Springmingle 09 - Saturday AM

Ah, the weather didn't improve Saturday morning. Well, the driving rain had settled to a drizzle but it was still looking lousy. Making it a beautiful morning to enjoy the speakers and sit inside. First, though, I had to locate some coffee.
For anyone who knows me, I mean really knows me, they realize I have to have a steady source of caffeine to keep up the pace. That means coffee in prodigious amounts, especially first thing in the morning. And the hotel had a cafe that serves the most wonderful cafe latte - my number one weakness! Add a bit of sweetner and some ground nutmeg, and you have me dedicated to you forever. Of course, I stuck with the venti size. Wound me up to enjoy the first session of the morning - Art, Craft, and Filthy Commmerce.
The speaker, Kathleen Duey, totally amazed me. She has close to 30 years experience publishing books - 70 to be exact. I'm on the hunt for her latest, Skin Hunger, since it approaches something I'm working out for a series I've kicked around for ages. Kathleen is energetic. She doesn't stand still while talking. Even sending feedback through the speakers doesn't slow her down.
She brought up a very important point in her opening comments. Concentrate on the Art part of your writing. Art is what's important. It will determine voice. Don't worry about the mechanics when you start a project. Concentrate on stringing together the lovely words. Stay with the Art - the rest will take care of itself. Come up with a new twist, a new way to present old ideas.
Sure, as soon as we thing about a novel or story we'll say but someone's already done that. Well, have they done it in the way you're thinking? Maybe not. Research similar books. See what's sold. Then twist it around. Kick it around. The first thing that came to mind was one of my supporting characters in my 2006 NaNo project. He's important because he's a friend. But he's also the football team's quarterback. Okay, been done many times. How many of those quarterbacks lived in a small, Christian Southern town. A few. How many were gay?
There's my twist to make my supporting character more memorable. Then there's my main character, pretending to date him so other girls don't flock around and push at him until he reveals his secret. She thinks she's doing it because he's a friend but it shows what kind of character she has, loving, caring, and ready to do anything for her friends. Well, almost anything.
Now that I'm really getting into the session, and finding out how I can stretch my characters, to make them even more memorable, She talks about Craft. It's the toolbox that's used to carry art. Craft is not the basis of the story. It's what makes the art even more poetic. Use structure to spark zest. Experiment with craft. Make the story more intense with it. Try new aspects of craft. Switch your story around. If it's third person, make it first. If it's past tense, make it present. Work with your viewpoint. Maybe you haven't picked the right character to tell your story.
Now we come to the Filthy Commerce. Ah, that which accepts our work and gives us back for it. It is hard to sell a book, according to Shelden Fogelman, a premier children's agent.
Here's a thought: The best way to sell a book is it's gotta be the best book.
Please the gatekeepers. That would be librarians, teachers, and parents. Oh, since we're children's writers, don't forget the kids. They're ultimately your worst critic. If a kid hates what you've done, your book will languish on the shelves.
Match literary quality with commercially viable work. Hit the market at the right time with the right product. All of this will help sell your work. Mostly, never stop tending to your art first. Never stop learning everything you can about craft second. Marketing will then come naturally.
So, jazzed from this session, ready to go out and slay the editors/agents of the writing world, I took a break. This one wasn't devoted to networking with others about what I'd just learned. Instead, I did what comes hardest to me. I worked the bookstore for fifteen minutes, talking to complete strangers, smiling, and having the time of my life. It left me more than ready to tackle the next session: Young Adult Fiction: What Works?
Mary Kate Castellani is an editor for Walker Books for Young Readers. Like the other editors, she's very down to earth and willing to talk about what works and doesn't work for her. Good thing, because I'm prepping a submission for her, as soon as I get the one out to Atheneum.
Very important issues came out in the first ten minutes of this hour long session. First, teens do read - and I don't think she meant those once classified as nerds. Every teen reads. Even if it's assigned at school. Check out the American Library website. It has books teens are interested in. Teens are changing along with media. I loved those points. It's not all about what the latest video game is or cell phone or computer. They're evolving with everything else.
YA literature is the most subject to trends. Paranormal is the in thing now. The Twilight series is a good example - but don't go out plotting a bunch of vampire in love with a normal person books. By the time you get it through the acquisition process, it'll be passe. Hot now may7 not be in a year.
Another thing Mary Kate brought up was how the lines between YA and Adult fiction are blurring - but in a great way for those of us who write YA. More adults, especially those in their twenties, are reading YA fiction.
The biggest thing I took away from this session was teens have a now immediacy. Hang onto it. Don't get into all the whys and wherefores. Just right the story in the here and now, unless something very important shaped your teen and it has relevalance to the now. Then you should sparingly show that.
There was so much more to the session but this is what it was all about. So, we took another break. This one was to get ready for lunch at the lounge. I took a quick jump to the nicotine center, all the while thinking I had to find a way to break the habit.
Well, thankful I hadn't yet when I got to the crowded ashtray outside. There were a group of women attending another conference already gathered there. We got to talking. They work in homebased businesses but one had that look.
Writers everywhere know it. That shine on her face. That passion in her eyes. I found a convert. Another budding writer took the first step into this wild and crazy world we live in. She has a story eating at her and wanted to know how to go about putting it on paper. We only had minutes to talk but in the end, she visited the bookstore to pick up some crafts books and grab a copy of The Institute of Children's Literature's newsletter.
Tomorrow, Saturday afternoon. Stay with this journey about the fun I had with other members of Southern Breeze.


Donna Alice said…
Kathleen D. was there!!! Dirty darn I wish I could have met her. She liked Jenny and gave her an Honorable Mention in the Smartwriter's Contest.

Sob sniff---darned. . .