Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Writing about Writing

The past week has been full of writing-related activity.

On March 24, I went with fellow Lake Writers Marion and Bruce, to Publishers’ Day at Virginia Festival of the Book at the Omni in Charlottesville. I attended some pretty good panel discussions, and Infinity Publishing took its authors out to lunch at a restaurant on the downtown mall. I also got a chance to browse many displays and visit with some fellow Virginia Writers’ Club members.

This week, I’ve read some of the middle-school finalists in the Lake Writers’ essay contest. Bruce had read the finalists first, then passed the folder to me. Deciding who gets which place is tough when all the finalists are pretty good. I’ll pass the folder to Jim at Valley Writers on Thursday. Then, we’ll try to get input from as many members as possible before making our decisions.

I returned yesterday evening from the Christopher Newport University Conference. Big crowd! I think at least 200 attended. David Robbins, the keynote speaker, is always entertaining. (For the fourth time, though, I heard him tell the story about his father at the baseball game.) All the sessions I attended were worthwhile. I missed the beginning of David’s creativity session because I had an editor consultation, but for the time I was able to attend, he elaborated upon his advice to aspiring authors that he has posted on his website.

The two sessions about publishing children’s books were just what I needed to hear. Kim Norman conducted “And Now the Good News” (about how authors can submit manuscripts to publishers and how she put together her new book, Jack of All Tales; Kim and editor Meredith Wasinger conducted “The Birth of a Book,” which gave some good insights to how books are published. (Both workshops had great handouts!)

I didn’t win any awards for the contests I entered but I got some good feedback from the judges. I entered the first chapter of my work-in-progress, a middle-grade novel tentatively titled Stuck, in the juvenile fiction category. (Jacie is stuck in her grief over her mother’s death, stuck her nemesis, stuck with a stepmother, etc.) I appreciate the very helpful comments from Sue Corbett, who wrote 12 Again, the best juvenile novel I’ve read in the past year.

The highlight of the conference for me was my fifteen minutes with Meredith Wasinger, senior editor for Sterling Publishing, which (alas!) doesn’t publish juvenile fiction. However, when she worked at Dutton, she’d edited that genre, including Corbett’s 12 Again.

Her comments about Stuck are better than a contest win. Here are some:

Very nice writing. You have a funny, clear style, and some terrific dialogue. (Not easy!)

You’ve done a very good job of “showing and not telling” at the beginning—the way we learn about Mom’s cancer is subtle and smooth. Take care that the other parts of the storytelling don’t become a sort of “travelogue,” though. You might want to slow down sometimes to give more specific sensory details about what Jacie is experiencing.

She gave me specific examples of scenes to work on. Her comments about which scenes needed to be reworked were especially helpful. Now I think I have a much better direction for my plot than I did a few days ago.

Corbett’s comments also improved my sense of direction. One of the good things she said:

There are some nice moments here, the writing is smooth and the last line of chapter one is a killer.

I’d wondered if my tags at the end of each chapter would work. Wasinger said they would, and Corbett seems to agree. I’ll keep using the tags.

Corbett’s comments about the scenes that didn’t work paralleled what Wasinger said. Now I know what needs work.

I’d been stuck on what to do with my juvenile novel. Now, I’m not stuck anymore and will work on Stuck this week.



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