Last Saturday I presented the workshop “The Business of Children’s Writing 101” with the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. We had a cozy class which allowed the participants to get some great one on one attention as they crafted their elevator pitches and queries in advance of the New England SCBWI spring conference. We discussed the journey of a book from manuscript to publication, defined Midlist, and learned not to defend our work in a critique. We even got to have a mini-workshop for those who had brought picture book manuscripts.
The afternoon brought a web hunt of great kidlit blogs, social media, and kidlit community events that I’ve listed below.
Most important—we discussed that craft comes first and that if you have trouble with your pitch or query it often means that your manuscript is not quite ready for prime time.
If you missed this class and would like MWPA offer this or other kidlit workshops again, please contact Josh Bodwell, Director of MWPA. Happy writing!
A Few Great Blogs:
Through the Tollbooth: VCFA students who do in depth pieces on craft.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Be Someone’s Hero, No Cape Required: Specific connections with literacy, student success, and educators.
Cynthia Leitich Smith, Cynsations: Clearing house of amazing info from the industry including guest bloggers.
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: In depth illustrations and illustrators, process, production, and more.
Jama Rattigan, Alphabet Soup: Reviews of food-based books, poetry.
Ingrid Sundberg: Great posts about story structure, screenwriting, and plot.
Pub(lishing) Crawl: Group of authors and industry professionals posting about craft and business.
A Few Great Kidlit Retreats/Resources:
Highlights Founders Workshops
The Writing Barn
Vermont College of Fine Arts
Falling Leaves/Green Leaves from SCBWI Eastern NY
Rutgers One on One
Picture Book Boot Camp with Jane Yolen
Since my last post there have been a lot of changes in my personal life. Changes that I’m not going to go into here. Suffice it to say they have taken up a lot of my brain and heart space and so blogging has been low on the priority list.
What came in high on the priority list this week was my workshop preparation for the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. That presentation, “Desire in the Middle Grade and Young Adult Novel,” went very well (if I do say so myself). I was honored to spend the day with seven aspiring writers who braved five hours with me at the Patten Free Library in Bath, ME. Together we explored model texts including Julie Berry’s; All The Truth That’s In Me, Linda Urban’s, A Crooked Kind of Perfect; Ingrid Law’s, Savvy; and Alan Cumyn’s, Tilt.
We asked questions, challenged ideas, reviewed manuscripts, wrote, revised, and even meditated. The day was a success!
Now I’m looking forward to my next presentation. May 2nd, I’ll be at the NESCBWI Annual Spring Conference presenting a workshop called, “Active Mind, Active Body.” We’ll be exploring the connection between physical activity and creativity, developing physical and creative goals, and crafting plans to achieve our goals. Finally, we’ll be doing some gentle physical activity (stretching, dance, yoga) to jump start fun writing activities. Register today!
If you were in my workshop today, share your learning, a new epiphany, or something that went well in the comments below.
If you are coming to NESCBWI New England introduce yourself in the comments and get your own badge here.
You’ve heard it from critique partners, agents, and editors: “What does your character want?” The adult world is full of desire but what about the world of children and young adults?
Children and Teens often want passionately. Some are passionate because they are untouched by failure and disappointment; others are passionate because people who are supposed to love and protect them from failure and disappointment– have let them down.
I’m going to be leading a two part workshop for Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance where we will discuss the importance of a clear desire line in fiction for young readers. This workshop takes place over two Saturdays: February 1 and March 1. We’ll use ancillary writing activities to discover our character’s deepest desires, and explore the differences between positive and negative desires. We’ll have a guided critique of each other’s first chapters and look for ways to make desire more opaque. Before the second session, you’ll get to revise your first chapter then we’ll process what we’ve learned and I’ll share my own revision process and techniques. Take a look at the full workshop description.
By the end of our 6 hours together I hope to persuade you that one of the most important things you can do for your story is to clearly define your character’s desire in the first few chapters of your MG or YA novel. Depending on the audience, it is even better if that desire is clearly stated or hinted at in the very first chapter.
When the reader can clearly access the character’s desire:
- The reader roots for that character from the onset.
- The reader sympathizes with the character. (Even in the case of an unsympathetic character, the reader will connect with the act of longing.)
- It is this longing that keeps the reader reading.
If this kind of inquiry into the craft of writing for children and young adults interests you, sign up!
More about me:
Anna J. Boll, author/illustrator and educator, earned an MFA and Picture Book Certificate at Vermont College of Fine Arts and a MSEd at the University of Southern Maine. A winner of the 2013 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award, she is represented by Alexandra Penfold. Her poetry is published in Highlights High Five, Babybug, and Ladybug magazines.
1. This week has been weird political whirlwind that included the Maine Democratic Caucus, Republican Senator Snowe’s retirement announcement, a flurry of speculation regarding new candidates and a March 1st snow storm. I had collected a bunch of signatures for Chellie Pingree’s 1st District Congress seat and was then happy to learn that I should be prepared for another set of papers any time now. I’m crossing my fingers that she decides to run. At this writing, she has not confirmed or announced either way. Also pleased to say that the Blunt amendment was blocked.
2. I wish I could say that the snow day let me get a bunch of work done on my WIP. Sadly, no. Instead I caught up on my volunteer efforts for the Junior High Music Boosters, did laundry and watched a movie with my kiddos.
3. I am training in earnest again. My first tri of the season is in about 7 or so weeks. The Nor’Easter a backwards triathlon. I’ve started the multisport class at the Y and had a blast getting my butt kicked by our
drill master instructor, Jen on Monday. If I don’t finish this blog soon I’m going to be late for the Friday class. Eek!
4. My second “Book Review Brigade” class (hosted by Maine Writers and Publishers) is tomorrow. I stayed up late working on four different book reviews for the class (adult fiction) and didn’t get to post my kidlit Book Review Wednesday. I apologize and will double up next Wednesday.
5. Two months officially down on this deployment and about 10 months to go. There are good days and bad days. The worst days have me screaming like a banshee. The best days include small intimate moments with my children. Day by day, folks. Day by day.