Meeting all my blogging buddies…priceless.
Today alone I met Sarah Laurenson, Jolie Stekly, Lindsay Leavitt, Shelli Wells, Katie Anderson, Sarah Frances Hardy, Lisa Schroeder, Lee Wind, Greg Pincus, Cynthea Liu, Barry Summie, Cindy Pon, Thalia Chaltas, Greg Trine, Paula Yoo and Jill Corcoran…all people who have only existed on the internet before now. But the beauty of it is, when we meet, we already have a common bond–blogging. I’ll never question the value of my blog time again. (Okay, I probably will, but then I’ll just remind myself how great it was to be in a room of 1000 strangers and be “recognized” because of my blog. I LOVE the internet!)
As for the presenters, wow, just wow. Sherman Alexie kicked off the event with an amazing speech. My notes aren’t as good as Sarah Frances, but I’ll highlight some of the most memorable quotes for me:
People hand you their lives on a daily basis. They may see your book as somewhere they can pick up ideas for how to deal with their daily lives.
Connecting outside of yourself–that’s when the world changes. That should be your aspiration.
Writing for children changes lives in ways an adult book never can. We can alter them forever…in good and bad ways.
The power of these books will find its way to someone who needs it.
Writers for children fully accept their responsibility, unlike other writers.
No matter who you’re writing your book for, you’re going to save at least one person.
I went to a workshop with Jordan Brown, an editor at HarperCollins who works with the Balzer and Bray imprint (publishing everything from PBs to YA) and Walden Pond Press (a new imprint which will publish middle grade exclusively). His session focused on First Pages. Here were some of his thoughts:
You want to own the reader. Decide what the reader is going to take away from the story and put it there on the first page.
Three most important things to have on the first page: Introduce the MC, Establish voice and character, Tell us what’s going to happen.
Character drives plot. The easiest way to get us into a charachter is showing us what’s important to that character. (That’s the #1 thing for him.) Show us the character’s defining attributes. If physical description isn’t the most important thing to that character, then you’re missing an important opportunity to tell the reader about the character in the best most concise way you can.
Let readers know what’s at stake, what the character stands to lose or gain. Your story should tell the most important story that has ever happened in this character’s life. If we can only hear one story from this character’s childhood, this should be the one that you’re telling us right now.
The way characters are different from us is never as important as the way they are the same.
The first page is kind of a self enclosed little masterpiece within the larger story, so strategically placed detail within that can give your reader an idea of what’s to come and lead them on to the second page.
You don’t need to force conflict. Conflict will arise when you have a bunch of decent characters on stage together. If the main thrust of your book is a conflict, then put it on the first page. But if it’s not that cut and dried, you don’t necessarily have to start with conflict.
Later in an editor panel, he also made this comment which I thought was great:
Except for Toy Story 2, Pixar has never made a sequel. But you know what to expect when you go to a Pixar movie. Think of yourself as a brand and what you can bring to the childrens book world.
So much more to tell! But I really need to sleep…so I can soak up more tomorrow!