Tuesday, November 10, 2009

SCBWI Western Washington's Weekend on the Water, Post 2

Now that I'm settled back into my routine at home, I'd like to share more details about the retreat.

Each workshop focused on things like setting, character, plot, and voice. Throughout the presentations and writing exercises, I had quite a few
a-ha moments. I'm certain even more will surface as I work on my WIP and process what I've learned.

I was super impressed with the quality (not to mention the quantity) of information each editor gave us. For example, when
Cheryl Klein spoke about voice, she managed to make something that can seem abstract feel solid and tangible. We also learned
strategies to strengthen our plots and add depth to our characters. Ruta Rimas spoke about character and setting, and she led writing exercises that enhanced her talks. I think I'll be able to analyze book openings with a sharper eye now that I've heard her discuss what makes books great. Together they were a fabulous combination. (Note: Cheryl Klein has a blog, Brooklyn Arden, that's linked to her name. Click here to find out about a book based on her talks.)

The First Pages Intensives were...intense, in a great way. Each editor looked at our openings and gave their first impressions. The feedback was so helpful. As you know, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and identifying both allows us to figure out what we need to work on most.

INTERMISSION: if you are an agent or an editor reading this, I have no weaknesses as a writer. Uh-huh, really. Thank you for stopping by. The rest of this post will not interest you, but I'm psyched you came to look at my blog. If you're a writer, hang on...




Okay, so back to the strengths and weaknesses. Tee-hee! One of my weaknesses is not adding enough physical description, especially during the first pass. I get so excited writing action and I looove writing dialogue, but I often have to go back for a second (and sometimes third) pass to fill in needed description.

While the editors had positive things to say, both snagged on a paragraph of description on my second page. YIKES! Ironically, I'd added the description even though
I'd worried it slowed the pace since my character is running to help someone on page two. Why had I added it? To help the reader visualize the setting. But I shouldn't have.

I can move the description to a later chapter when the pace is slower than it is in the opening
or I can weave the details into the action, the way one of the editors pointed out. It's an easy fix. They had a couple other minor catches that will help make my pages shine at query time.

Left: Here are
Liz Mills, Margaret Nevinski, and Brenda Olson at Saturday's Kidlit Drink Night.
Below: Lindy Thompson
on the dock at the resort.

I enjoyed meeting lots of new friends from both sides of the country and getting to know many of the people from my SCBWI chapter. Something I got a huge kick out of was seeing a writer from D.C. whom I'd met in New York three years ago! We even remembered each other! I'm hoping to meet her at another event in the future.

Here's one last photo.

This is a small stream right at the Alderbrook Resort. They may not be visible in the picture, but we could see salmon throwing themselves up the stream to spawn. Isn't that cool?

It was a great and educational weekend, and I was so fortunate to get to go.


Susan R. Mills said...

Sounds like it was incredible. How helpful to learn what areas you need to work on, not that you have any weaknesses or anything. :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I have the same, um, non-weakness, with description. The retreat sounds amazing!

Jennifer K. Mann said...

Were we really there? It's still a bit of a blur, still settling into my brain cracks..!

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Wow, sounds like the retreat was well worth the time. And salmon runs are an awesome sight!

Travener said...

Description is tough. I never know if I've got too much or too little. I try to put in just enough to give some taste of the surroundings/situations/people but not enough to distract the reader or slow things down. It's hard finding the right balance.

Dawn Simon said...

Susan, you're funny. :) It really was helpful to hear where they snagged. And the positive comments energized me!

Sherrie, darn description... ;)

Jennifer, I'm still digesting all of it too. We're so lucky to have gone! Plus it was really nice getting to know you! (And I like the little pic of you with your chickens.)

Deb, the salmon were very cool. A few of us wished we could help them, they were trying so hard. Of course we couldn't, but it was tempting.

Travener, I agree. And since I usually have to beef up my descriptions, it was interesting that I'd put too much in the opening scene.

Stephanie Faris said...

I really need to look into joining SCBWI, now that my young adult series is the one I'm agented for. I've been an RWA member since the mid-90s and what I like about it is there's a local chapter and local support. Here in Nashville, the only thing it looks like they have are regional meetings and such.

Dawn Simon said...

Stephanie, I TOTALLY recommend joining SCBWI! I'm a member of the national organization (which is actually international) based down in L.A. and a member of my regional SCBWI. The people are so nice, and all of the faculty members at conferences are experts in children's. I hear RWA is great, too, but since you're agented for YA, it really makes sense to join this, too, if you can. Also, congrats again on the agent! That's so exciting, and I'm really happy for you! :)

Tamika: said...

Sounds like the retreat was a complete success.

Thanks for sharing your experience. I can't wait to attend my first conference.

Tabitha Bird said...

Amazing. Sounds like a great retreat. How cool to get so much feedback on you work too.

Thank you for visiting my blog and for the comment :)

Dawn Simon said...

Tamika, I look forward to hearing about your first conference experience!

Tabitha, feedback is sooo valuable, isn't it? And you're welcome--I like your blog!

Bane of Anubis said...

Dawn, I am so w/ you on the lack of physical description... It's definitely something I'm weak at, so I tend to avoid it.

Karen said...

Sounds like an amazing weekend! Thanks for sharing some of the insights you gleaned.

Jody Hedlund said...

That's awesome you could get such tangible feedback! There's nothing better than hanging out with a bunch of other writers for a couple of days, is there?

Jen Chandler said...

Hello Dawn!

It sounds like you had a wonderful time at the retreat.

I wanted to stop by and say thanks for following :) I really appreciate it! It's very nice to "meet" you and I hope you have a fabulous weekend.


SWK said...

It was great to see you at Alderbrook. You really inspired me to get back to blogging! Thanks for the follow :) Stasia

Dawn Simon said...

Bane of Anubis, I bet with practice, we'll both get better at description! :)

Karen, it was definitely amazing. Your pic with the baby, BTW, is so cute!

Jody, it's true--it's so cool, hanging out with other writers and industry professionals.

Hi, Jen! Thanks for visiting and following here too! Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Stasia, you are so sweet. I'm so glad I inspired you! :) (BTW, everyone: I met Stasia at my very first SCBWI conference!)