Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rainbow Rowell #NY16SCBWI Breakout Session: Creating a Teen Voice

Dear Alison from one fangirl to another,

Thank you for your recap on Alvina Ling's Plotting Session. It's times like these when I wish I had a clone so I can listen to all the different breakout sessions and take notes--I know, I know. Geek alert. And the Vomit Draft concept? That's exactly what my first drafts feel like, but a good kind of vomit you know--the dumping of words onto paper instead of other places. I should probably change the subject. So, we spent the morning in Rainbow Rowell’s Breakout Session. Officially, as Regional Advisors for SCBWI, we collected tickets. Unofficially, we considered ourselves bouncers, but you know what, all those fangirls and fanboys who came to her session LOVE Rainbow, and they were just as excited and starry eyed as we were. We kept our cool though, didn't we? On the outside, we were professional, calm, cool, collected, but on the inside, we were, well we were...

       Levi and Cath Kanye West Style! 

Rainbow began her writing life as a journalist. She lived with tight deadlines, so the leap to book publishing deadlines was really no leap at all (except of course for the length of the manuscript).  As a journalist, she needed to remain emotionally detached and present issues objectively. Journalism beat her voice right out of her. She doubted whether she'd recover from this loss, but we both know she did.  

Her first official YA Book was Fangirl. Of course, we all assume Eleanor & Park, but actually she wrote E&P as an adult book for her UK publishers. E&P became a YA novel when her publishers decided to bring it to the US.

Can you imagine Eleanor & Park as an adult book? Think of how many readers would be bereft of this wonderfully beautiful novel. It goes to show, YA readers possess excellent and discriminating literary taste.

But how does Rainbow create a teen voice? 

For Rainbow, it all begins with music. She creates playlists to jam to while she’s working on a novel. Fun songs, sad songs, happy songs, songs that reflect the mood she wants to capture in her story.  

Some scenes take weeks, and it’s difficult to maintain a certain mindset for two or three weeks straight and still live and function (theoretically) in the real world. Rainbow’s playlist serves as a mood placer, especially if she’s working on a sad or depressing scene. When it’s time to write, she hits play and BOOM!! the music transports her to the emotional temperature of a scene. 

WRITER TIP 1: Create a playlist for your novel. Songs should reflect moods of story/scene/character.

If Rainbow had to pick one song to capture Eleanor & Park, it would be Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod by the Mountain Goats. Take a listen.

WRITER TIP 2: Watch people. Watch how they interact. Pay attention to their body language. Listen to their conversations. Spend time at the mall, at the coffee shop, in the classroom. Anywhere teens hangout.  

WRITER TIP 3: Remember that you were once a teenager. Sure it was probably a different decade (or 2 or 3 or 4) but those fears, those hopes and dreams, and crushes are still the same. Capture the essence of your feelings and you capture the teen voice.

FANGIRL TIME: So Alison, we kept our cool during the session, but there was an entire room of fangirls and fanboys who wanted some Rainbow of their own. 

 Check out Lee Wind's smile. 

After her keynote, I went to her autograph party, and that was my opportunity to fangirl with her, and can I tell you, I totally did. I came home with an autographed collection of four of her books, a swag button, some stickers, and a fangirl picture of my own. 
Rainbow and Kim

So Alison, my Saturday at the #NY16SCBWI was filled with Rainbow and Books--not a bad way to spend an afternoon. And by the way, I'm reading Carry On and Simon Snow loves cherry scones--clearly he (and Rainbow) possess excellent taste in pastries that can serve as mid-morning breakfast or an afternoon treat, depending on one's mood.

Sharing the writing love one letter at a time,


Monday, February 22, 2016

Plotting and Plodding Sound an Awful Lot Alike

Dear Kim,

Thank you for the William Joyce recap. I really enjoyed his talk and more so was impressed with the way he kicked off the #NY16SCBWI conference. There was a certain amount of: MAKE IT WORK air to this year's conference. Don't you agree?

It seemed to pulse with themes like HARD WORK, WRITE...NOW, and DO THE WORK. All themes that I can get behind. I was also pleasantly surprised with the level of guidance in each breakout session this year, at least the sessions that I was able to attend. It is difficult to fit lecture, writing exercises, and leave time for questions when only given one hour per breakout session. Alvina Ling's session on plot gave me a bucket full of strategies (and tangible models from Alvina's rockstar editorial perspective), all crammed into a single hour.

Alvina began her session with a show of hands. How many start with character? Setting? A single scene? And how may start with plot? In the room of one hundred or so folks the fewest hands went up with plot. Maybe that had something to do with the crew that was in her session? Another show of hands revealed that the majority of the room was filled with Young Adult writers. Or maybe we just hadn't heard Alvina's plot lecture yet and thereby hadn't been turned into the plotters we are today.

