Teresa Fannin and Bonnie Adamson, the SCBWI-Carolinas Regional Advisors, co-ordinated another great annual conference. For those of you who were unable to attend, here are some of my takeaways:
From two time Newberry Honor award winner Gary Schmidt's breakout session on Narrator and POV:
- Make a conscious decision about who your narrator is. If you're stuck, switch POV (even to an inanimate object or animal). Even if you don't use that narrator, your story will be informed by what you discover.
- Use long vowels to slow your story down. Short vowels speed things up.
- "Writing is polished and accomplished." (Woohoo!)
- "Love the family relationships."
- "Prose is solid, tight, and evocative."
- "Characterization and dialogue feels a bit generic in places." (Fixable. I have to think harder, dig deeper)
- Develop Kate's unique POV. (Ditto)
- Sounds more middle grade than young adult. (I have received this feedback before. Middle grade, here I come.)
John had other suggestions as I go forward. The shift to middle grade will take some switching around in my head and on the page, but as I'm in the middle of another draft this is the time to do it. Since I tend to read middle grade more than young adult, I think that ultimately I'll be happy with this decision.
From my breakout session on "Wiki's 101":
- Be ready to improvise when technology doesn't work the way you expect. Thanks to my gracious attendees who made my moment of "Oops, the LCD isn't projecting the online wikis as I expected," less of a panic situation and more a learning experience.
From agent, Jennifer Mattson's breakout, "Putting on the Architect's Hat":
- There are several different narrative structures besides a straight linear one (Beginning, Middle, End.) The one that most interested me was pastiche. When I read Kathleen Burkinshaw's debut novel, The Last Cherry Blossom, I was intrigued by her use of headlines and snippets from radio broadcasts as part of her chapter headings. In fact, last week I was glued to the microfilm machine at the Charlotte public library searching articles from The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte News, and The Carolina Israelite for that purpose. Since I'm also including free verse and letters in Half-Truths, I'm glad to find a name for this type of novel!
|From THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM|
Example of a pastiche novel.
From John Cusick's breakout, "Pacing- What to Cut. What to Keep and What Order to Put it In":
- Physical description must reveal character.
- Character should be revealed through ACTION. Not a decision to act.
- Cut rhetorical questions.
- "Start as close to the end as possible." Kurt Vonnegut.
- Open with scene, not summary.
From the bookstore:
|5 grandchildren = going a little crazy in the conference bookstore!|
From the first pages session:
- Be careful of inner monologue that's not authentic.
- Hook your reader with emotion first.
- If you're writing historical fiction, make sure there is a good reason for placing it in the past.
- Be in the moment with your characters and scenes.
******And last, but certainly not least, from my friend Donna Earnhardt:
"You are tackling a story that is not easy, yet you've made the effort to get feedback that was probably not easy to hear... and still, you keep on going. I am so proud of you and I think that you should be proud of yourself, too. Your tenacity encourages me to keep on keeping on - even when it's hard."