Testimonials: Critiquing, Editing, Beta-reading, and Story Coaching
"What I find most constructive about Susan’s analysis of a story are the questions she asks. They have a way of pinpointing the weaknesses that may lurk in the narrative, and always give you a place to begin your revisions. I remember sending her the ms. for Mister Dash and the Cupcake Calamity. I had hit a wall and couldn’t come up with a way to move forward. Susan’s astute questions, in this case of the “what if?” sort, helped me get that picture book story written and ultimately published. Thank you, Susan!"
- Monica Kulling, author of many picture books, such as On Our Way to Oyster Bay: Mother Jones and Her March for Children's Rights (Kids Can), the Great Idea series (Tundra), and Master Dash and the Cupcake Calamity (Tundra); Toronto, ON, Canada
"With the early manuscript drafts of Ara The Star Engineer, Susan was a great coach in helping me understand elements of writing -- aspects such as voice, structure, memorability of characters, building an active story, paying attention to vocabulary complexity levels etc. She was very detailed in her feedback, always had great suggestions and recommendations, and was very punctual. Susan also provided constant encouragement to ensure I didn't give up, being a first-time author! I believe Susan's dedication in finessing the early script played an important role in helping me eventually find a publisher for my picture book! Thank you, Susan!"
- Komal Singh, author of Ara the Star Engineer, a picture book (Page Two Books, 2018) and an engineering program manager at Google; Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
"Susan gave a very in-depth evaluation of my 'Snot, Snails and Salamander Tails' picture book manuscript. She covered all aspects of my writing, with special attention to my characters and the strength of my ending. She offered constructive advice on three specific concerns that I had. This was very helpful in writing my final draft. Her thought-provoking evaluation certainly inspired me and strongly influenced the final revision for my book."
- Ann Campbell, author of several picture books, including "Snot, Snails and Salamander Tails" (2017); Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada
"I just went over your evaluation comments on my picture book manuscript, and all I have to say is WOW. You are amazing! Thank you for being so thorough. Your comments were insightful, and I loved that you offered suggestions."
- Elaheh Bos, writer and illustrator of children's books; Montreal, Quebec, Canada
"In 2018, when our dance company decided to create a picture book to share the story of a young ladybug's inspirational journey of embracing her differences, we turned to Susan. It was very difficult finding someone with her level of experience, expertise, and care for the work. As well as providing constructive critiques on the first two drafts and line-editing the third draft of Lola, the Ladybug, she offered insightful comments on the various stages of illustrations, lay-out, and design. Her clear and productive comments helped us produce an amazing book. "
- J. Brinson, Co-Founder & Executive Producer // GB Group Creative Inc. Los Angeles • Vancouver
"As a first-time children's book author, I feel incredibly fortunate for Susan's help. Susan critiqued my first picture book, What's Wrong with Sunny? and worked with me as a writing coach, providing excellent insights to help tighten up the manuscript."
- Amitha Kalaichandran, author of "What's Wrong with Sunny?" (Archway, 2016), Toronto, Ontario
"THANK YOU SOOOO much for the thoughtful critique of my picture book manuscript. You have given me lots to think about. I really appreciate your words of wisdom and your well thought out comments AND tips! I’m eager to flesh it out - you’ve given me tons of inspiration. Best money I’ve spent on writing so far! Thank you – thank you – thank you!"
- Daphne Greer, author of YA fiction, including Jacob's Landing, Maxed Out, and upcoming Camped Out; Newport Landing, Nova Scotia, Canada
"Susan’s critique of my manuscript was invaluable to me as a new author. It was concise, direct, honest, encouraging, insightful, supportive, constructive and above all else I felt like my story mattered. She provided me with an extensive eight page editorial report which became my guide. Her precision in the questions she asked, challenged me to get inside the characters themselves and see their world from the inside out. I am extremely grateful for Susan’s immeasurable expertise in assisting me in the creation of Lilly Loves Beards."
- Carol Thompson Gardner, author of Lilly Loves Beards, a picture book; Duncan, BC, Canada
"I appreciate the feedback you provided on my picture book manuscript. I had to let go of the original story ideas for my characters to get to the one that would work. From your words, something stirred inside me.... Sitting with your feedback and direction I was able to let go and create a brand new story."
- Sarah L. Roberts, Sacramento, California, US
"Susan is really amazing at proving in-depth manuscript comments of criticism, explanations, and suggestions, as well as a summary of the overall critique. A lot of editors do that combination, but Susan is really helpful because her summary notes are not just about the manuscript at hand, they are also about story in general and the kid reader market. In addition, as an ability-based press, some editors won't touch a diversity manuscript because they are scared, but Susan is great because she knows how to edit and look at the story at hand -- not the disability of the character -- as the story (unless of course, that is the story)."
