(Two conference speaker summaries today; I happened to have invited both these ladies to the conference.)
Speaker One: On Sunday, October 10, I participated in (listened in on) a group critique time with Tor Senior Editor Susan Chang. She chose five story outlines from the participants and gave each a fifteen minute critique about what worked and what didn’t. Here are the highlights from the five stories. The opening pages need to have action. Every chapter has something moving the plot forward or building the character arc. With more than one plots, each one must escalate the rising arc. A strong story foundation is needed. Shaky or thin plot problems collapse the story. Determine what your foundation is, and then if it is strong or weak. Make your characters believable, and make sure there are links between cause and affect, i.e., why is the character acting like this? Susan mentioned that showing while writing (v.s. telling) makes it more like a movie, and this is a good thing. She recommended the book MAKING GOOD SCRIPTS GREAT
Speaker Two: Amy Lennex, Senior Editor with Sleeping Bear Press in Michigan, spoke about who and what Sleeping Bear Press is, and things they publish. Amy shared with the group the publishing process. After the writer writes a story, and it goes through the revision process to become polished, an editor must love it. The editor takes the manuscript to the editorial group, and they must love it. It then goes to Acquisitions, and they must love it. A projected positive profit and loss statement is developed to determine if accepting this manuscript is a good investment or not. If it is, then a contract is issued, and the story is put on a pub schedule. The last step before publication, is the search for an illustrator. They listen to what booksellers have to say. What age group is this book written for? Will adults as well as children like this book? Is there a need for this subject matter, or has it been done before? Will this book have media attention? (i.e., is it timely?) Amy gave the example of FIRST DOG, which was written before President Obama gave a dog to his girls. The story was written, but since the illustrator didn’t know what kind of dog it was going to be, he left a blank doggie shape on each page, to be “revised” as soon as the dog type was known. Advice from Sleeping Bear Press authors: Love your book and promote it. Love words. Enjoy the process, and write every day. Those who attended the conference were given two colored stickies, one for each editor. It is to go on their submission envelope. Although Tor is open to submissions, Sleeping Bear Press is not. By attending the conference, attendees got a “free look” pass for their manuscript to be looked at by Sleeping Bear. I used up one of my colored stickies already.
On Saturday, October 9, 2010, Susan Chang, Senior Editor at Tor, spoke to our group. This was her second SCBWI conference. There was much she shared in the ninety minutes. This is a brief summary.
Susan continues to be fascinated with the publishing process, after eighteen years in it, the last seven years at Tor. Tom Dorety formed Tor in 1980. In 2002, Starscape was started fo 8-12 year old readers. In 2003, TorTeen was stated for 13-19 year old readers.
Twelve years old is the reader age when science fiction/ fantasy reading starts. This, of course, does not include fantasy of talking animals, etc in picture books.
Not every editor is the right match for a good story.
Agents are looking for you. But… if you query fifty agents and receive all rejects, take a step back. Writing needs to sparkle. Ideas are easy to come up with. Susan added, “I don’t write because it’s too damn hard.”
Good SF/F writing has action and suspense with strong, flawed characters.
Two books she suggested reading are DEAR GENIUS and SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS.
After our primary needs, the need for story is very basic. Book have the ability to change lives.
Our SCBWI-Michigan Fall Writers Conference is going on this weekend. I am commuting since it is: 1) close to where I live; 2) cheaper than staying there; (Those reasons should probably be reversed, but I’d sound too cheap if I wrote it out the other way.) and 3) I get to see my husband, and sleep in my own bed, actually sleep during conference! Nice.
Our speaker for Friday was fantasy author Cinda Chima. She spoke about fantasy. (Surprise.) She directed us to: Why write fantasy? What are the categories of fantasy? And, what is magic? To greatly summarize her talk, she said that the elements of fantasy are character, setting, plot and magic, with magic being why it is fantasy, and the first three elements being the reason why others would want to read your story.
I do enjoy live writing conferences. It has been wonderful (as I anticipated) to see all my writing friends whom I only see at conferences, and some I’ve only known via the internet. I was also able to eat dinner with spot-on author-speaker, Darcy Pattison. Words flow from her mouth like diamonds. I was in a workshop with Darcy several years ago, and have her Novel Metamorphoses book, and get her Fiction Notes. Since I’d invited her to this conference, I didn’t expect anything less than diamonds.
Last night, I also had to privilege to introduce myself to Tor Senior Editor, Susan Chang. I was the one who invited her, too, to the conference, so naturally, I was looking forward to meeting her and listening to her pearls of wisdom. I’d heard many wonderful things about Susan pre-conference. Face-to-face (even for a minute) has been a thousand times better. First impressions are very… impressionable. She is gracious, knowledgable, reasonable, an excellent listener, quite charming, and (I’ve been told) humorous. (No, I am not buttering her up! She truly is quite nice.) I look forward to her talks today and tomorrow.
My guess is that I will not post again about the conference until Monday. Need to focus. On to the writers conference.