Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Writers Day -- a Winner!

Writers Day was great, as usual.  I learned a lot and saw many of my friends.  And at the end of the day I won the picture book contest for my story ‘At Bidbury Faire’.

The judges described it as “a storybook tale set in Elizabethan times…… the end and beginning meet to form a perfect circle….. eye-catching visuals make this story a luscious opportunity for an illustrator.”

Hurray! says the author/illustrator!

(My book Signed, Abiah Rose won the same contest a while back -- hope this win is a good omen!)

Rachel Abrams, Assistant Editor at Harper Collins, was the first speaker and gave some tips on dialog.

Dialog can:
  • reveal character
  • increase the pace
  • add conflict
  • establish ‘voice’
  • reveal a limited back story
  • equip your character with motivation and a full set of personality traits.
Pitfalls of dialog:

  • don’t use it as an information dump
  • avoid chatty (pointless) dialog
  • avoid adverbial speech tags (make your point by your choice of words, not with the use of adverbs.  “Your dialog will sparkle if you take out [the adverbs]”

Lisa Wheeler (author of Castaway Cats) spoke next.

She’s an incredibly prolific writer and has written both rhyming and non-rhyming books.  “Rhyme with Reason” was the title of her presentation.  Though not every story should be told in rhyme, she gave some good examples of rhyming books that do work.
  • A familiar pattern was lullabies (calming writing is perfect for poetry).
  • Alphabet books are conducive to rhyme, but are hard to sell.
  • Books with elements of motion, musical elements, number sequences, and seasonal themes lend themselves to rhyming.
It was a fun and helpful talk.  “Rhyme is poetry – not just rhyming end lines.”

In the afternoon I attended a workshop on blog tours, conducted by writer Nancy Saunders

She approached the subject by communicating her understanding that this might be a scary thought for those of us that are new to blogging and/or newly published writers and illustrators.  She gave us choices from #1 (easy) to #10 (most complex) and kindly suggested to us that if we were at all leery of this project to start easy.  Sounds good to me!

#1 (easy) is:
  1. Set up blog (done that)
  2. Ask 5 friends with blogs to be official stops (I have 5 friends)
  3. Complete short interviews with 5 friends (OK…I guess…)
  4. Schedule 5 days of the blog tour with 5 friends (well….all right…)
  5. Host a simple one-week tour (I can do this, I can do this!)

Writer Kathleen O’Dell (the Agnes Parker series) spoke on “Crafting Books for Restless MG Readers.”  With mid grade books you need to create the biggest punch in the smallest amount of space.  A MG book is approximately 3500 words.  These were some of her suggestions:
  • earn the kids’ respect
  • don’t bore them (“boredom is death!”)
  • get to know the characters right away
  • don’t have too many characters
  • “hit the ground running”
  • avoid the trite, the cliché
  • don’t include unnecessary chat, or action, or trivia
  • tell with dialog, not description.

Libba Bray (author of Going Bovine) gave an inspiring talk about the writing life, “Down the Rabbit Hole.”  Some of her comments:
  •  Some days writing is no good.  That’s OK – no one ever died from a day of bad writing.
  • Reading is part of your job: read every genre; get to know what’s current.
  • Don’t write “cheerio’s.”  You need a full meal in your writing.
  • Good is a relative term.  Real people have flaws.
  • The personal is often universal.
  • Get into a vulnerable state to write your characters.  Ask yourself: how do those characters feel?  Why do they do what they do?  Why do they take the action they do?
  • Find your own voice and honor it.
  • Get out of your comfort zone.  No one is looking over your shoulder.  Write what you have to say.  Truth can, and should, make us uncomfortable.
  • If your story doesn’t make you nervous, if there are no stakes, it’s not a story you need to tell.
I always enjoy Writers Day.  I always learn a lot, enjoy the day and return home happy and recharged.

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