Friday, August 14, 2009

SCBWI, numero uno

I have no idea how to post this, or how much all of you want to see about the speakers, so I've just decided to include it all ... in manageable, shorter blog posts, of course. Here: Sherman Alexie and Kathleen Duey. (And yeah ... try to ignore the formatting. I typed it up with bullets in my notes, and they went all crazy on blogger. Sorry!)

SHERMAN ALEXIEThe Partially True Story of the True Diary of a Part-time Indian

He gets packages of letters from kids of every class/social stature. The common theme, for all groups/class, no matter what the amount of money, is “My choices are being made for me.”

Yeah. That's all I wrote on his. I was so captivated by his storytelling (plus, it was the first keynote of the conference) that I couldn't make my pen move!

KATHLEEN DUEYRivets and Mist: How to Build a Novel

Bring a twist—go at things in a different way.

Keep files of interesting people with intriguing job professions. Get their business cards and let them know you may be calling them some time in the future.
• anyone you meet with a profession could be the source of the twist in your story
• the people around you are gold mines, especially strangers, because you get a blurb from them that isn’t cluttered up with the other things you know about them.

Spark vs. Craft
• It’s better to follow the spark than it is to follow the mastery of craft.
• Write that book you’ve been meaning to write but haven’t.

Creating characters
• Don’t create characters. Meet them.
• Read/research
• Get online and find people who will talk to you that are going through what you’re writing about. interview these people.
• Do this before you do anything else. Then type.
Ask: “Hello. What is your name?” And just go with it.
Ask: Who are you? What are you doing?”
Don’t keep a file with favorite colors, etc. You don’t need this if you know your character beforehand.
• Craft vs. Art
Place your whole trust in the creative, inarticulate part. Craft is much easier to teach than art. If it doesn’t work, try to get your rational mind out of the way.
E.g., put a focal point on your wall—an inspiration—of what you need to do in your story.
Let art lead craft. They have to hold hands, but give your craft more free reign sooner in your career.
If you get locked into your method, you may not be able to find your way back out.
• Creating characters in fantasy
Bring the emotional core back into the real world.
Take the emotional equivalent, if there isn’t a reality equivalent.
E.g., an ostracized fairy = talk to an immigrant for research
* Don’t ask what happens next. Ask what your character would do next.
If your story still stalls, interview people. Ask kids, “What are you guys worrying about?” This can be an amazing conversation starter with children.

Today’s market:
• Fantasy is an overloaded genre, but there is always room for something innovative.
• Amazon is going to start publishing their books.
• Volunteer in classes/story time at the library, etc. Talk to the librarian/teacher about your idea and ask, “Has this been done?”
*A librarian will often read something in draft form.

**Make anyone a good critiquer:
• BCD = Bored, Confused, Didn’t believe it.
o Have a critter read your MS and put any of the 3 letters that fit into the margin when these issues come up. If you can get rid of BCD, then you have a novel.

• Stand back and look at your MS whole.
• Print it out and leave your office. A change of venue can help.
• Read it aloud.

• Put your ideas down when you get them. Use a digital recorder, then transcribe, cut and paste, and put the info into character files.
o If you hear excitement in your voice again—like the fluctuation/excited tone you had when you came up with the idea—it’ll bring back your excitement when you’re transcribing. This doesn’t happen when you jot down an idea.

On outlining:
• She doesn’t outline. When she outlines, characters stop talking to her, because they’re no longer in charge of their own lives.
o She usually has some ending in mind, but not always.
• Sit down and think of the milestones.
o How do you get your MC from who they are here, to where/who you want them to be? (Not outlining, per se; more freedom.) Then sit down and write those scenes.

Other tips:
• Put physical/geographic restraints or cast changes, etc., that limit your character’s ability to do what he/she is used to doing for awhile.
o Put an off-step in your dance.
• You must entertain and hold kids’ interest. Network.
o Sigh up for Twitter—not having a Twitter account is the 1950s equivalent of not having a television.
o Thoughts on networking sites:
 Myspace = friends your mother didn’t want you to have
 Facebook = friends you used to have
 Twitter = friends you want to have
• For a great Twitter account, see Maureen Johnson
• Twitter allows you to live in the same universe as to be part of the agent/editor world.
 **Your Blogger account can feed to your Amazon page.
 You don’t need to network every day. When you go away for a bit and then come back, you have something more important to share.


Abby said...

Great info! Thanks for taking the time to type it up and share!

TereLiz said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I still don't have a Twitter account. I guess maybe I should rethink that, LOL.

jessjordan said...

Abby: You're welcome! It was longer than I anticipted. I was so excited to be in my first workshop that I couldn't stop taking notes!

TereLiz: I don't have a Twitter account, either, so I, too, am that 1950s kid without the television :)