by Marcy Collier
On Saturday, I attended the SCBWI Fall conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I got there early to help with registration. It was great to see many old friends and meet some new people at the conference.
Nikki Grimes gave a terrific keynote speech about learning patience. She said that when an idea excites her, she can't wait to produce it from start until the finish. She encouraged the crowd to keep writing. You'll figure out the story eventually. You may not always know where your story is going, but trust the process.
Next, I went to a session on creating characters with Noa Wheeler, editor at Henry Holt. She gave the audience terrific questions that they should ask characters, especially the main character in your story. Your character must be active not reactive. The reader should be able to relate to your character. Motivate your character and push him through the story. Noa gave the class some great questions and exercises to help us each develop our characters well.
My next session was with Agent Joe Monti with BG Literary on query letters. He encouraged the audience not to stress so much over the query letter. Most agents skim the query, read the sample pages, then if the manuscript interests them, they'll go back through the query letter. Your manuscript will be automatically rejected if you don't follow guidelines. Explain why you've targeted that particular agent or editor. Did you meet at a conference or maybe read an interview about them? Make your voice shine through in your manuscript.
After lunch and first pages, the crowd enjoyed a session with Jonathan Gottchall. Dr. Gottchall is a professor at Washington & Jeffererson College. His latest book, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make us Human (Houghton Mifflin 2012), is about the evolutionary mystery of storytelling--about the way we shape stories, and stories shape us. People surrender themselves to story by reading, watching television, watching commercials and trading stories with one another. Daydreaming is the mind's default state. People have 2,000 daydreams a day, which equals about a third of their life. A story is about a character with a problem and the attempted solution. Stories are about people having their worst days and the problem structure is "the big fat thread in the story." Gottchall's talk was fascinating and made the crowd realize why the stories that we create are so important.
After an exciting day at the conference, I came home and attempted my 2,000 words for nanowrimo. Only 212 words later, my after-conference brain couldn't function. Instead, I made a yummy butternut squash soup. It's super easy and gluten free too!
Here's the link to the recipe Butternut Squash Soup, and a picture of the soup. This recipe calls for salt and pepper to taste, but I also add in a few shakes of cinnamon, nutmeg, basil and hot sauce for a bit of a kick. Enjoy!