- Luda Gogolushko, owner and publisher of Includas Publishing (www.includas.com), a press that brings diversity to readers; Temecula, California, US
"In her thorough critique of our rhyming picture book, Susan shone light on parts of the writing that were confusing and she pressed for clarification. She provided feedback which helped us see our work in a shape that made sense. We are very grateful for Susan's time and the attention she gave our story."
- Martha Jarrell, writer, and Mary Christie Chalk, watercolor painter, ON, Canada
"Susan did an amazing critique on a non-fiction picture book which needed another set of eyes. The detailed critique and summary was way beyond my expectations and provided exactly what was needed to polish up for submission. A second place win in an SCBWI contest was the result. I would recommend Susan's talent and expertise to any writer. Thank you, Susan!"
- Linda Carpenter, Victor, Idaho, US
"Susan was a fresh pair of eyes for my chapter book manuscript. She was able to help me flesh out the characters that I loved, and help the reader to love them too. Her feedback was clear, concise and very helpful."
- Melanie Mosher, children's writer and author of "Fire Pie Trout", "Fifth House" (2014); eastern shore of Nova Scotia, Canada
"Susan Hughes is a very supportive and encouraging writing coach. She is honest, thoughtful, and has a wealth of information on writing. With every draft I felt she read my middle grade manuscript The King of Average closely and carefully before offering any critique or suggestion. She is never critical without being constructive. Her gentle nudges over the year were not pushy or scolding, but kept me motivated. I'm glad she kept in touch with me until I got to my final draft. I've got a better manuscript than I ever could have done on my own. I recommend her wholeheartedly without reservation."
- Gary Schwartz, author of "The King of Average" (Bookstrope, 2015), North Bend, Washington, US
"Susan presented a comprehensive critique of my 760 word narrative nonfiction picture book. She examined my writing in line-by-line detail. I especially appreciated her skill at getting into the head of my potential readers (7 to 11 year olds). She gave such helpful suggestions for simplifying a complicated true story for the young reader. Thank you, Susan! You’ll be hearing from me again."
- Sarah Glenn Fortson, retired teacher and energetic author of children’s stories; Chicago, Illinois, US
"The embarrassing truth is that your first draft is rarely as perfect as you imagine it is. Susan's insightful questions and suggestions were invaluable in making 'Loose Strands' and its characters come alive. Her manuscript evaluation and substantive edit made sure we were hitting the right notes for our middle grade audience. She was professional, flexible (especially important with our interactive middle grade app, since the interactivity meant working through some non-traditional narrative structures) and willing to talk through anything that needed reworking."
- Mark Moyes, author and developer of "Loose Strands", an interactive adventure novel app; winner of Best Children's App at the 2015 Digital Book Awards; Toronto, Ontario, Canada
"Thank you again for the evaluation of my middle grade manuscript! You did such a great job and provided me with such helpful feedback that I have been able to revisit the manuscript in a more meaningful way. I've been able to "clean up" some of the elements that were confusing and unclear, and layer the text to bring in some key pieces earlier on in the story. Your comments also helped me to really think about my main character, Evie, and what her actions said about her, something that was really needed. I'm really excited about the changes it has brought about in the story!"
- Samantha Desjardins; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
"As a first time author and illustrator of a middle grade graphic novel, I was both grateful and impressed with the level of insight and careful attention to detail that Susan provided in her critique. The suggestions she offered and questions she put forward were all carefully considered and made their way into an improved version of Once Upon Utopia. Thank you! "
- Rupy Bhogal, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
"I recently reached out to Susan for help with a middle grade novel. I had lost direction with it and was stuck going forward. Her detailed, insightful and knowledgeable evaluation provided me with the direction I need to jump back into the project with invigorated gusto. Not only has Susan provided me with a road-map of how I can turn this project into a publisher-ready manuscript, but she also gave me the encouragement I need to become re-inspired. Thank you, Susan."
- Michelle Kadarusman, author of "Out of It" ( Lorimer, 2014) and "The Theory of Hummingbirds" (Pajama Press, 2017); Toronto, Ontario, Canada
"I wrote a story about my childhood called A Thin Place. I mean, hey, I lived this. How tough could it be? It was a lot tougher than I would have thought, and in my first few minutes of talking with Susan Hughes that became clear. I think all writers think the very first thing they write thing is perfect. They may admit it has errors, but they see it in its final stage, with a beautiful cover and a price tag of $19.95. Done. Finished. … Did Hemingway really have it this easy? But then you get a report from Susan Hughes. Um . . . what? All these things need addressing? That’s crazy talk. The more you try to argue your point, the more you see SHE’S right. Writing is an upside-down world. Maybe you don’t need someone like Susan. I did. And she helped, in both little and big ways.”
