Thursday, July 23, 2009

10th Annual Children's Book Conference in Portland

Wow. (deep breath)I've been home for a few days now and I'm still absorbing all of the fantastic writing nuggets from the Children's Book Conference last week in Portland.
I went not having any expectations. Unsure, actually, of what manuscripts to even take for the critiques. Did I really want to rework my first chapter of Greenwood Girls, again?
Of course, the answer is yes, but this time, I think I got it.

If there was a theme to the critiques, I'd have to say that all of the editors and authors zeroed in on the old stand-by, show, don't tell. Isn't this the first thing we learn as a writer? And isn't it the hardest thing to do as a writer? But they expanded on it by explaining that everything on the page must be from the viewpoint of the character, not the author. (There are exceptions, of course, but I'm not there yet.)
For my manuscript pages, I was CONVINCED that I was showing. It's the one thing I've been focusing a great deal of attention on lately. But still, little telling, author-intrusive sentences continued to sneak into my pages. Arghh!!!
But of course, I'm a positive person and consider the ability to spot these spoilers a HUGE advancement in my writing ability.
Author Linda Urban was a fantastic mentor as she led us through simple, yet effective ways to search for our characters authenticity by delving into the scary world of meaningful and powerful dialog. She also critiqued my first 15 pages and as a result, I've begun to see my manuscript in a whole new light. Meaning, I can see how much improvement is necessary. But I know I'm capable of it. See, that's the good thing!

Author Bonnie Becker delivered the most comprehensive, light-bulb moment talk on plotting. I told her that I'd been to a few plot workshops before, but hers was one that reduced the sometimes complicated components of plot into something, well, easy to understand. It felt like a victory just being able to nod in agreement instead of muddling my characters internal/external/inner desire/external desire/conflict/motivations in my head. I mean, seriously? Why does this stuff have to be hard? Bonnie made it easy. I feel empowered!

All of the attendees were impressed with the nurturing environment, the one-on-one time, and the relaxed nature of the sessions. It was a restful and insightful week. This is my wonderful critique group. We met three times under the superb tutelage of Bonnie (2009 Golden Kite Winner!) Becker

So now, I have my homework outlined. I'm looking for specific things now in my manuscript. I need to delve deeper into a couple of secondary character's plotlines and then do a final "scrub" as my critique group partner, Kimball says. The thing, however, that stuck with me through all the encouragement, praise, comments, nail-biting first page moments was this....
You gotta have it. Revise your manuscript. Delve deeper. Read through the entire thing out loud. If something sounds wrong. Fix it. Don't think an editor will skip over it and give you the benefit of the doubt. They won't. Fix every word. And most of all, love your story. It's the only way to get through all of the above!

Now, I'm off to my beloved Prince Edward Island where I intend to mull over my manuscript, eat lobsters, listen to my hi-fi, float in the warm waters of the Northumberland Straight and beat the pants of my sisters at the Fourth Annual Rice Point Invitational Golf Tournament. (Just had to sneak that one in, ladies.)


  1. Oh, it sounds like it was a wonderful conference. I'm glad you enjoyed it and learned from it.

    And I'm jealous that you're going to PEI. Enjoy!

  2. Thanks for sharing your conference experience. So fun to read what you've been up to. Have a wonderful vacation:) And here's to lots of wonderful writing time!

  3. Glad you had a great time at the conference! Did you meet Ben Watson?

    Hope you're having a relaxing vacation. Can't wait to see how you've revised your manuscript when you get back!

  4. Hello there Patty. This is Ben Watson. It was nice seeing/meeting you at the conference, though I wish I could have gotten to know you more. What an incredible week! I have some pictures on my never-ending posts about the conference on my blog and on my facebook pics. I have some more that I will be posting eventually too. I loved the conference and hope to see you at many more.

    Cheers! Ben

  5. Hi everyone,
    Just catching up on email and my blog addiction (I've been imternet free for TWO WEEKS!!!). I'm having a blast here in PEI and although I promised to set aside my manuscript, I can't stay away. Writing is just too good in the early morning hours.
    Anyone go to SCBWI?

  6. Wow! And in Portland, one of my fave cities. I'd love to teach at the conference. Can you give me the name of someone to contact?

  7. Wow--sounds like you got a ton out of this--thanks for sharing it with us!

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