Whew! I hardly know where to begin, but it was a good conference. I had a great critique Friday afternoon thanks to the brilliant and talented Joyce Hostetter (note my recommendation for BLUE in the previous post--really, I couldn't put it down, or the kleenex). She gave me some good direction on my most recent MG novel, which I really appreciated. Then I attended the workshop, JUMPSTART YOUR WRITING, by Pam Zollman which was so chock-full of advice, suggestions and even handouts that I couldn't even BEGIN to tell it all. BUT as the former editor of Highlights, she talked a great deal about the magazine market, which was of interest to me. In a nutshell, non-fiction, non-fiction,non-fiction! But she also said something else interesting that I'm going to try to follow: keep 10 subs out at all times and something will always be selling. Makes sense, right? Although surely my percentages will go UP from 10%!!! But it's a good place to start. I have 8 things circulating right now, so if I can get two more out, then I'll start to hit paydirt, right? Well, we'll see. And it's a good goal. I like the idea of not obsessing over one or two things, as well.
Saturday morning came bright and early, I attended a good session on setting by Eleanora E. Tate. (which reminds me, I'm DYING to get her new book,CELESTE'S HARLEM RENAISSANCE, which recently won the NC book award. Sadly, we're about to lose her in NC because she's going to St. Paul, Minnesota to teach in the MFA program at Hamlin University. Yes, that is the program of my dreams. Anyway, she described fiction as a three legged stool that depends on the three legs of CHARACTER, PLOT, and SETTING. WE did some writing exercises, which you know from my Chautauqua blogs, make effective use of time at a conference like this. We tried to write our setting as antagonist and a setting that establishes a mood. Then, we shared.
Then, the amazing and incredible and brilliant and charismatic, Anita Silvey, spoke about children's literature throughout American history. She went through about 40 of the greatest children's books of all time and told the stories behind them. I took about 12 pages of notes which I will not type here, sorry. When she first stood at the podium, she said, "I am in my favorite kind of place with my favorite kind of people," and proceeded to talk of books. I so got that. Probably my favorite story she told was that of Curious George. The authors, Hans and Margaret Ray, were Jews in Paris during WWII. When they escaped from Paris, they put six children's manuscripts into their bicycle baskets and pedaled down the coast a mere 36 hours ahead of the Nazis. At one point, a guard stopped and questioned them. Hans insisted that they were harmless, simply writers of children's literature. The guard demanded to see what was in their basket, read the Curious George manuscript, laughed and said, "My kids would like that. Go on." Except at that time, Curious George was still Curious Fifi.
Another workshop I attended was Mark Johnston. The topic was TENSION in the novel. He talked a lot about great first lines, first pages, and gave the ten rules of tension.
TEN RULES OF TENSION
1. Start as early as possible
2. Tensions should build to the climax with little or no down time.
3. Never lower the tension at the end of the chapter. Raise it, a lot.
4. Never lower the tension at the beginning of the chapter.
5. Every sentence, every paragraph, needs to escalate the tension.
6. Subplots with tension keep readers' interest and bring story to life.
7. Tension should exist between all characters, even if there's only one in the scene, he should have interior tension.
8. Plot devices can't seem like plot devices.
9. Don't cheat the climax. (Remember, Walt and the boys NEVER rush through the big scene!)
10. You don't have to untie all the knots. It's okay to leave a little tension.
Okay that's all for tonight. STay tuned tomorrow for Alyssa Henkin and Leslie Staub and MORE!
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.