipes with her miniature sous chefs, shooing iguanas away from her garden, or reading picture books to a captive audience on the couch. Katie lives in South Florida with her husband and five children.