My favorite part of the conference was a writing intensive with Helen Hemphill, director of the Whole Novel Workshop at Highlights. Here are a few pointers:
- Use scenes for each new setting and every important event.
- All scenes should bring the story forward. “Good scenes create dilemmas and tension, and leave questions unanswered.”
- Don't use too much backstory. "Only tell the reader what he needs to know at that moment and to understand the bigger story. Nothing else.”
- Follow the RUE rule: Resist the Urge to Explain.
******I jotted down several pet peeves from the agent's panel featuring Sarah LaPolla, Jennifer Rofe', and Liza Pulitzer Voges:
- A writer not educating herself about the books the agent represents or wants.
- "Dear Agent" queries.
- Writers who try to educate agents about the market or the importance of books.
**********During the "First Pages" session, one of the panelists, Molly O' Neill, editor at Katherine Tegen Books said:
- Don't start with a character who is a loser.
- Avoid too much choreography (the character went here, did that).
- DO NOT include art notes in picture books. The words should make the reader see what is happening.
- Trust your writing.
- Put a balance of emotion and action on your first page.
- Use relevant details.
- Don't let lovely language get in the way of the story.
I spoke with Molly briefly about my book and the market for historical fiction. Her advice: "Write a book that will resonate with modern readers."
*********Anna Olswanger, an agent with critiqued 20 pages of my manuscript Half-Truths. From this I gained:
- Don't dump information into the dialogue.
- Pump up Kate. Lillie is nice and feisty; Kate is flat.
- Perhaps move the time period up (from1950) to closer to the civil rights movement.
- She thought it was marketable because it takes "place at the early beginning of a pivotal time in history." HOORAY! That's what I've been shooting for!
And last, but certainly not least, I enjoyed re-connecting with Earl Davis, a long-time supporter and ex-Regional Advisor of SCBWI-Carolinas. It was a pleasure to see him again.