- John Scieszka shared his life experiences of rejection, painting apartments for a living, and more rejection. Finally, someone said YES to his picture book text, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, which was paired with an illustrator's "paintings" as he called them. He also shared hilarious stories and pictures of the three and four year-olds he hung out with that ultimately inspired his Trucktown series. The trucks look scarily similar to the kids, and the illustrators never saw the kids. He seemed blown away by this weirdness and eventually convinced me to see it his way.
- Tobin (MT) Anderson sang an operatic anthem to Delaware. Enough said. No really, he's brilliantly neurotic, and I mean that in every positive light that comes with being smarter than everyone else in the room. Not only that, he's hilarious. Lucky him. He talked about taking the ordinary and making it strange or scary. He used several examples, taking Delaware and making the setting what Delaware is not. I thought of Stephen King and how he takes normal small towns and settings and makes something totally twisted happen like people getting attacked by vultures. Point = normalcy turned upside down is scary or bizarre, something a writer pulls out of left field is not. It's funny how I feel comfortable enough to call him Tobin. Everyone else does, why not?
- Courtney Bongiolatti of Simon & Schuster gave her run-down of middle grade fiction for boys. I was familiar with, or had read, every book she mentioned except two (one was Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher). Someone later Tweeted (hate that word) that those two books were more YA, not middle grade. Amazon agrees. She did not offer to accept unsolicited (unagented) manuscripts but I don't blame her, the room was packed with idiots letting their cell phones ring four times or more. Is it really that hard to put it on vibrate/quiet/silence/off? One lady behind me checked her voice mail in the middle of the presentation. That calls for a Saturday Night Live Special.... REALLY?
- *Linda Sue Park (Master Class = Growing Your Middle Grade Story) was as enthusiastic and knowledgeable as last year. Why wouldn't she be? She began the session by asking us to write down five things about ourselves, which we had to share. Here are mine:
- I shop at four grocery stores (at least)
- One of my pinkies is crooked and bigger than the other.
- I don't like dogs (please don't hate me for that one)
- The ocean kind of freaks me out, but I enjoy sitting on the beach.
- I'm a preacher's kid and a baseball nut.
- Then she asked us to write down five favorite things from our main character's (Eddie Waymire, age 12) point of view:
- My favorite subject is science.
- I like birds, but not songbirds, only raptors.
- I learned everything about birds from my dad.
- My dad dropped dead in the living room when I was nine.
- I have a crush on Gabriela but I'm sure she thinks I'm a bird nerd.
- We went on to explore the differences in universal and specific qualities of ourselves and our characters. She posed this question: what makes something relatable to everyone (universal) and what makes something unique (specific) about our characters? Good writers take something universal and make it specific to their character. Linda also discussed some difficulties writing in first person as opposed to third person. She thinks first person is the most difficult point of view. Sorry, Linda. I disagree, but see your point. I wrote my first novel (CROSSING CHALK) in third person and had a really tough time with it. Granted, I've come a long way since then. My second novel (BIRD BOY), in first person, is going much better. But that's just me.
- Setting and character are intertwined. She can't separate them. I like this outlook on story elements and agree with it.
- Middle Grade = readers learning about their world. Young Adult = readers learning about themselves.
*These ramblings are only notes and summarizations. I can't replicate the experience, though I try and fail miserably. You really must be here to benefit from the best.
Day 2 begins at 9:00 AM with a keynote from Gordon Korman.