- David Weiskircher, author of YA novel “A Thin Place” (Smokeblood LLC, 2019) and other novels, Atlanta, US
"Susan's insights helped me strengthen my YA manuscript Yesterday's Dead by getting inside the emotional journey of my character. Her unerring ability to identify just what's needed and exactly where to focus gave me a huge boost in polishing my manuscript for submission. And she's just plain fun to work with!"
- Pat Bourke, author of "Yesterday's Dead" (Second Story, 2012); Victoria, BC, Canada
"Susan did such an amazing job evaluating and editing the first draft of my young adult manuscript! Not only did she assist me in strengthening the manuscript itself, but she went above and beyond to help me. I will definitely work with Susan again."
- Jamie McPherson, Coquitlam, BC, Canada
"Susan Hughes did a tremendous job editing my YA manuscript Robi's Flying Saucer Drive-In ...."
- Kelly Winsa, "Robi's Flying Saucer Drive-In" (Kobo, 2015), Big Island of Hawaii, US, and Stoney Lake, Ontario, Canada
"Susan Hughes is a great editor. She is very conscientious; she read every word of my YA manuscript closely and had helpful suggestions for shaping a scene to make it just a little better. She teaches and encourages along the way, and I gained insight from working with her. I know her developmental edit helped me find a home for my novel--and I plan to use her services again!"
- R. J. Garcia, author of "Noctural Meetings of the Misplaced" (Parliament House, 2018), Merillville, Indiana, US
"When I contacted Susan, I wasn't totally sure what I wanted or what I needed. I just knew I needed help with the draft of Culmination, my first novel for adults! Susan put together a custom package for me, because it turned out I needed a little of everything. The publisher loved Susan's edits, and I ended up adopting most of them. I will use Susan in the future, for my sequel to this novel and other manuscript edits."
- Holly Smith, author of "Culmination" (Mason Marshall Press, 2016), Oregon, US
"Susan helped me transform the first draft of my non-fiction book for adults, DNA: The Elephant in the Lab, into a well structured manuscript with a clear path from beginning to end. She didn’t hold back in suggesting clarification on things that I understood but had failed to realize others might not. There was also lots of help on style and chapter structure. Susan also did a developmental edit on an early draft of my adult novel . Again she provided excellent and thorough feedback with lots of detail on plot structure, character development and other key facets that helped me enormously when writing the next draft. My wife has also used Susan for developmental work with her teen novel and had a similar very positive experience. I will definitely call on Susan’s services again for any future projects and would highly recommend her for excellent, detailed feedback that will help lift your manuscript to the next level.”
- Orson Wedgwood, author of “DNA: The Elephant in the Lab” (Amazon Digital Services, 2019), UK
"Susan makes you work and that’s the kind of ethos you need in a writing coach, advisor, editor, kindly critic. Susan has been all of these things to me and my various works, including my novels and stories, all for an adult audience. What Susan is not going to do is write the book for you, certainly she questions a character’s plausibility, identifying a jarring action or motive, or an arbitrary narrative shift. Her approach is thorough, very thorough and where necessary commenting line by line on the manuscript while also compiling notes (a form of diagnosis) on the text for you to consider, adopt or not. Susan makes it pretty clear the book is yours and so are the choices you make. I really can’t praise Susan enough – she’s a joy to work with."
- David Evans, author of short story “Dobson’s Ministry of Deliverance” (Fairlight Shorts, April 2018) and other stories; Sussex, England
"Susan's in-depth analysis of my adult sci-fi police thriller has been a valuable learning experience for me as a novelist and a marvelous pathway to a tighter and more comprehensive presentation of my story. While she was careful not to tell me how to write my manuscript, she gave a very thorough, objective evaluation of the work, showing me what was working, what wasn't, and offering suggestions for making changes. Her comments let me see where my story grabbed the readers and, equally important, where I risked losing them. She was able to define how essential each character was to the overall plot. She understood where I was heading with my work and helped to clear the obstacles from that arduous path."
- James Durrah, New York, NY, US
"As a new author with an adult fantasy fiction manuscript, I was pleased with how Susan was able to illuminate a path for improvement for me. She helped me realize my weaknesses by providing insightful comments and offering individual character assessments. She suggested tips for building my new world which is so vital to a good fantasy. She helped my story sound more real and believable overall. I had been blind before. With Susan's help, I am now able to see what I need to do to get my manuscript published."
- Hasan Muzaffer, author of "Blood Secrets" and adult/young adult fantasy writer; Bluefield, Virginia, US
"Fantastic beta-reading is all I’ve got to say! Plenty of work for me to do. I think you went above and beyond the call of duty."
- Mark Haynes, writer of adult creative non-fiction; Boylston, Nova Scotia, Canada