I didn't enter in the writing prompt/contest this time; not sure if that's because I didn't have time or because the winning entries were always so much better than mine I felt a little intimidated. Yeah, it was totally the second reason.
Self-pity aside, I enjoyed the sessions I attended:
"The New Kids in Town --A Discussion with Shadow Mountain Publishing" by a guy named Chris [I think that was his first name! And I'm sure he is the head product director editor person. But he's not on the website, so I'm assuming he's higher up or something. And I feel dumb admitting that I don't know who he was because I couldn't write fast enough and he only said his name once. Sigh.]
"Faking Realism in Children's Fiction (While Keeping Things Real)" by Sally Warner.
During the mingle (which came before the sessions), I spoke for a time with Jeanette Ingold about historical fiction. It was great to hear how she wrote her books, i.e. research, scene outlines, character development, fact checking, etc. etc. Since I'm working (very slowly, so "working" probably isn't the best word to use) on an historical fiction novel based on the life of my grandfather (he was a rancher in southern Alberta), this was 20 minutes of pure bliss!
At the end of the conference, they had an "extravaganza" with some skits and slide shows. It was short and sweet and I was home before 5PM.
However, today, since I obviously did not have enough of the conference, I went to the Barnes and Noble in Orem, where Janette Rallison was having a book signing. She confessed to me that book signings at book stores were very hard for her (and a lot of authors). I asked her why and she more or less said: "Because there you are, a published author and you're so excited! And then you sit down at a table at book signings and you sit and sit and nobody comes to buy your books. And you feel so dumb!" So I promised her I would come to her book signing. And I did. And bought all of her books (sorry Brandon!) because I like her, not just as a YA author (she's very witty and the voice and humor in her books are top notch!), but because she's just a great person, too. My kids were excited to learn that she wrote all the words that were in all those books. They were in awe of meeting a real life author! Kind of how I felt all week long.
And now, dear reader, since I have taken loads of notes (loads, people, loads) during this week, I thought I'd share with you some of the best things I have learned (in no particular order):
- Editors are not big scary monsters who hate your work. They are human and just want to find the best books to publish.
- It doesn't matter if your mother and/or children love your stories. Find honest people to read your work and give you honest feedback.
- Don't send publishers/editors first drafts. Revise, revise, revise!
- When you sit down to write, don't worry about who might read it. To find your voice, you have to just write. Ignore the inner-editor (for the first draft) and ignore your fears. Just write.
- Less is more. Long descriptions (especially in stories for children) are tedious and unwanted by both the editor and the audience.
- Figure out how to combine your love of writing with your need to be marketable. You can't expect both to happen without some effort.
- Know when to edit and when to write. Write first! Edit later.
- Stories are all around us, and the best place to find them are in your own personal/familial history. Use those memories; take them with you as you write.
- Agents are not scary and should be your cheerleaders. When you find a good one, you'll know it because you'll both have the same goals: getting people to read your books!
- Keep the point of view simple and keep it consistent. Don't switch from 3rd to 2nd to 1st to omniscient, etc. Pick one and do it well.
- Words are amazing, fluid things. Words are friends!
- Publishers want books that are fresh, new, unique, and marketable. Your query letters need to be polished so they will want to read your manuscript. Don't ever underestimate the power of a query letter and plot summary!
- Real life is sometimes too "fictional"; you will need to fake some things to keep children's lit "realistic", but you can't fake your respect for children, and you can't fake real emotions.
- Never underestimate the power of writing in 5-10 minute increments. Nobody will ever have 3 weeks to "write that novel I've been wanting to write." Write for 5 minutes a day, and you'll be amazed at what you can produce.
I have exactly sixteen pages of notes (not including all the hand outs), and I'm hoping to type them up soon. Or maybe I'll just scan them. Yeah. That will be easier. But anyway, I have all these notes and I can't wait to go over them again and again this year as I'm writing. What an amazing conference! I can't even begin to describe how happy I am that I attended, and I'm giddy with excitement for next year's conference (imagine my giddy face right here).
So, here's a shout out to Lynne for suggesting, just once, in a random comment almost two months ago, that I should attend this conference. Who knew that something so small could change my life?! Thank you, Lynne. Thank you so very, very much.