Kelly Starling Lyons gave a retrospective of multicultural fiction. I wasn’t even aware of some of the dreadful books featuring black children. It’s a painful past. We’ve come a long way from Black Sambo, but we still need to explore the depth and breadth of stories of the people of color. Altogether, less than 10% of all children’s books star children of color. Kelly was all grown up when she read her first PB with a black child on the cover – Something Beautiful. She was instantly drawn to it. Her advice: write authentic stories, promote the sharing of books and story-telling within the communities of color.
I had a chance to talk to Steve Mooser about the multicultural grant (WIP) and a new opportunity for writers of color – On the Verge Emerging Voices Award. It’s heartening to see SCBWI supporting and promoting the education and funding for these under-represented voices.
Agent Panel: Jen Rofe, Sarah LaPolla, Liza Pulitzer-Voges
Jen’s sweet spot is middle grade, and she thinks there’s a need for all kinds of books, just like we need vegetables, fruits and cookies. And true to form, I saw her nibbling some cookies.
Sarah comes from the adult literary side, but it’s hard to sell. She’s focusing on YA (both literary and commercial).
Liza is a veteran and likes it all (vegetables and cookies) – she does the gamut (PB through YA) and you should see her impressive list of clients.
Susan Chang from TOR (Sci/Fi/F) gave a very entertaining talk about trends and what she’d like to see more of. Basically, you can take any episode of Twilight or Star Trek and run with it. Let stories in Popular Science, Archeology, National Geographic, and Lives of the Saints inspire you. Laurence Yep, Kiki Hamilton, PJ Hoover are all TOR authors. Check them out.
Trends: Horror is coming back, paranormal romance is on its way out, dystopian is reaching saturation. But fear not! If you’ve written a spectacular SFF book, she’ll want to read it.
Quote: Ideas are easy. Writing is hard. Everything is in the execution.
Books to help you on this writing journey:
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Dear Genius: the Letters of Ursula Nordstrom
Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
On Writing by Stephen King
Joan Holub talked about series books. She is a queen of it, having started on the illustration/design side to writing them. A good series will have main characters that readers can relate to. Think Junie B., Ramona, Percy. They have adventures, goals and stakes. They don’t necessarily have to save the world. For instance, her Goddess Girls series is about surviving middle school. So put on your thinking cap and go.
She didn’t speak much about nonfiction, but there is huge series potential here. Most of my books fall into that category. Concepts, biographies, etc.
Stephanie Greene, author of the Sophie books, spoke about revision. But first, it’s critical you finish the first draft. After, let structure guide you. Make sure your plot makes logical sense. Think dominoes – cause and effect. Plot will usually come out of your character’s motivation, conflict, personality. Work on pacing deliberately to build tension and conflict. It all takes practice. Stephanie encourages writers to print out a hard copy and do the actual restructuring by cutting, pasting, and discarding bits.
One thing she commented on was voice. You cannot superimpose it upon the story. It arises out of the book you are writing. However, in revision, you can strengthen the voice.
Molly O’Neill gave a wonderful talk on being an apprentice. She has a blog (TenBlockWalk) and posts about many aspects of book-making.
Read, read, read. Know where you’re coming from and how your story fits in the existing body of literature. What hasn’t been said before? Dig deeper.
You never stop learning when you have a career in writing. You learn something from every book you write. Each one presents new challenges, highs and lows.
Pursue things that fascinate you – art, music, science. What haunts you, what scares you? Be an apprentice to your own curiosity.
She quoted from the greats: Katherine Paterson (Gates of Excellence), Joan Lowery Nixon (Making of a Writer0, Ursuala Nordstrom (Letters). Ahhh!
That’s all folks. Happy reading, writing, living, and loving.
I leave you with a quote from Madeleine L'Engle: A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.