Friday, May 04, 2007

Intimations and Promulgations

  • I will be speaking at the Missouri SCBWI conference in St. Charles (outside St. Louis) on November 10. I've now done a big novel-craft talk and a big picture-book-craft talk -- is it time for a submissions speech again? I'd love to talk about characters and characterizations in some way, I think, or voice, but I'm not sure how much of those can be taught. . . . Hrmm. Suggestions?
  • The Park Slope United Methodist Church Book Sale will be Saturday, June 2. If you love books, this is an amazing event -- we're taking over a whole gym this time for sales of hundreds of wonderful used titles. You can also donate your old books if you'd like to clear off your shelves; click here for more info, and mark your calendar.
  • Kate's Paperie in Soho is having a moving sale and it's fantastic -- 20-80% off a bunch of stuff, including their entire stock of paper.
  • Harry and the Potters are performing on June 1 at the Knitting Factory and -- this is awesome -- July 19, two days before DH-Day, at the Bohemian Beer Garden in Astoria.
  • Cool thing el boyfriendo has done this week: He recorded the voice of a character in Grand Theft Auto IV.
  • "Gilmore Girls" is going off the air. Having seen only maybe half of this season's episodes, and not being very impressed, I am not as sad about it as I would have been otherwise. Logan = feh, but at least Luke and Lorelai are moving back toward one another . . .
  • I can't talk about Luke and Lorelai without thinking of this fantastic Jennifer Crusie essay, "The Five Things I've Learned about Writing Romance from TV," to wit: "It's not that they're opposites and hate each other, it's that they're different enough to challenge each other's world views, and because of that, their attraction to each other becomes a demonstration of their characters. Or to put it another way: Interesting characters like people who challenge them and make them grow, not people who reinforce them as they are and help them stagnate." If you have any sort of relationship in your novel, this essay is worth reading, but if you have a romance, it's a must.
  • Rock. No, Paper. No, Scissors.
  • Ah, it's nice to be blathering here again.
  • And six more things that make me happy: Two new pillows, three new-to-me Georgette Heyer novels, and one last McVitie.


  1. How about approaching character from Thomas McCormack's perspective (ie, how it is inseparable from plot)? The Fiction Editor is probably the most dense book I've read on writing--I even had to take notes to make sure I was getting it--but I think if you work that way, you eliminate a host of writing problems, including the "sagging middle."

  2. Loved the rock paper siz thing!

    Most of us know so much about submissions. It's always good to hear about general info and what you think works or doesn't. But-Craft is always the winner. One of our local authors Juanita Havill, does a picture book workshop and she talks about the history of the picture book. Which I found not only to be fascinating but also a comprehensive way to understand the picture book form. Seeing where things come from in order to see where they are going makes things seem more real and clear. I've not seen this done with novels (yet), but I don't see why it wouldn't be fabulous.

  3. Here's a new game:

    McVitie, Stroopwafel, Granny Smith. Who would win?

  4. I think voice is a good subject. Maybe it is something you have to find on your own, but what it is and how you can find it are still interesting and helpful things to know.

    Characterization is always a good subject, especially for those of us still struggling with it. I sent a submission to you several months ago, and you responded that it had good characterization and snappy writing. I'll let you in on a little secret -- I paid a professional to line edit it for me. She's the one who showed me how to add little tidbits to make the characters come alive. :)

  5. Hmmm...I'm a little jaded so submissions seems overdone for me. How about emotional resonance? I often feel that many writers miss the significance of achieving it and power it brings to their work. It's what sets great writing apart from merely good. I also think that you can fix little plot issues, but you stand or fall on voice and emotional resonance.
    just a thought....

  6. Wonderful! We met in Kansas City last year, and I will be at this conference as well.

    Characterization and voice are fabulous topics--I'd love to hear your thoughts--and with your stellar delivery...I can't wait! I heard Peter Jacobi speak on voice a couple of years ago where he likened it to music. My takeaway was this: If Elvis and Madonna and Pavarotti and Lyle Lovett all stood in front of you and sang the same exact song, you could close your eyes and know whose version was whose, because they all have a distinct style, pitch, tone, resonance.

    As writers we could all tell the same exact story, but the ones that rise to the top are the ones that have style, pitch, tone, and that resonate with the reader.

    I thought this was a brilliant comparison, because good writing is much like making music. Anyway...

    I'll be anxious to hear your thoughts on whatever the topic. :)

  7. Oh! Now I know what I forgot to write last night -- I've answered all of the March and April SQUIDs, at long last, and look forward to being back on a regular once-a-month schedule in future.

  8. Since you asked, I'd like to hear your thoughts on how to analyze literature. Most of us are Big Time readers, but how do we evaluate what we read so that we can learn the craft better?

  9. In case you need to brush up on some of the advanced strategies of RPS, I thought I'd share this link from the World RPS site.

    I favor the Fistful of Dollars strategy, and abhor the Bureaucrat. But that's just me.... Perhaps we can meme this through the kidlitopshere? "What RPS strategy is your blog?" Anyone?

  10. For a talk about characterization -maybe share some examples of good numbers of characters for different age levels and how the author/illustrator/editor team made it work. Some books have a cast of thousands and it just *works* while others fizzle with a few. (And maybe a new recipe for seven-layer cookies to go with it for this conference topic!)

  11. I attended the OC SCBWI Agents Day yesterday and all the agents talked about the need for books with a unique voice.

    So I place my vote with Lois and say go for "Voice and Characterizations"

    Another tip was that a good beginning to a story is like throwing open a door to a party. Is it more interesting if the evening is just begun or if things are in full swing with fights starting to break out?

    I wish I had a private jet so I could go to a place with the word "Paperie" in the title. (drifts off into longing)


  12. One of the best editor talks I've seen in years was one in which the speaker read favorite passages from her novels and picture books she'd edited, giving line-by-line reactions as she went. The brilliant thing about it was seeing the broad generalizations we've all heard a thousand times about character, plot, etc. applied to very particular pieces of text. It cured the generalizations of their banality. It let her make all the basic points but she made them down at the level where work is actually made: word by word, page turn by page turn. Loved her. Loved her double for starting her talk by saying that she wasn't going to talk about marketing or market trends until the last ten minutes...