Author Snapshot: Marie Cruz

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Marie Cruz is the debut author of Everlasting Nora (Tor/Forge, 2018).

From whom have you received creative feedback–critique groups/partners, writing teachers, expert/sensitivity readers, family and friends, editor and/or agent?

Over the last 15 years, I’ve received feedback from pretty much all of the above! But I must say that critique partners are the best. And in my opinion, necessary for a writer who wants to take their book to the next level, or more specifically, from first draft to finished novel.

The growth of a seedling to a full-grown tree best illustrates how important critique partners are in a writer’s life.

First drafts are like delicate seedlings, fragile, not fully formed. Critique partners are air and sunshine for a writer who wants to make their story stronger.

They give you the tools to help you dig deeper the way a sapling tree’s roots reaches for water. They help you expand your story the way a growing tree reaches for the sky, until what you have written is fully formed and ready for that next step—querying agents.

How do you digest and process that feedback?

I first drafted Everlasting Nora over 10 years ago. My critique partners, through their friendship and feedback, taught me so much about myself as a writer.

It was tough to hear their feedback at first, in the sense where you begin to doubt yourself and lose faith in your story—I still feel this sense of inadequacy today—but I learned how to push that self-doubt away.

My process for taking in feedback was (and still is) to read it and then put it away. I let my mind process it as I go about doing other things (like knitting or cooking) and when I’m ready to work, I read the critique again. By that time, I have an idea in mind on how to approach revising the part of my book I received feedback on.

The key thing to remember is that feedback is kindly given and, is for the most part, simply suggestions on how to improve, for example, characterization or pacing.

You can take what makes sense to you and work with that.

I used the same process when I received my first edit letter for Everlasting Nora from my lovely editor, Diana Pho. I printed it out and read it. I carried it with me everywhere for a couple weeks, reading it at least once a day, highlighting passages in the letter and making little notes in the margins. I let my mind absorb the feedback until a revision plan began to form.

What advice do you have for other writers along those lines?

I’d say, give yourself time. Based on my own experience, I believe a writer’s first response to feedback is emotional. Sharing your writing takes courage and you can feel pretty tense as you sit there listening to a critique partner’s (or workshop group member’s) thoughts on your work.

My advice is to listen, take notes, then put the notes away for a little while. When the emotional response has faded, you can return to those notes with an open mind and decide if the feedback will help you or not.

I think it’s also helpful to have critique partners who are writing for the same market as you are. If you write picture books then find a group of picture book writers and/or illustrators. If you write novels, look for middle grade or young adult book writers.

Either way, what matters is finding the right fit. And when you do, these writers will become lifelong friends—and that’s a beautiful thing.

Cynsational Notes

Marie Miranda Cruz was born in the Philippines. She spent most of her formative years moving between her hometown, Cavite City, and several cities in the United States while her father served in the United States Navy.

When her dad retired, she moved back to the Philippines where she completed both high school and college. The first holiday she experienced in the Philippines was All Saints Day. It was this experience that inspired her to write her first novel, Everlasting Nora.

Marie now lives in Los Angeles with her family and a tank of fighting fish. When she isn’t writing books for kids, she may be analyzing chromosomes in a genetics lab, reading a good book, or knitting ponchos and fingerless gloves.