As an aside, I was dealing with a bit of a head cold at the conference and at first I thought Alvina asked, "How many of you are plodders?" Furthermore, I thought her follow up question was, "How many of you plod everything out at the beginning?" People were nodding around me. Yes, it seemed they were saying, we plod along.

Needless to say, after ingesting my eighth Ricola of the day, I decoded her next round of questioning and was able to raise my hand to: "How many of you start writing, make sure you have something, and then outline your PLOT?"

In order of Alvia's questions:
I start with a single scene.
I write Young Adult.
I get a good 10,000 words on the page before I outline my story.
This isn't to say I don't have an idea of where the story is headed. I do. It is a foggy idea at best and my characters, well, I don't know them very well at all in the beginning. That is the beauty of giving myself those 10,000 words. I find out so much about them. I find out if they are ready to take on a big messy messed-up journey with me for an additional 50,000 words or so. And then I plod. Alvina said this strategy reminded her of a hike. Get down the path far enough to be sure it is a nice hike, a worthy hike. She cautioned to plan the descent before you are on the other side of the mountain or you are liable to slide down the other side on your butt, or worse, just fall off the cliff into NOTHING.

Alvina gave some plotting strategies, not plodding, definitely not plodding. She cited Chuck Wendig's post "25 Ways to Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story." The reverse outline seemed popular. Alvina said, "Find out what your character's goal is and put it at the end, then place obstacles in the way until you get to the beginning." She also mentioned that the Zero Draft (affectionately known as the "Vomit Draft") can be a freeing exercise, though Alvina pointed out, even in this barf-fest, there must be some nod to the plot, even if your intent is to clean everything up in the drafts to come.
Alvina shared with us the way one of her authors, Libba Bray, plots, or well, in Alvina's words, "plots-hahahahahahahaha". It seems that Libba uses "tent pole moments" according to Alvina. She writes a mess of big moments--spectacular scenes, really, and then weaves them together to form the plot. Have you read The Diviners? One, you should if you haven't. And two, I can totally see this plot "structure" in the book now that Ms. Ling pointed it out. 
I wonder if Bone Gap was written in a similar manner? Not a Libba Bray book, or edited by Alvina Ling, but one I just wonder how the hell that plot was built.
Seriously, Laura Ruby, how the hell did you plot this book?

Anyway, Alvina's session ended, as it began, with a series of questions. Only this time the audience supplied the questions and Alvina was gracious enough to answer all of them. Throughout the Q/A session Alvina shared that she needs believability in plot, and furthermore, that all books should have a plot. One audience member asked, "Even a picture book for the very young?" 

"Yes," Alvina said. "Even a picture book for the very young should have a plot." 

Alvina also shared that she looks for emotional impact in all of the projects that she takes on and we can see examples of that BANG in Alvina's books like Where the Mountain Meets the Moon; I Hunt Killers; Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock; Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, and many, many more. Alvina said that she is always on the lookout for diverse characters and tends more toward literary fiction with commercial appeal. (AKA, The Hole Grail)

Kim, I think you will agree, Alvina Ling is THE HOLY GRAIL of editors. We should all be so lucky to have someone like her in our corner. Her contributions to the conference, including her PLOT session, were highlights of #NY16SCBWI.

Should we talk about our Rainbow next time?
I think we should.
Much Love,

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Susan V. Vaughn Knockout Love Cover Reveal and Pre-Order Details

Dear Alison,
I decided to send you a Sunday bonus letter, but I'm not going to talk about #NY16SCBWI. I'll return to my #NY16SCBWI recap sessions in my next letter.
Today, I plan to gush about another fellow Inkspell-er, Susan V. Vaughn, and her book that's coming out Knockout Love. It's available for Pre-Order.  

The book cover alone makes me want to read this book.  

Here's the Blurb:
She just might be the woman of his dreams….
Maggie Heugan has her life all planned out, from her engagement to a handsome doctor, to her perfect nursing career. Then why does a chance meeting with a captivating stranger, have her questioning everything she has ever known? 
Pro wrestler, Sean Miller is on a fast track to his destiny, until an unexpected injury derails his course. Now he can’t refrain from chasing the enticingly beautiful Nurse Maggie, when she just might hold the key to healing him in more ways than one.
For these two conflicted lovers, life spirals out of control, when Love collides with destiny.

