Auctions are a cool way for writers to not only donate to charity, but to potentially win a service like a manuscript critique. I bid on a 30-page critique for Brenda Novak's diabetes research auction last spring. That auction is huge, and some of the items are fun stuff like ARCs, books, gift baskets and even some trips and writer's retreats. I won a critique from a YA author I was really excited about--Miranda Kenneally, who wrote Catching Jordan. I'd had other writers critique my story, but beyond the story mechanics, Miranda also had an eye for what the industry is looking for and how I could shape my story to make it marketable. I'm all about improving my writing, but I am pursuing publication, and that type of feedback is invaluable. She even took the time to chat with me on instant message and we exchanged several more emails.
And, I get to meet her tonight! She'll be at my local bookstore for the Get Real Contemps Tour. I'll post about that either tomorrow or Friday, along with a review of her new book Stealing Parker.