My Mission Statement

I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 5 Chautauqua (which was yesterday)

I have to confess that you almost did NOT get Day 5. I spent about 40 minutes blogging about it last night, then somehow I leaned on a button by mistake and lost it. I was SO mad. Oh, now I'm mad all over again. At any rate, I swore I only promised to do it NOT do it TWICE, but here I am. Friends, I feel so blessed to be here. I cannot for a minute imagine keeping all the magic to myself. So here goes:

Wednesday at Chautauqua

The morning keynote was delivered by a panel of experts: Mary Dalheim, Tracy Gates, Mark Haverstock, and Randi Rivers, and moderated by the brilliant and entertaining Peter Jacobi. They each briefly addressed the state of the market, nothing new to hear, really except that the magazine market is really wide open because of the enormous growth of young people reading magazines. Then, they entertained questions. Study magazine before you submit, etc. Book editors said the market is much toughter than it used to be, editors work harder than ever, the competition is fierce, BUT the quality of books for children is positively impacted. Everyone said they'd deny saying it, but forget about things like "no unsolicited manuscripts", "no unagented submissions". Just send it. The worst they can do it send it back. Just make sure it is your BEST. Love children enough to give them your best.

I had my second meeting with my sweet mentor, Susan Williams, again if you have not read WILD RIDER, get it asap! Great stuff. She's been very helpful.

Then my first session was with Patty Lee Gauch on Turning Page Power. This woman is so gifted in talking about the structure of story (much like Paula Jolin for those of you who know her). She said, and I love this quote, "Conflict comes from original choices." YES. She destructured several well-known stories to demonstrate the parts of the story (Pinocchio, Holes, Wringer and The Chocolate Wars). A story is like a storm, she explains, you see the sky begin to darken, the wind picks up, then BOOM you're in the middle of it, then at the end, the sky completely changes, the clouds blow back out, and the world is a little different. Isn't that a wonderful analogy? She also likened a story to blowing up a balloon. You just keep adding tensions, pressur e, until it bursts. She also said to figure out the question that overreaches the whole book. For example, in WRINGER the question is: Does he HAVE to be a wringer as is the tradition? She shared an old book, THE SUGAR MOUSE CAKE, as an excellent model for the structure of story. In closing, she assigned us to read Chapter 5 of A MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE. Haven't read it yet, although I've read the book, I can't recall Chapter 5. Very helpful session.

Then I went to the ballroom for Rich Wallace's MINING YOUR MEMORIES. Wow. It involved a hands-on writing exercise, then group sharing, but I'll spare you the details of mine. He emphasized that we need personal connections from the inside out. Recommended that we read the essays of E.B. White. Write about moments you remember from your childhood, teen or even adult years. Then apply that emotion, reaction, whatever, to that which you're writing. Use your own experiences to fuel the passion of your own work. His books are such a great example of it. I'd especially recommend LOSING IS NOT AN OPTION, a collection of vignettes. He told of how each of those stories came from a memory-mining experience from his own life. I will definitely apply the practical examples from this session. I could tell it was well-prepared and organized. His wife also spoke, who just sold a novel to Random House, and read a passage of her novel, LITTLE JOE.

Lastly, I attended Getting Published by Clay Winters. It should have been titled TIPS FOR A RENEGADE AUTHOR. He led it as a question/answer session, so I'll share a few things I gleaned. It was actually a very good session, but a lot of encouragement and anecdotes that are hard to retell. He said to "Bite an editor like a bulldog and don't let go." Paraphrased Jerry Spinelli who said, "The greatest sin a writer can do is to leave his manuscript on the coffee table and not send it out." A tip he shared that I hadn't heard before was to get a rubber stamp made up with your name on it and stamp the BACK of all your manuscript pages when you send them out. That's about it. He talked about how editors need writers, love writers, want writers, so in spite of the craziness of the business, never forget that they DEPEND on us. Keep pushing, pushing. Another thing I've heard a lot at this conference is to send to different agents within the same house, which I've always heard is tabu, but another presenter said that if you find an editor that seems to be a REALLY good fit and you have a good reason to send it to him/her, too. Do it. I'm not sure if I'd have the nerve to do that...but interesting. I met this adorable 28 year-old who just sold her second novel. (Her first one was TRUDY if you'd like to check it out. I haven't read it, but I will)

Whew. I'm off to my Lunch and Learn with illustrator Floyd Cooper whom I just adore. You cannot believe how talented this man is. I'll probably be the only non-illustrator but I'm still praying I'll have the talent to match my heart one day.

Have a great week. Write, write, write!


Jody said...

Thanks for these updates. I almost feel like I'm there. (Almost.) My son is reading Midwife's Apprentice right now and has insisted that I read it when he's done because it's so good, so I'll pay special attention to chapter 5.

Nanny said...

Your writing MUST be taking on everything you are experiencing because I feel your Storm brewing, building, your enthusiasm is almmost bursting. I can't wait till the end!
I am so proud of you and that you can experience this. I know you are absorbing everything and you will come home a new and energized writer!

Dorothy said...

Bless your heart for taking the time to write today's blog a second time. Good words to savor.

Isabel by Donna Jones Koppelman

Isabel by Donna Jones Koppelman

Major Bear at the Grove Park Inn by Donna Jones Koppelman

Major Bear at the Grove Park Inn by Donna Jones Koppelman