And now the Excerpt:
Maggie shielded her eyes, hiccupping loudly. “It’s so bright!” 
“The moon is too bright?” Sean laughed, pulling her into his chest to shield her eyes. 
Without thinking, she wrapped her arms around his waist and looked up at him with a tipsy smile. “It’s not too bright for you?” 
“No, I’m Superman.” 
“Superman?” Maggie giggled again drunkenly, ending in another hiccup. “Superman would have been able to drink his own drink and not require me to do it for him. It’s your fault I’m this drunk.” 
“Is that so?” Sean responded with another smile. “It had nothing to do with the fact you ordered another two drinks on top of that, and had nothing in your stomach.” 
She looked up at him again and smiled. “Oops.” 
“No kidding, oops.” He cupped her face in his hands and looked into her eyes. “Lucky for you, you’re a pretty cute drunk.” 
“Thank you,” she responded, the world spinning around her. For a moment she felt as though she was dreaming. The air felt thick and heavy. Sean’s hands were like magic on her face. His sexy lips inched closer to hers. Then suddenly he was kissing her softly, sending spirals of electricity racing down her spine. 
Maggie sighed, standing on her tiptoes, pressing her body closer. She felt his white bandage scratch at her nose. 
“Ouch!” Sean jumped back and readjusted the bandage on his face. “Easy, girl.” 
And just like that, the spell was broken. Suddenly Maggie realized she had just kissed a man she barely knew, with a broken face, and some parts more broken than others. 
“Sorry.” She pressed a hand to her swollen lips—still tingling from Sean’s touch. 
“Don’t be sorry.” He made up the distance between them—smiling—his eyes hooded, predatory. “Just take it slow, let my face adjust.” 

About the author:
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Romance Author, Susan Vaughn understood the meaning of sarcasm before she could walk.  Her childhood in the suburbs of Detroit was spent mainly trying to outwit her six creative siblings.  When she wasn’t working on the next soul crushing jab, she sharpened her imagination on romantic literature and day dreamed about her knight in shining armor.
It didn’t take long for this hairdresser by trade to turn her passion for reading romances into writing her own unique love stories.  Susan lives her life finding laughter in all situations, and delights in marrying sarcasm with romance to create realistic falling-in-love stories in the unlikeliest of scenarios.   
Susan lives on the shores of Lake Huron with her real life knight in shining armor and enjoys watching their three children learn the art of sarcasm and wit.
Twitter handle: @susanvaughn1124

That's all for now. I need to go pre-order my copy of Knockout Love. Oh, and you can to. Here's how:

Knockout Love
By Susan V. Vaughn
ISBN: (ebook) 978-1-939590-74-9
Available for Pre-Order now on:
BUY LINK: Amazon

Sharing the writing love one letter at a time,

Friday, February 19, 2016

William Joyce's Kickoff Keynote #NY16SCBWI by Kim Briggs

Dear Alison,

Last weekend, we spent all our waking hours absorbing the amazing energy of the NY SCBWI Conference. William Joyce kicked off the #NY16SCBWI Conference Saturday morning with his keynote: Books are Like the Ice Cream Sandwich: How New Technology Doesn't Change Much of Anything but it's all Kinda Cool."

Any speech revolving around an ice cream sandwich is going to peak my interest, and he did not disappoint.
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 I knew William Joyce was a gifted author illustrator--I just never realized how HUGELY talented he is. 

Check out his extensive book collection: 

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And I hate to admit it, but I didn't realize the movie, The Rise of the Guardians, was based on his book, Jack Frost. It's surprising that when the movie came out no one capitalized on his book--or at least I didn't notice it. And the art, oh Alison, the art in JACK FROST is amazing. Joyce's well-known bold characters but with light watercolors. I can't wait to pick up my own copy. 

Usually with big speeches and panel discussions, I write down sound bites, and I can't wait to share Joyce's sound bites with all of you.

Joyce admitted he didn't remember giving his assistant the Ice Cream title--but he found a connection to books. He said, “The hard stuff’s on the outside and the good stuff’s on the inside no matter what. It doesn’t matter if its a book, a movie, or an ice cream sandwich. It’s all the same."

And you know what, he's right. We need to crack that cover, open that laptop, bite through that chocolate cookie outer to get to the juicy middle. 

HIS BEST TIP: "You should always think of it as a book."

And Joyce always has. In his teen years, he began to illustrate and write and in a short time began to submit. He received 250 Rejections—some nice, some blunt, but he didn’t give up. He kept going. Determined, he went to NY and meet with editors and anyone in the publishing industry who would meet with him. And finally, someone said YES, and really, isn't that what it's all about-- that one YES? Well in the beginning, it is. Then it's about the next YES, and the slews of NOs, followed by another YES. It really doesn't matter where a person is on their writing/illustrating journey--the road's just as bumpy and jarring on each leg of it. It all comes down to the YES.

As book creators, because that’s what we all are, we should find new ways to play with books.

William Joyce is all about the journey into book discovery. He and a handful of creatives developed Moonbot Studios.
Their apps create new ways for children (and all of us) to experience books. I can't wait to look more into these apps, that are some of the best selling apps on the market.

In the upcoming weeks, I'll talk more about the conference and share all my sounds bites top Industry Professionals, Rainbow Rowell--we'll probably both talk about her, and a number of other sessions and speakers, so until next time...

Sharing the writing love one letter at a time,
Kim Briggs