Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Notes – 11/15/2020 Unique Critiques with Selene Castrovilla

 “Unique Critiques” SCBWI Long Island Webinar

Selene Castrovilla, SCBWI-LI RA 11/15/2020


“Unique Critiques” with Selene Castrovilla, author of fiction and nonfiction, including award winning books. As our regional advisor, Selene conducted critiques via Zoom on November 15, 2020 and invited others to comment. Debbie Vilardi took the notes.

The major takeaways from the critiques include the following:

In Picture Books

  • Set your theme up front and connect everything to the theme, even in a concept book.
  • Focus on a single plot.
  • Be sure to leave room for the illustrator.
  • Make the main character have to work for the ending they get. Don’t make it too easy for them.

In All Books

  • Dialog should reflect emotion, relationships, and reality. It shows who people are. People who are scared don’t speak in full well-thought-out sentences. This helps pacing.
  • Be careful that your action and text aren’t self-contradictory.
  • The opening of a story should foreshadow the ending in some way.
  • Stick to the main character, POV. Don’t distract from the action.
  • Use exposition instead of long stretches of dialog to explain events.
  • Amp up emotions and show human relationships realistically.
  • Start in a scene, a character in a setting doing something. Add stakes and conflict quickly.
  • Consider your reader as you establish the style of the book. Stream of consciousness is hard to follow for younger readers, but might work in YA.
  • Nonfiction must not have anything made up. It takes research. Even historical fiction needs accurate details.