I took part in roundtable critique over the weekend at the SCBWI Wa. writers conference which provided authors a chance to have 500 words from a chapter they are working on to be critiqued. As unnerving as it is to have your work examined by writers you've never met, by published authors and agents, it's worth the liter of sweat you'll lose in the process.
The first round was led by author Kirby Larson, a well established children's author. I was amazed at how insightful she was doing a cold reading of each participant's entry. She was ever encouraging and so kind that she left all of the participating writers feeling that although we had revising to do our writing had merit.
Jennifer Rofe, an agent with Andrea Brown Literary agency, had a more straightforward approach. She also had positive things to say about my writing excerpt, but she looked past that and asked me questions about the rest of my YA story and where it was going. She challenged me to explain the choices I made and offered suggestions on areas I wasn't sure about. It was non-threatening verbal jousting. Justifying my manuscript made me feel more confident about it as I revise it yet again.