This weekend, my writing buddy and I (and about 175 others!) attended the fourth annual SCBWI Prairie Writer’s Day conference in River Forest, Illinois. It was our first real writer’s conference, so we were like two little schoolgirls—sleepless the night before, and blushing in front of the celebrity editors and agent. Like the schoolgirl persona I took on, I learned so much during the day!
Harold Underdown, purveyor of The Purple Crayon website, with the help of his friends Mr. P and Mr. O, gave us a half empty and half full look at the state of the industry.
Martha Mihalick, editor at Greenwillow, spoke about character. She gave us excellent questions to ask ourselves when thinking about our protagonists, such as What is the character’s sense of style? and How does she treat the people around her? Questions that may not necessarily be revealed in the text, but when answered, the reader and author really begin to know the truth of the character. A great character is one the reader can trust.
Senior Editor from Arthur A. Levine Books, Cheryl Klein discussed plot from two angles: character driven and structure driven plot. Using examples from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and some from my favorite Jane Austen, she walked us through the different types of plot including the Conflict Plot, the Mystery, and the Lack.
I was happy to realize, while listening, that my WIP really does have a plot. Her talk combined with Martha’s and Caroline’s helped me to see what exactly I need to do when I start my revisions.
My buddy and I had the great opportunity to eat lunch with Caroline Meckler from Wendy Lamb Books. She graciously answered our questions about the process of publishing, all the while trying to get at least a bite of her veggie wrap and mentally preparing herself for her upcoming talk about voice.
Ms. Meckler had the difficult task of defining the indescribable, insurmountable Voice. She used examples from some recently published Wendy Lamb Books, and unbelievably, I think I actually understand what Voice is now, and how to find my own!
Agent Jennifer Rofe, from Andrea Brown Literary Agency, set us straight about revision. Authors need to revise. And revise. And revise again. There’s no way around it. And then agents will make you revise again. And again. And then editors will make you revise again. And again. And again. And then some day, when your book is finally in print, you can stop. She was very straightforward and funny—and she had to speak in front of her mom! I couldn’t do it!
Along with stretching breaks led by Mary Loftus, a pep talk about Learned Optimism by Carol Grannick, a teaching session by Sharon Darrow, not to mention the beautiful cake shaped like a book, I learned so much from this experience. I can’t wait until next year!
But now, I need to go revise my WIP again. And again. And again!