What I'm Listening To: Smells Like Teen Spirit - Scott D. Davis
Guten Tag! Wie gehts? It's been a while since my last post. Apparently I began my blog on May 24th of last year, so I'm a little late in celebrating [Insert Title]'s one year anniversary (you'd think I'd have come up with a name for it by now). Ah, well. I've been busy sleeping in, reading, and, of course, writing. Not to mention doing yoga while having a Friends marathon. So proud of myself for trying to get in shape. *sips Dr. Pepper*
As for my writing, I'm currently 34,000 words into a YA fantasy standalone novel (temporarily titled Shadows and Chains because I can think of nothing else) that I hope to complete either this month or the next. I'm currently getting some feedback on it at critiquecircle.com (there's still a few slots left in my private queue if anyone is interested) and, from what the feedback I've been getting, I feel like it's got some potential, though a few people hate the main character with a passion, which I'm fine with. She's a hard character to like. I'm also getting ready to query my first novel The Kingdom's Champion. I have a few agents in mind, but I'm pretty nervous about sending out my query.
So I finally went to my first writer's conference two weekends ago at the Loft Literary Center in downtown Minneapolis. It was the Children's and YA literature conference. I was really hesitant to go at first and considered backing out until I paid the fee, which thereby sealed my fate. I learned a few things, number one being I don't know how to mingle. I was the awkward one standing by the wall with no one to talk to. I really don't know how to strike up a conversation. Even with fellow authors.
Networking is a bitch.
The conference went for two days and I got to attend four sessions. They had four different tracks you can follow: Craft, Middle & Young Adult, Picture Book, and Publishing & Career. You pick and choose which you want to go to, and these are the ones I attended:
World Building for Fantasy Writers with Kelly Barnhill
She's very energetic, slightly geeky, and pretty funny. I think the most important thing she stressed is the integration of world building with the story. I have a tendency to info dump rather than try to subtly describe the world.
The books she recommended:
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
London, A Biography - Peter Ackroyd
Collapse: How Civilizations Choose to Fail or Succeed - Jared Diamond
Guns, Germs, and Steel - Jared Diamond
Steering the Craft - Ursula K. LeGuin
How to Build a Flying Saucer and Other Proposals in Speculative Engineering - T.B. Pawlicki
Creating Male Heroes: Beyond the Brooding Hunk with Bryan Bliss, Steve Brezenoff, and J.C. Geiger. You should check out their blog: www.boysdontread.com
These guys were hilarious. I really enjoyed their presentation. It was probably my favorite part of the whole conference. They had great exercises to help you get to know your characters. I now know my protagonist wears boxers, eats garlic dill pickles which he purchases in the condiment section as opposed to the refrigerated section (because it's fun to say condiment), and keeps his money crumpled into balls. Not stuff I really need to know, but little things like that help make your character come to life.
They also had a great exercise where they had one volunteer describe their character to the rest of us, then they blindfolded the person, gave them a scenario and three options their character could make. The crowd then voted on which course of action they thought the character would take. Finally, the author would choose one. The idea was to match the audience with the author. It really helped to make sure that the author was portraying their character as they intended. Seems like a fun thing to do with beta readers.
To Query or to Kindle: A Dilemma for the 21st Century with Erin (Soderberg) Downing, Laura Bradley Rede, Stephanie Watson, and Patti Frazee.
Very insightful. They talked about the pros and cons of both self-publishing and traditional publishing that they've experienced firsthand. I'm still on the fence whether I want to self-publish or traditionally publish. At times, I think it would be really fun to self-publish, but I still feel there is more prestige in having your work traditionally published, especially with a large publishing house. Not that I'm in it for prestige or anything (totally am). Also, I have a feeling I'm going to be terrible at marketing. What happens if I attempt to self-publish my work, it doesn't sell, and then it negatively impacts my chances of getting traditionally published later on? It's my worst nightmare!
Teens Do Know Best: Reader Response and the Writing Process for Young Adult Fiction with Patrick Jones and Adela Peskorz
I was somewhat disappointed with this presentation. I'm not sure I learned anything I didn't already know besides more about Teens Know Best, a teen book review group. They had a panel of two teenagers who talked about their likes and dislikes concerning books, but I'm not sure exactly how helpful it was. I mean, it hasn't been that long since I was a teenager. I'm only 23. And I'm continuing writing the books that I started when I was teenager, so I'm not particularly worried if teens are going to like my work or not. They don't like, they can go suck it.
How's that for professionalism?
Patrick Jones actually spoke at my high school five or six years ago, so I was familiar with his work before I went to the conference. I got the book I own of his signed and was able to speak to him a bit. He actually showed interest in reading my manuscript, but I've been too chicken to email him and I'm afraid now it's too late.
Finally, I attended a presentation by Donna Bray, a co-publisher of Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins. This was also another highlight of the conference. It was awesome actually hearing from an editor/publisher about what the industry is really like and what they're looking for. It was also fun learning how she got into publishing in the first place.
The conference is done annually I believe, so if anyone is in Minneapolis in May next year, look into it. It's worth it. Perhaps I will see you there.
Anyway, I hope to be posting more in the near future. Unfortunately, I've been having computer issues. My laptop won't turn on for more than a second, so I've been having to rely on my Surface RT tablet that my wonderful boyfriend bought me for my birthday. I really recommend getting one of these if you want something light and portable for writing. I take it with me wherever I go. Love it.
Has anyone else attended a conference before?