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Critiquing Tools & Gratitude

How I’m receiving help & giving myself an attitude adjustment.

Podcast Episode #20

My name is Naomi Shibles and I’m here to tell you Why I Need This Author Gig.

With each episode, I’ll share a little bit about my writing journey, sprinkled with some anecdotes so that we can share a laugh.

In this episode, I cover:

  • Feeling prickly

  • Tech that connects writers

  • The mystical Maia Toll

  • Going back to Cali


desert sunrise
Image by

I’ve had a rough morning and am feeling prickly, so I’m going to turn it around by coming up with a list of 3 new things for which I’m grateful:

(By the way, I’m always grateful for my son, and our health, and my extended family and friends, so today, I’m challenging myself to think of 3 new things.)

No. 1

I’m grateful that QueryTracker’s qtCritique has turned out to be a really helpful service. I mentioned using it when my writing group broke up with me. I love you gals!

At the time, I was just happy to have a pivot option—loads of you know how difficult it can be to get feedback on your writing. But so far qtCritique has exceeded my expectations. About 97% of the critiques that I have received so far have been thoughtful and I’ve implemented much of the suggestions that I’ve received.

*Not an ad — I just like it.*

It works like this: You log on and go to the “Submissions” tab. From there, you see a list of writing that is available to critique. You can choose genre, type of writing (there are query letters, summaries, excerpts, poems, etc.), and word count. You earn points by the word count of the writing you critique and then can use those points to post your own work to be critiqued. The service is built on what they call “Heat Map” technology, which “…makes it fast and easy to view and process multiple critiques.” It’s free to use, or you can access Premium features such as Groups for $25 annually.

There are a few people trying to game the system a bit by only offering one or two small comments in order to get the points, but most people on there seem serious about writing. And we can all rate each other, which keeps it honest.

I’m actually really enjoying critiquing and offering suggestions and edits—because I am a nerd. By the way, why did it take me so long to figure out that Query Tracker’s newsletter delivers updates on agents that are open to queries, or have changed their wishlists??

The Night School book cover

No. 2

Here’s another thing for which I’m grateful: I (and 35 others) get to have brunch with author Maia Toll next month! That’s right, the mystical writer will be in town and I snagged a ticket to the event!

I am pretty new to her writing, but her themes deeply resonate with me. I feel in my bones that the experience will change me for the better.

In the words of Smash Mouth, we could all use a little change.

No. 3

I know I said I wouldn’t count family, but I’m grateful for something specific that my family is doing. A little backstory: My family is from a very small town in California called Carmel, which I love dearly, but it’s pretty much all my son has ever experienced of California.

We took him to Napa and San Francisco when he was too young to remember, but he’s never experienced San Diego, where I went to college (Go Aztecs!) or the windmills in Solvang. Andersen’s split pea soup. Real fish tacos with white sauce. I dream about it.

Hearst Castle indoor pool
This is the indoor pool at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. When I was a child, I was amazed that the floor was inlaid with gold! Image by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay

We did take my son to San Simeon to see the Hearst Castle, but that’s barely outside of Big Sur, so it doesn’t count. I’m talking Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Beverly Hills—he’s seen none of it.

That brings me to why I’m grateful. My family has agreed to meet us in L.A. this year so that we can make some memories in a different place and give the kids new experiences. It’s 100% inconvenient for all of them, but they’re doing it because they are rock stars. Big shout out to Amanda for being co-captain!

I feel much better! Cheers!

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