Saturday, September 18, 2010

SCBWI: Southwest Texas Editor's Day Conference

The Editor's Day Conference in San Antonio was great. Editor Sarah Shumway, from Harper Collins, and Editor Julie Ham, Charlesbridge, spoke on very good topics. Sarah Shumway covered the topic of the author/editor relationship. She reminded us that the relationship can thrive or suffer depending on the attitudes of the participants. An author has an intention in mind for her manuscript and writes in service to that intention and the editor's job is to see the intentions and help bring the manuscript to be the best it can be. The problem arrives when the author doesn't like the editorial suggestions. She suggests that the author take time to consider the changes, take them to heart, and try to make it better. If the author disagrees with the changes then they need to discuss it with an open mind. The author should not fall apart, solicit second opinions through tweets and social networks, or shoot off a nasty letter.
Julie Ham's topic was on Character and Voice. She stated "Anything in the world can happen to your character at any time, but what should happen are the things the character cares about. As though the character has told the writer what to do." The character should be unique, relatable, grow or change through the course of the story, and we should know what is important to and motivates the character. Voice, she said, is the attitude your story has toward the plot, setting, tension, and character. It doesn't have to be a strong dialect or speech and is probably better when it is not those things. Voice should be recognizable, consistent,and appropriate to the audience. The most provocative thing she mentioned about voice was that it is not necessarily what your characters sound like but it is what your book sounds like (and this is not just for fiction)

The first pages session was very interesting and I learned a lot and took some good notes. ( I was disappointed they didn't cover mine but they could only do ten in the time alloted) Since they said you could send in a synopsis for the first pages session they covered two of them. I was glad about that because one of the synopsis samples made Sarah clap for the first sentence.  Since it's someone else's work I don't think I should write it here, but Sarah's reaction was: "Personality! Personality in a synopsis!" So, that's a clue to one of the things that sets off a synopsis.

Carmen Tafolla, the keynote speaker, recipient of the Charlotte Zolotow award for What Can You DO with a Paleta? (Tricycle Press) gave an inspiring presentation. Her main theme was that we should write with authenticity. You don't have to live in New York like she used to think to have something worth writing about. She drew upon her life in the "poor" side of San Antonio in her writings. She said that everyone has an authentic voice.

We also received those magic coupons that let you bypass the slushpile. I bet you can guess what I'll be doing next week!

12 comments:

  1. Wow, what a great day you had! :) I love the idea of voice being what the book sounds like. Hmm, will you be putting something together to submit? ;) Hope so--good luck!

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  2. Definitely:) I'm going to be polishing my first ten pages, cover letter, and synopsis. I love those coupons!

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  3. I'm glad it was such a good conference for you - you got those coupons!

    Good luck!!!
    Ann

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  4. Good for you, Cathy. And thanks for sharing your experience. I've never been to a SCBMI conference. I usually find that my local gathering is too picture book oriented. Glad you had fun.

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  5. Great conference report, Catherine. I felt I was there!

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  6. Thanks so much for the review, Catherine. I especially liked the idea that voice is the "attitude" your story has...that I can almost get a handle on!

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  7. Thanks for sharing this, Catherine. It sounds like an interesting day. I believe that I would have enjoyed the session on Character and Voice.

    And you came home with magic coupons!

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  8. Shellie, you've got to go to one if you can. People from other places show up, meeting other writers and published authors is fun. Conferences are geared toward everyone. Julie Ham used Picture Books as examples for things but her talk related to all of us. You can also sign up for one-on-one critiques, which I skipped this time, and then you do come home with those magic coupons. Believe me, conferences are worth it!

    Ann, Anne, Kenda, and Christine, thanks for stopping by :)

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  9. I definitely agree with the statement: we should know what is important to and motivates the character. I have a hard time sticking with a book where the character is just meandering around. Or moving in a direction totally opposite of where we think they should be going, given what we know about them. Glad you enjoyed the conference. Sounds like it was really worthwhile!!

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  10. Judith, you are so right about characters meandering with no direction. That is annoying and I usually stop reading or flip to the end so I can be finished with it.

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  11. Thanks for the post, Catherine. I think you covered more than I did in my blog. I am going to pass your link on to my Houston SCBWI group.

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  12. Thank you, Vonna. Loved reading about the conference and seeing the pictures on your blog:)

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