Friday, April 12, 2019

Storyteller's Journey

Painting by Mary Ethel Hunter 1878 - 1936
My Junior Beta Reader

Right from the start of my storyteller's journey I've used beta readers - for portions of my writing, and for finished manuscripts as well. However, it wasn't until last year that I was lucky enough to find a junior beta reader; a girl that was eleven-years-old - the same age as the protagonist in my middle grade fantasy novel. The insightful feedback I received from her was invaluable!

My junior beta reader, Rayma, is the granddaughter of a very dear friend. (Who happens to also be one of my beta readers!) Laura, the grandmother, mentioned to me that  Rayma loves to read and she thought that my story might interest the young girl. The only hitch: she lives near Akron, Ohio, while I reside in the Pacific Northwest.

Laura corresponded with her granddaughter, and after learning that she was actually excited about the project, I printed off my 52,000 word manuscript, placed it in a 2.5 inch binder - complete with a mock cover, and sent it off to Rayma in Ohio. I attempted to make it easy for her, so I'd requested she do the following: Place a happy face 😄 next to portions she really liked; place a sad face 😞 next to portions she didn't like; and place a question mark ? next to places that she was confused.

Well, it turns out, I had totally underestimated Rayma's commitment to her task as a beta reader! She left numerous notes throughout the manuscript (like the ones on the left), that totally warmed my heart. Receiving a glowing report from a beta reader - not about structure, grammar, plot, etc. - but just about whether she liked it or not, blew me away. She liked it! She really, really liked it. (I always did like Sally Field.)

So when it was time for Spring Break, Rayma & her family came out to see her grandmother, Laura, my dear friend. The Friday before she was set to return home to Ohio, Rayma, her father, little sister Rylee, Laura, and I, all enjoyed a delightful lunch. What an extraordinary young lady (now twelve), and a super special family. (Rayma's mom was back in Ohio where she works as a 3rd grade teacher in another school district. 💙) It was an incredible experience to meet this young lady. Thanks again, Rayma; your feedback, and now your friendship, mean so much!