Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Name Dropping: Jessica Garrison, Carol Lynch Willaims and Kristen Landon

(I forgot to bring my camera. So, all photos are kifed from the interent...)
My handsome nanny, also doubling as my chauffeur, drove me to Amy Finnigan's beautiful home where the workshop was being held. I walked in and found people I hadn't seen in years! It was so fun, like a family reunion.

Also, soon after walking in I met the cute and fun Jessica Garrison from Dial....

She is warm and energetic and completely brilliant. After some chit-chatting and eating of pumpkin muffin tops and juice, we got started. Jess was the first to speak and she gave a brilliant presentation about how an editor goes about pitching a story to everyone from her boss to sales and marketing. She even gave each of us a copy of the form she fills out called a Title INformation Sheet.

In order to get our minds wrapped around the concept, she read us...

And then went through the TI with this picture book in mind. Then she had each of us fill out a form for our manuscripts. It was hard! But fun. She asked a couple of us to share.  Mette Ivie Harrison went first...

On a side note, Mette was also knitting a pink sweater during the workshop. I've never watched someone knit. And since she was sitting next to me, I was fascinated by her project. Hmmmmm, now when am I going to have time for someone to show me how to knit?

So, anywizz, Mette was brave enough to stand up and share what she came up with. She did a super job. Her book sounds very very good and smart and oy! what a clever premise. I hope everything works out for it, not only because I love seeing awesome people succeed, but because I want to read it (have I ever claimed I wasn't selfish? :)

Well, then I volunteered to share mine...let's just say I'm an impulsive kind of girl and I figured, what the heck? I was a bit embaressed to use Roald Dahl in my Sales Handle (how can I honestly compare myself to that man?) so I had to put the disclaimer out there that an editor had already made the comparison.

Jess liked what I'd come up with but pointed out I had neglected to mention my target audience in my selling points. So, we discussed that. It was such a great exercise. I learned loads.

Then it was time for this chickadee to speak...

Carol Lynch Williams.

She is the author of this...

As well as a gazillion other popular and much-loved books.

Alright, let's bring the lights down low for a moment while I speak about my love for Carol. I really should whip up an Ode to Carol, but since my wee girls will be entertained by The Cat in the Hat for only a bit longer, I'll move on. 

I've known Carol since the first writing conference I went to years ago (let's not put a number on it, shall we?) I can't actually remember meeting her for the first time. My memories of writing conferences are all wrapped up in my memories of Carol. She has always been warm, inviting and encouraging  as well as super stinkin' funny. Have you seen her sing? Ah, I love her. And so I will be referring to her as Awesome Carol from here on out.

Ok. So...Awesome Carol spoke about putting emotion in our writing. She talked about making sure we have an emotional connection to our story and how this will make our writing more powerful. She also spoke about how to write about these emotions without sounding cliche.

Awesome Carol asked us each to think about what our emotional connection to our story is. I had already thought about this a bit, about some of the themes of my WIP and how I could see some of my own personal issues in my main character's struggles, but as I sat there writing it down, writing about my own emotional connection, I got a bit teary-eyed. It's odd. I never set out to write a story about a character who had a problem I could identify with. Hmmmm, being a writer is such an interesting journey. 

Then it was time for lunch. Some people brought their own and some were going out to eat. My chauffeur retrieved me and we headed to Kneaders to grab some sandwiches. We also tried a raspberry bread pudding. I am not a bread pudding kind of girl, but it was yum. I got to play with my Wee Molly and chat with my handsome nanny and then it was back to the workshop. 

Next up was Kristen Landon....

I had not met this cute girl before! And so I love getting to know her a bit. She is the author of many books, but this is one she talked a little about...

She mentioned the premise of this thriller (our future government imposing a limit of debt each family can go into. If you go over the limit, children are taken to a high-tech workhouse to work off the family debt. Sounds so cool, right?) and I knew I had to read it. I eyed the copies of the book in the pile of books for giveaways at the end of the workshop. I wanted one!

Alright, so Kristen spoke about Plot. Yay! I've beeng thinking about plot...a lot. We spoke about all the different ways to plot out our books, to organize the info and she spoke about the where the seed of the idea, The Limit came from. And then how she went about plotting out the book.

So, great. I love learning about other writer's processes. Kristen also divulged the magic key to her system...

Index cards! I've heard of similar methods before, but I really enjoyed Kristen talking about how she does it. She was a delightful speaker. And I'd like to try this method for plotting out a future book.

My one on one appointment with Jess was supposed to be during Kristen's talk and so I was glad Jess got a bit behind! I got to hear Kristen's whole thing. We broke up for critique groups and then it was my turn. Before I went in to chat with Jess, I must admit I said a little prayer that she would have encouraging things to say. Which...is a silly thing actually. Because Jess is amazing. I think she is naturally encouraging. But I didn't want just fluffy encouragment (Keep working at it and someday you might get this!), ya know...the kind that tells you that you have a LONG way to go before you might even BEGIN to figure it all out. 


Yay! She was really encouraging of my WIP! She had great things to say. She was super organized and was all prepared with typed up notes. And at the top of my note it said...

"A darkly whimsical middle-grade a la Roald Dahl full of vivid details and a nice dose of mystery."

Ha! Roald Dahl.

Jess went out to give great suggestions for making my first chapter better, some thoughts about a minor character who she hoped would play a bigger role in the story and she gave book suggestions to check out.

And it's funny, like I said, she mentioned this minor character, Miles and what she was thinking about him. At first I wasn't so sure about what she was thinking? What? Nah, I figured he was just there to show how my main character has a good heart. That's it.

But then...I began to wonder....who could Miles be anyways (still figuring he was nobody) and...Zing! Of course! He has a runny nose! (which I'll admit doesn't make any sense unless you're in my head.) Somehow my subconcious seemed to know who Miles was. Why else did I give him that runny nose?

Alright, so as we can see, Jess is some kind of Mega-Genius.

Oh, and one more thing I loved? Jess said things  like, "WHEN you have an agent..." not "IF you get an agent..." Maybe she said this to everyone? I don't know. But it was definitely encouraging!

Then after a round of critiquing where I got to enjoy some fun bits of manuscripts from old friends and new ones, we headed to the Blue Lemon for dinner.

It's a funky little bistro with colorful food, a mod atmosphere and, for that night, at least, brilliant company!


Our group was more lively than this one....

Especially since Wee Molly joined us for dinner and she did things like try to steal Mette's bread. So not classy, Molly. Sheesh.

Alright, now I need to bolt through the shower, run my 3 yo to preschool, tank up my Wee Molly, thereby shooting her into dreamland, pop her into bed and cozy down in front of my laptop for a couple hours of writing.

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