Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My Lunch with Neal

In the olden days, when my writing career began, I had a number of NYC lunches with editors. Always exciting. Always looked forward to.

But things changed when the 21st century arrived and in the past decade the lunches disappeared, and then my sales with them. You can read about my 7 year long drought and how the brilliant editor Neal Porter brought rain to my parched land at http://bit.ly/16klDhe.  The drought part isn’t pretty, but the rain dance was celebratory and one we can all hold onto.

Soon after Neal ended my drought, I had the opportunity to fly to NYC to visit my son and to have My Lunch with Neal.  I was certain this event would be far more exciting than My Dinner with Andre, and the conversation even more enlightening. When my agent Karen Grencik heard about this upcoming affair she made me promise to write about it. My Lunch with Neal would become a lunch for the ages. (For all you young’uns out there, you can learn about Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory’s unusual movie here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Dinner_with_Andre.)

It’s been a month since My Lunch with Neal. I realize now I should have played spy and had a voice recorder going as Neal spoke to me.  How could I forget the details of such a singular event? I could blame it on jet lag. I could blame it on old age (mine). Instead I blame it on the fact that there I was in a fancy New York restaurant sitting across from Neal Porter having lunch. It was a miracle I remembered to breathe, let alone remember what he was saying to me.

I know there were words of wisdom spoken. But what were they?

Neal told my agent he’d given me directions on the second manuscript I’m to write for him. Good grief! I should at least have taken a notepad.

What do I remember of this magical event?

1) For such a big star, Neal Porter’s office is small. Sometimes I think that’s how it works. The bigger the star, the smaller the office. Neal says it’s about the same size as the area he works in at his home and that home is where he prefers to work. His office is in the Flatiron Building. It’s so appropriate that the iconic Neal Porter has his office within this iconic triangular building on Fifth Avenue.

2) The name outside Neal’s door says “Neal ‘Rock Star’ Porter.” He says there’s a story that goes with the name plaque and he’ll share it with me one day. I suspect the sign was a gift as Neal said it makes him blush; he’s far too gracious to refer to himself that way.

3) The gift exchange.  When my agent suggested a gift, I knew immediately that a cashmere red scarf would be perfect, even if I did present it in the heat of a New York summer. My first story for Neal is about a red scarf that’s lost and eventually found. It took some diligence to find that perfect red scarf. I had it packaged with the note: “May all your treasures be easily found.” Neal seemed happy, but surprised by my gift; he wanted to give me something in return. On his bookshelf in the Flatiron Building were several copies of If you want to see a whale. Now one of those copies is on my bookshelf in California, signed by an editor extraordinaire.

That’s mostly what I remember and it’s all prior to the actual lunch. 

What shall you do when you find yourself in New York or Boston or some other literary spot having lunch with your dream editor? My advice is to not worry about the voice recorder or the notepad or even what to wear.  Just bask in the glow of Your Lunch with your Editor.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Foxy Friday: Music

Mary Ann Fraser

Masha D'yans

Diane Browning



Teri Sloat

Rosalinde Bonnet

Click this link to see the animation!

Lea Lyons

Marty Kelley

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Resources for Authors During the Revising Process

by Jennifer Simms

I've been to several writing conferences where an attendee asks a member of the industry, "What makes good writing?" and I hold my breath, waiting to learn what will make my novel truly shine. Instead, I find myself sighing along with the audience because the  answer, "I know it when I see it," makes it sound like good writing is illusive, impossible for mere mortals to define. However, after completing the Writer’s Digest University course A Master Class in Plotting and Structure, taught by editor and self-professed “narrative nerd” Cheryl Klein, I now believe that good writing, or at least good plotting, can be quantified (though, in fairness to the industry panel, it may take eight weeks to do so). For months (or years, honestly) I’ve been trying to shape my first novel into a story editors will clamor to buy, but I lacked a concrete revision strategy besides trying my best, crossing my fingers, and sending it out again. Now, thanks to Ms. Klein, I have specific, definable strategies I can use to create a satisfying plot, which is, of course, the foundation of good writing.

The online course was presented through eight easy-to-read lectures, each with questions and/or an analytical assignment designed to help participants dig into our novels. Much of the work was done with the lens zoomed out, answering big picture questions about our intention and tone, and looking at how the entire plot worked (or didn’t). I used Ms. Klein’s directions for analyzing subplots to consider how well each contributed to my main action and emotional plots. She also provided tools for evaluating the structure of each individual scene, which helped me better define why certain sections of my novel dragged or fell flat. In addition, she supported the course material with great online resources and anecdotes about editing Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork. By far my favorite feature of the course was the ability to ask Ms. Klein questions in the class forum, which was like an eight-week backstage pass to the brain of an editor! I highly recommend this course to anyone who’s trying to figure out why your plot isn’t working or why your novel keeps generating rejections. Though her March class is already sold out, Writer’s Digest suggests you email them to learn when it will be offered later this year. (WDWOWAdmin@fwmedia.com)

Meanwhile, if you’re seeking a new perspective on your manuscript, pick up Ms. Klein’s book Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing for Young Adults, which is a compilation of her conference lectures and blog posts. It covers some of the material from the course, and provides additional insights on many topics, including picture book manuscripts and character development.

Another great resource is Writing Irresistible KidLit, by agent Mary Kole. Her straightforward style tells you exactly what you should and shouldn’t do when crafting MG and YA novels that will sell.

Thanks to Ms. Klein, I now have a roadmap to lead me through the (hopefully final?!) revision of my novel. What about you? Is there a writing course, book, or conference that’s taught you the qualities of good writing? If so, let us know about it!