Children's Book Manuscript Advisors
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Judy Irvin Kuns
Judy Irvin Kuns

Books in Print

  • While You Were Out, Dutton

A Word from Judy Irvin Kuns

"When asked to describe my writing style, the first thing that comes to mind is a quote by Albert Einstein. When asked, 'How do you work?' he answered, 'I grope.'

"I usually begin with a character in mind and a vague idea of the situation this character has found herself in. The first draft is an exploratory one, at the end of which (if all goes well) I have learned a lot more about the character, her situation, what she does about it and how the experience has changed her. Most importantly, at the end of the first exploratory draft, I have learned what my story isn't about. Subsequent revisions serve to strip away distractions and enhance character motivation until I'm to the point where I can concentrate more on word choice and overall fine tuning. (The fun part.)

While You Were Out

"Freewriting is my method of choice for generating material. One of my mentors, Brock Cole, urged me to 'worry less and write more,' which I think is excellent advice. Although I usually save specific word choice until later in the writing process, I try to pay attention to the words my subconscious has chosen for me in the freewriting stage as those words often give me hints and clues as to what I'm trying to say and/or what my story is really about.

"I'm also a fan of Peter Elbow's collage approach to writing. I write scenes and other bits and pieces of dialogue and narrative without worrying about where in my story they will be placed, if at all. Later, connections will appear (on good days) and the story can be put in order. Transitions are often surprisingly minimal using this method.

"I have had the most experience writing (and reading) at the middle grade and young adult level. I'm not so great with poetry and picture books, although I am constantly trying to educate myself in those areas as well.

"My sense of humor is a part of who I am. I don't believe I could write anything without at least a touch of humor sneaking in, as long as it doesn't feel forced or tacked on.

"I believe that every draft has a spark. As a mentor, I would try to identify the sparks and help the writer fan them into flame. Sometimes, in my own writing, I find a spark that might be better off in another pile of kindling. I also keep a sharp eye out for wildfires which can quickly get out of control.

"As for plot development, what helps me the most is to have a trusted reader ask questions about my work, i.e. 'What made this character do that? What kind of family life does that character have that would cause him to react that way?' Those kinds of things help me understand my characters and ultimately my story better.

"Bottom line: Tell the emotional truth and trust the process."


  • MFA in Writing, Vermont College, Montpelier, VT.
  • Associate of Arts, Liberal Studies, Bowling Green State University


Published Writer

  • Graduate assistant, Vermont College, Jan., 2000; July 2003
  • Medical Transcriptionist
  • Phlebotomist
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Medical Secretary

Speaking/Teaching Experience

  • Visiting writer, Right to Read Week, Margaretta Schools
  • Visiting writer Meadowlawn School
  • Visiting writer, Lorain County Community College
  • Power of the Pen coach, Margaretta Junior High
  • Guest speaker, Women's Health Day, October, 2005
  • Guest speaker AOOA Convention, Sawmill Creek, June 2006
  • Guest speaker Middle School Writer's Day, Fireland's College, May, 2006
  • Guest lecturer at the Sandusky and Bellevue Public Libraries
  • Guest lecturer and panelist, Wisconsin SCBWI Conference, Nov., 2006


  • Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
  • Oberlin Writer's Group
  • Margaretta Academic Booster Club
  • Margaretta School Board
  • Beta Sigma Phi sorority


  • While You Were Out, (Dutton Children's Books, 2004)
  • Playing Detective at the Doctor's Office, Children's Digest, January, 1989
  • Who are You Calling Chicken?, Jack and Jill, Oct/Nov., 1993
  • Santa's New Belt, Humpty Dumpty, December, 1993
  • Books or Babies? Once Upon A Time, Winter, 1997

Ready to Get Started?

Contact David Greenberg, Director, Children's Book Manuscript Advisors.

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