The conference was wonderful! Seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and hearing Judy Blume speak!! OMG, Judy Blume! Oh, and at one point, I saw Judy Blume and Fonzie (Henry Winkler) together. Whoa! That was strange, but so cool!
There’s usually a theme emerges when I go to conferences. It’s not
anything planned by the speakers, but arises from the sessions I attend
and the advice I need at that moment. I’m not sure what the theme for
this conference is, yet. But if I had to pick a theme, I might go with
Heart (making sure your stories have it), or Embracing the Suck (of
first drafts), or Specific=Universal. Here are the notes:
Bruce Coville: He started off the conference with a keynote that was both funny and serious. Some of his advice was:
“Take your art seriously but also take yourself seriously as a business person.”
“Make your own rules.”
“Don’t be afraid to show your heart; put it on the page.”
Liesa Abrams: (Aladdin/S&S) She talked mostly about middle grade. Her list focuses on fantasy.
On Plot, Theme, and Voice: Think about what matters to a twelve-year-old, what they see and care about, and what’s at stake.
Sees too many subs where kids are really self aware (keep them believable, even when they do stuff out of their age range).
Hook is just as important in MG as it is in YA.
Young vs. Older MG is about tone and sophistication.
Libba Bray: keynote and breakout session
“Embrace the suck (of first drafts). Your book is there, buried under the one you hate.”
“You don’t have to make it perfect; you just have to make it better (one little bit at a time).”
“In the particular is contained the universal.”
“Mediocre fiction is usually where the character isn’t well developed.”
“It should cost you something (emotionally, to write the novel). You
want to be a different person on the other side of the book than when
you started writing it.”
“Be who you want to be/allow yourself to play/explore humanity.”
“Think of characters like nesting dolls with many layers.”
On revision: It’s like “standing on the edge of the plane waiting to
jump, thinking, ‘this could all end badly, but it’s a good day to die.”
Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler: talking about writing
with humor and heart – I missed the beginning of the session because of
my critique, but the end was well worth going to. Lin’s voice was going
out, so Henry did most of the talking. One of the highlights was when he
talked about how he created the character of Fonzie. “Aaaaaaa.” But
they both talked a lot about writing and making things funny. The
general=not funny / specific=funny
“If you don’t laugh, cut it.”
Emma Dryden: talking about the digital landscape
“The story matters most.”
“Adults have to re-educate and re-tool to maneuver new landscapes.
Children have nothing to unlearn about digital. It’s where they live.”
Judy Blume (talking with Lin Oliver): During her talk, it became clear that Judy Blume is a writer’s writer. She’s one of us.
“I’m so sucky at plot. That’s not how it comes to me.”
When she begins a book, she knows where it starts and thinks she
knows where it’s going. She doesn’t know anything else and loves the
surprises along the way.
“The stuff that’s going to matter, going to work, and touch the readers has to come from someplace deep, deep inside.”
“The first draft is finding the pieces to a puzzle; the second draft
is putting them together.” <-my conference="" favorite="" from="" p="" quote="" the="">
On dialog: “It’s the only thing I like to write. I hate the rest of it.”
Jenne Abramowitz: (Scholastic) talking about chapter books – it was so great to have a session on chapter books!
“Chapter books tend to lean toward commercial books with a high concept.”
Figure out if you are writing a stand-alone or a series. Most chapter
books are series, and whether it’s series or stand-alone determines how
it’s published (series books come out more frequently – 2 at a time,
every 3-6 months – and are usually paperback).
Only pitch a series if you can do a series (really fast writing and
revising), and can see writing 50+ books. If you see it as a book with
sequels, pitch it as a stand-alone.
Chapter books are usually 10-15k.
Gary Paulsen: He was an amazing speaker. He talked
about the tough childhood he had and his life since then, and how what
happened in Hatchet is all true. He wrote the book while running dogs
and sleeping in the wilderness with them. His speech was hilarious and
heartbreaking, and one of the highlights of the conference. My favorite
quote from his keynote was when he talked about moose attacking people.
“Moose are just mean. They’re like the Charles Manson of animals.”
Martha Rago: (Harper Collins) she talked about picture book illustration
“The character has to be real on an emotional level.” (even if it’s a bunny or a bear, etc.)
How to make an easy folding dummy to see page turns (good for writers
to use too): take eight pieces of copy paper and fold in half.
“It’s important to have a sense of place and context right away in the beginning of the book.”
Abigail McAden: (Scholastic – is Meg Cabot’s editor and purchased Princess Diaries when she was at Avon) talking about creating popular fiction
Commercial writing is: tight plotting, characters that jump off the page, and an ending that’s expected but still surprising.
“Being escapist is important in commercial books.”
“Hit the ground running; don’t take 50 pages to get there.”
Ask, “Are the stakes high enough?”
Remember the story arc. A lot of people have great set ups and great ideas, but then can’t deliver.
Does the plot/hook revolve around something the reader knows about?
Read the Feb. 2005 Entertainment Weekly review of the movie, Hitch. It’s a good review of why a romance doesn’t work.
Pink covers and chick lit not selling now.
Paranormal is still in demand, but they have to find new/fresh ways of selling it.-my>