Well, maybe not completely instant. There was so much going on this weekend at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD, that it may take a few postings to get it all in. Another really well-done two days by my friend Mona Kerby and her band of hard workers.
Right off the bat, Mona told us we'd better listen up because there was a lot to take home. Three agents, two panels of writers, two editors, lots of workshops to polish our craft.
I'm going to start with the first breakout session I attended. The Longstockings are a group of bloggers who met at The New School MFA program and have now all published their first (and second, and on to great things!) books. I love their blog and was intrigued with Coe Booth's workshop: Keepin' It Real: Creating Characters that Connect with Readers. Tons of good advice, including a whole new way to start anew! Stop rewriting and editing every single page as you go along. When you finish a chapter, go back one time and correct. Then print it and put it in a binder. After that, everything you think needs changing, add stickie notes to the printed pages in your binder. After you finish the entire manuscript, go back and make the changes. After! Wow, what a novel idea. Maybe I could actually write another story if I could stop myself from endless editing.
Coe also gave us some good ways to think about characters. Look to real people. Write down how they talk, how they move. Remember the books you read as a child and why they moved you. Reread them. Put those emotions into your characters. She thinks it's the characters who move the plot along. As you discover who the character is, you determine the plot.
That morning we'd already heard from Patrick Collins, Creative Director, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. Fascinating presentation about exactly what goes into putting a book together. Loved all the book jacket choices. (I'm putting Katie Loves the Kittens on my shopping list today! I'm a pushover for dogs with this much personality.)
And I always learn from what an editor and a writer have to say about working with each other. Lita Judge's books are truly labors of love. She shared stories of how she happens upon research, finds boxes in her attic, puts her background as a scientist to work. I appreciated her comments about her book 1000 Tracings, about how difficult it is to write about family. Her editor Namrata Tripathi (Atheneum Books) seems like a joy to work with. In case you're interested, she likes young, bold picture books and older fiction with a unique voice and diverse characters.
Stay tuned tomorrow. I'll post about Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's keynote speech and the Longstocking panel, among other goodies.