Saturday, June 19, 2010

Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference

I got back from this weeklong conference late last night. I've attended three previous years but missed the last two, so this one was long anticipated. And wow. What a learning experience.

First of all, let me just say that Brandon Mull is awesome.


I was in his morning workshop class and gained so much from the insights he shared. Brandon agreed to do an interview for this blog; stay tuned for that. My daughter and I came up with a bunch of questions, so it might take a little while for him to answer.

As if the whole week wasn't amazing enough, during the "closing extravaganza" members of the faculty (including agent Mary Kole) busted some moves to Lady Gaga's Bad Romance with slightly modified lyrics: "Write, write, write, rewrite..." Talk about a cherry on top. If anyone has a DVD of that, I'd like a copy. I think I have a new favorite song.

Okay, below are some quotes from the conference.

Alane Ferguson, novelist:

"For me, I have to get that foundation right [or] the rest of it is not going to sit right and I could go way far afield." (talking about the first chapter)

"If you're going to do every little body function, you're going to get dragged down. The minute you chronicle every twitch and spasm, I'm out. Someone wrote, 'His eyes flew around the room' and I said, 'Catch them quick, they're going to get away!'"

"Pick the best and then throw out the rest."

"Go for it, really go for it. We want to vomit the words onto our page and then clean up the mess. Our internal editor can clean it up on the next pass."

"Your tendency is to overdo it at the beginning. Let me discover it along the way. Throw your back story cards down carefully. Don't play every card at the beginning. They are gold."

Mary Kole, associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency:

"Make me care about your character and what story you're taking them on."

"I always give the pages a chance."

"Character is an entry point to a really exciting story."

"Dig deep and tell the truth."

"Developing voice is all about cutting out the parts that suck and making the rest sound natural. The most alive, compelling voices sound like an actual person in my head."

"You don't have to be edgy to write YA."

"Now go out there and write an irresistible book."

Mary E. Pearson, novelist:

"You see images and you hear voices, and you don't even want to take medication for it. A pen is the only cure."

"Story is who we deeply woven into us as DNA. It's what makes us uniquely human."

"Real writers write. They snatch the moments they can and they make it happen."

"If it didn't advance the story, it had to go. I was ruthless."

"There's a saying that 'Families are like fudge, mostly sweet with a few nuts.' Writers have more nuts in their fudge than most people."

"Even if a book only speaks to an audience of one, it has altered the world."

"Each of you has your own story. All those turns in your path, the good and the bad, will make you the writer that's uniquely you. I'm waiting to hear your untold stories."

Ally Condie, novelist:

"I get fulfillment from this that I don't get from other things."

"Believe that who you are writing for are smart and wonderful kids."

"Tough love is different than utter annihalation."

Ann Dee Ellis, novelist:

"The better you know your characters, the easier the plot will fall into place."

Jennifer Hunt, editorial director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers:

"If you're brilliant, let me know it on the first page."

"Skip the trends and look for universal truths."

"What's inspiring to me is the voice. If I fall in love with an author's voice, I can overlook other things."

"As an editor, I say 'I believe very strongly in this person and I want to see them do their best work.'"

Brandon Mull, novelist:

"Whenever I have an excuse to go gross, I do it."

"I try to relate to them in some way and put myself in my characters' shoes."

"Daydreaming is my strength."

"We include things in stories to see the characters' reactions to them."

"...hearing a story from your cool, funny friend vs. your boring friend. It's all about how they arrange the details; their attitude; and pacing. It's not what you say, but how you say it." (talking about voice)

"There's no substitute for massive amounts of reading and writing for finding a voice."

"This is what I sound like when I tell a story."

"The outlining is done by daydreaming, playing the movie in my mind."

"I've got more and bigger and better in me."

"The best way to learn writing is to do it."