Sunday, August 16, 2009

Because who doesn't want to hear from the people behind the Twilight phenom?

Seriously. Even if you didn't like Twilight, you have to respect Little, Brown. So here's a little more from SCBWI:

JENNIFER HUNT—Finding Your Inner YA

Info on Jennifer Hunt:
• Editorial director at Little, Brown Books (original publishers of Little Women and Catcher in the Rye)—oversees Mg + YA fiction acquisition. Published Twilight.
• Oversees all acquisitions and edits her own list as well
• Doesn’t believe in chasing trends. What matters =
--Exquisite writing
--Original voice
--An imaginative story

• Little, Brown is a boutique publisher that strives to be “kid smart”
-Any topic/genre is fair game; they use a more organic approach.

1) Authentic voice
--Little Brown can help with structure/characterization, but voice is special and harder to edit.
--There are many types of voices—a wide breadth
--Qualities of good voice =
a) Age-appropriate—not too old/young, not an adult trying to sound like a kid
b) Character-specific—confidence level, how they cope with problems, gay/straight/questioning, western/city, etc.

--What makes the voice unique? (E.g., Sara Zarr (for an example of a unique voice))
a) An authentic story—
• Make these topics new and original --> Friends, family, surviving school, identity, sex, belonging, first love, etc.
• Do your research. Authenticity makes the difference b/w an amazing book and a mediocre book.
• Mine your own experience and relate to the story.
• Don’t be judgmental of the story.

b) Identity (of kid) (E.g., Hate List, Luna)

c) Authentic emotion—
• As an adult, you can vividly remember teen life, while bringing an adult perspective. But DO NOT judge.
• Exercises you can do as a writer:
--Pick 3 things from your teen life and write a letter to yourself. Focus on problems, and write with perspective about what the challenges were.
--Choose 5 random news stories about teens. Write a short story based on those teens’ experiences, with one story being something you have no familiarity with.
--This helps to broaden your horizons.

• They take their work very seriously—dedicated to excellence. Children and teens deserve this from writers.
• They respect their audience. They don’t judge or limit teens. They don’t dumb down language. (Cerebral for teens is okay. give them something to step into/up to. Do not limit them.)
• They’re willing to hustle--Community building; critiquing each other, developing a support system, doing what they can to be the best writers they can be.

Trends she’d like to see (or see continue) = stories with diverse perspectives.
• All teens have important stories to tell. Ask yourself: “What’s the right way to tell them?”
• Look at their specific stories and the roles they place in each others’ lives.
--E.g., towns aren’t all white/all straight, etc.
--Think about what else is around you and incorporate it into your story.

Formula for a great story = great characterization + great storytelling.

Revisions = she most typically asks authors for more layers and more complex, well-rounded characters.
--She doesn’t like “thin” characters
--Hint: Peek into a kid’s mind and prove yourself. It’ll show up in your final product.

Things to avoid
• Pop culture reference and slang that dates the book.
• Weave authentic slang in so that you get the flavor, but not so much that it slows down the plot.

Goal with YA = To make all teens feel their stories are worthy; to show the diversity kids deal with every day.


Weronika said...

This is awesome. Thank you for sharing!

Rebecca @sometimesnonsense said...

Great post. Little Brown is one of my dream publishers!!! They have pumped out some killer YA books and I'd love to be a part of that someday. Thanks for sharing!

Lisa and Laura said...

Our blog hiatus is so over! Yay! We missed you. Great post! Little Brown sounds like an amazing publishing house. The holy grail for all of us aspiring writers.

TereLiz said...


jessjordan said...

Weronika: You're welcome! Still more to come.

Rebecca: Mine, too! I was practically salivating in my chair as she talked. :)

Lila: hip-hip-hooray!! I missed you, too! It just wasn't the same without you here. Everything felt a little ... dead.

TereLiz: You are awesome. Thank you! Now to think of who to nominate ...

Katie said...

well, I was just gonna comment when my 12 year old came in and reprimanded my for wanting to paint a table in my keeping room yellow?! Now I lost my train of thought. arrrghhh.

Ahhh Little Brown.... I'll be back.

Shelli said...

writing the letter to your teen self - interesting.