Thursday, February 14, 2008
New York '07
It was a year ago that I packed up my warmest coat/sweater and headed east...to New York City and to my first SCBWI Winter Conference. (Here is my blog post from that conference. )I remember being a bundle of nerves. Not sure if spending a $1000 for the development of my writing career was worth it. The writing intensive on Friday was the reason why I went. It was the first time it was held. 150 writers of picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction met in groups of 8 to read 500 words of their manuscript. Each group was facilitated by either an agent or an editor. It wasn't clearly defined what 500 words to bring...either a synopsis, 1st two pages, or somewhere in the middle. After beginning the sessions, it was clear that only the first 500 words of your story mattered. Selecting something from the middle raised too many questions and then, poof, your fifteen minutes were gone, spent explaining what the hell your story was about.
For my first session, I read my first 2 pages. The writers in my group were kind (and talented) and offered the same high caliber critiques I was used to getting from my writing group. Many liked the premise. Some pointed out strangely worded sentences. The editor didn't have too much to say (she was very sweet and I think somewhat nervous of hurting our feelings). But she did say something that stuck with me. She said in a high-concept novel like mine, I had to be careful that my main character didn't get lost.
I thought about this comment for a long time. I agreed with her right away. I knew it was my weakness. Developing my novel about a small town gymnast navigating her way through a boarding school for aspiring Olympians took many years. Plot, pacing, secondary characters, internal and external motivation, etc, took time. Left: This picture is hysterical! I found it on the SCBWI website...it was taken during my first session. To say I had a slight case of anxiety is an understatement.
But since the conference a year ago, I have focused my energies on learning how to get more of my character into the novel. It hasn't been easy for me. I've struggled a bit with my third person POV choice, but felt very strongly that the novel had to be written this way. It has since developed into close third, which is something I'm still refining. Most of all, I've been looking for ways to layer in brush strokes and character nuances. It's not easy especially since I just finished Book of a Thousand Days and absolutely loved the main character. What a role model! What a girl! I cheered for her from day one. It is very hard to do what Shannon Hale has done...not that I think I should be at her level. I'm so not. But I can try.
I think back to my session with Jennifer Hunt, when she spoke about Twilight, Story of a Girl and Diary of a Part-Time Indian. She certainly has the ability to pick successful books! She invited us to submit, which I never did. I still can. The invitation expires this month. But I'm not sure of my book is a match for her list.
I would love to go back to the New York conference. Maybe next year. The Los Angeles Summer Convention occurs during a time when I'm lounging on my cottage deck in PEI. There is no way, I'm hopping on a plane back to LA then. Not when there's lobsters to eat and golf to be played.
So Greenwood Girls continues to be revised, even as agents consider it. (Yes! I've done it...started the submission process!).
So maybe next year. New York City. Anyone in?