Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Writerly Wednesday - A Report From Pike's Peak!

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!!

I had the pleasure of attending the Pike's Peak Writer's Conference this past weekend, in Colorado Springs, CO.  For those of you who have never been to a writing conference - my general advice?  GO TO ONE!!  Like, NOW!  :)   Look at this cool clock I won:

From Linda

This is just my humble opinion, of course - but, if you're serious about your writing, AND even if you don't plan to pitch to an agent, the networking opportunities, learning workshops, and chance to get industry professional's insights into the market and publishing industry today are PHENOMENAL! 

Just a few highlights from Pike's Peak:

The Read & Critique!!  The R&C sessions allow you to submit the 1st page of your novel to published authors, agents and editors.  There's a few options - you can give a log-line and read your own work for an agent or a published author.  OR - the road I took (because I'm a chicken!!) is to have a reader read your work anonymously for a panel of 3 - editor, author and agent included.  I had the GREAT pleasure to have my work read for Deb Dixon (President/CEO of BelleBooks Publishing), David M. Gill (author of Kirkus award winning "Soul Enchilada"), and agent-extraordinaire Andrea Brown (ummm, HEAD of the Andrea Brown Literary agency, eep!!).  Either option you take - the people looking at your words will give their immediate feedback/impressions of your writing.

Now, a first page in traditional format starts nearly a 3rd of the way down the page - so they were basically looking at the first 16 lines.  And what did they think about my first 16 lines?

Andrea Brown actually said (summing up here, and not quite verbatim, but...) that mine was a great example of consistent YA voice that works!! :)

Deb Dixon and David M. Gill agreed that my writing was good, good voice, but there wasn't enough action going on.  Deb said she'd be on the fence about my submission, whether she would turn the page or not.  David M. Gill said that as a male reader, there wasn't enough action for him to connect to the story.  BUT - Andrea Brown turned to both of them and asked, "Why isn't the voice alone enough?"  She said that the voice alone, that made her already like my MC, would have her and likely any agent working for her turning the next page to read more.

*Pauses to FREAK OUT as I relive this awesome moment!!!!*

Ok, I'm back.  :)  What I loved about this opportunity is that it really hit home for me that IT'S ALL SUBJECTIVE!  It made me realize that, YES!  I do have talent as a writer.  However - good writing aside, there are things that I may do in my story telling that won't work for everyone.  BUT - I'll never know who it works for and who it doesn't unless I get my writing out there.  Rejection letters actually DON'T mean that I suck.  (woo hoo!) And, any guesses who I might try to query next?

Anyhow - the R&C sessions at Pike's Peak are the Bomb!  Just sayin'...

A few other things I learned from the R&C's (I also sat in on one that Natalie Fischer officiated):

Per Natalie: 
  • She wants to connect with a personality up front. 
  • She really does like anything prince/princess, twisted fairy tales. 
  • She LOVES Steampunk! 
  • She HATES Prologues. 
  • She's not worried about MC names coming out upfront, and especially not worried about last names.  *good point here, for characters who already know each other, are they even going to intro or think about another person's last name - if it were a real life situation?
  • She said it's really important to simplify, you don't want to make your reader have to pause to figure out what you're trying to say
  • NEVER assume your reader knows where you're going with something
Per David M. Gill:
  • 1st page should answer, "Who's there?" and "Why do we care?"
  • try to immediately ground in time, setting and place
  • In dialogue - every good character should lie
Per Andrea Brown:
  • She said if your writing makes her laugh or cry - she'll take your book.  If it makes her laugh AND cry - she'll auction it!
  • Write sentences so good - it makes your reader have to stop to catch their breath
  • Said there are a lot of Sleeping Beauty type books out there right now
  • Especially for MG and YA- School Settings WORK!  Kids go to school, so there should be school scenes in your stories.
  • Don't be afraid to use dialogue in MG/YA - the more the better.
  • Andrea personally doesn't like too much blood and violence.  In fact, she said if The Hunger Games had crossed her desk, she likely would have passed on it.  Interesting, no?
  • Said Fantasy is going to be a tough sell...
  • MORE MG, please! 
  • Humor is always good.
I really can't write enough about how I LOVED this part of the conference.  And there's more "love" to write about, but I think this post is long enough, so I'll save it for next Wednesday.

A final note - next year, 2012, is Pike's Peak's 20th Anniversary!!  They're looking to pull out all the stops for this milestone conference, which is planned to be held the weekend of Apr. 19-22nd.  Any Donald Maass fans out there?  How about Jeffrey Deaver?  Sherrilyn Kenyon, anyone?  I even heard that Nathan Fillion is on their wish list!!  You should think about it, really.  Maybe I'll see you there?  :)  Have a great day of writing today!!


Angela Felsted said...

I'm glad you had such a good experience. You are brave to put your work out there like that.

Heather said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. There is so much great information in here! It's good to know that the industry really is subjective and that it isn't just a thing agents say in rejection to be kind.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's awesome news about your first page!

Brenda Drake said...

Congrats on the positive reading and thank you for sharing all the great information. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself! :D

Misha said...

*SQUEE* that crit is awesome!

I would love to go to a conference like that. Sigh...

Thanks for reviewing the tips though. ^_^

Anonymous said...

Wow, sounds like a really great conference. Thanks for taking the time to share about it.

Great clock! That would make an awesome poster, in my opinion.
: )

ali said...

I couldn't agree more on the value of writers confrences. So glad you had the chance to go to one, and MAN this sounds like it was a super great one!

Thanks for sharing some of what you learned with us!!

Donna Weaver said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time. I'm so glad for you. I'm headed to Storymaker tomorrow (critique bootcamp--the real conference starts on Friday). Can't wait to subject my self to more humiliation. Yay!

In dialogue, every good character should lie?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an awesome experience!

Amy Richardson said...

Sounds like it was awesome! I'm so glad that you got such good feed back! You totally have to remember that everyone is different... even agents!!!

Lynda R Young said...

Oh wow! How brilliant. I bet you were walking on clouds for days!! Love the clock too ;)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Andrea is on the my list now (and everyone elses) based on what you've said here. Man, I've got the book for her. (LOL me and everyone else).

Awesome post. And yes, I'm a huge fan of Donald (as my blog posts lately will attest--but not on the blog linked to this profile).

I love conferences and workshops. Can't wait for the national RWA one next month. :D

Karen Walker said...

Sounds like an amazing experience. So glad for you. And that is excellent information about subjectivity. I kinda knew that, but you got first-hand proof that it's true.

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Congrats on your positive experience!

(p.s. WANT, WANT, WANT that clock! :) )

Holly Ruggiero said...

I got excited just reading your post! That's great news about your first 16 lines.

Kari Marie said...

Sounds like you had a really wonderful time! I want to go. (Actually, I have family in CO. I probably could bunk with them depending on where the conference is). Hmmmmm..

Theresa Milstein said...

How cool your story has voice. That's not easy.

Thanks for sharing their preferences.

Sounds like it was well worth going. I'm attending NESCBWI this coming Friday. I can't wait!