SCBWI Canada East Blog

June 15, 2016
Critique Circles at a Conference

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There are many ways that we can glean information at an SCBWI Conference. 
The key note speaker and faculty members are always informative and full of advice fit for the published and unpublished writer. 
I have found that the critique circles are an under rated source of info.  Perhaps it is because they are held at the end of the weekend and many attendees are overwhelmed and have reached information overload. But sometimes a surprise gem is found. 
This happened in the mid grade circle of SCBWI Canada East Conference held in Ottawa this past Spring.
We were all sitting around our assigned table, exchanging ideas and suggestions to one another in the usual helpful and respectful manner. Then, suddenly, a website is mentioned that will improve all our manuscripts. 
I know many members have foregone the critique circles; however they are just another way to learn that should not be over looked. Here is the website of which I write. 
Thank you to all members who share their experience strength and hope. 

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SCBWI Canada East Spring 2016 Ottawa

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Well, as usual, Alma, Michelle and Rachel  put together a fabulous conference for us. 
If you couldn't make it, take a look at what you missed. 
It opened Friday evening with a Steam Punk Costume party. 

On Saturday we were regailed with the always entertaining Helaine Becker. She found a creative way of explaining the business side of writing. "It's all about the money."

Alexandra Arnold told us to make sure our story had some meat. Give your protagonists a mission, conflict and consequences. Make the reader cheer for your hero(ine). Whatever the stakes, make them higher. 


Grace Kendall taught us about character building. How the protaganists speaks to secondary characters will tell a lot about his or her relationship with those characters and the secondary characters themselves. Some are more important than others. Keep those circles of friends moving. 

Jennie Dunham shared with us how to interpret the inevitable and dreaded rejection letter. The words used and the turn of phrases by agents and editors can be similar to a secret language. Now we know the key to the code. 

Tim Wynne-Jones gave us 10 Questions to ask your manuscript while revising. His presentation gave a systematic way to see where a story can be improved. I don't think it could replace a critique, but the manuscript will all the better. Now I know right questions to ask. 

I would like ro thank all the faculty for adding to our skills and knowledge. The SCBWI Canada East volunteers again put together a faculty that was both informative and entertaining. 
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Non Fiction.

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I have made an effort to start a non fiction or historical fiction novel. And have run into challenges. 
I know that there are many SCBWIers out there who have had considerable success in this area. 
Obviously there is a considerable amount of research needed. But how do you know when your research is done?  How do insert a fictional character into a historically significant event?  How much historical facts do you need?  These are all questions that I would think all historical fiction writers must ask. 
For a non fiction/educational book, how do you keep it age appropriate?  How do know when you have too much information? How do decide what children/midgraders/young adults want to know?
My ideas all seem to revolve around historical events of which we should not be proud. Again, this begs the question what is appropriate to what age group. But I also want to teach young people they can change the world without sounding preachy. This is a challenge in all my work. 
I look forward to any help out there. Please comment. I am sure I am not the only one who needs this kind of help. 

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June 12, 2016
Culture Days Illustration Show...

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It's official - http://culturedays.ca/activities/view/575d9d4b-b88c-4a51-a293-0bb24c4a89be/language:en#tab-5 we are moving forward with a BIG PLAN for an AWESOME show, opening September 30, 2016 - featuring SO MUCH SCBWI talent I could explode. Wait for June 16 for the list of participating artists and authors...

Show will take place from September 30 - November 30 at Ellena's Cafe
in downtown Napanee.
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May 3, 2016
Art of Story - First Pages

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I had a fantastic, educational, and inspiring time at the Art of Story Conference this weekend. I really enjoy the First Pages Sessions - when else do we get to hear the first impressions from editors/agents/art directors when they are going through submissions? 

What did you learn from the session? 

Here's my notes:







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April 26, 2016
Art of the Story Spring 2016

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Well there are only a few days left until we all get together for sharing, learning,and whole lot of fun. 
The faculty line up has some of familiar names and faces. I am looking forward to hearing about their insight in a more formal setting. 
The weekend will start with a costume party. Bring out your Steampunk Selves. If you have questions about steampunk, do some research on line and find some images for costume example. Raid your closet or the closet of your teen and show us your stuff. 
Whether you are a writer of picture books, middle grade or young adult there is something for you. There will probably be more information than you can imagine. Make sure to chat with your fellow conferencers because they may hear something you've missed. 
And the illustrators have not been left out. Portfolios will be on display and for everyone to admire. Though I am not an illustrator, I know there will be something to learn. 
So SCBWIers, get your sleep this week and all your best material ready for a weekend full of encouragement, knowledge and inspiration. 
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March 23, 2016
Non Fiction.

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I have made an effort to start a non fiction or historical fiction novel. And have run into challenges. 
I know that there are many SCBWIers out there who have had considerable success in this area. 
Obviously there is a considerable amount of research needed. But how do you know when your research is done?  How do insert a fictional character into a historically significant event?  How much historical facts do you need?  These are all questions that I would think all historical fiction writers must ask. 
For a non fiction/educational book, how do you keep it age appropriate?  How do know when you have too much information? How do decide what children/midgraders/young adults want to know?
My ideas all seem to revolve around historical events of which we should not be proud. Again, this begs the question what is appropriate to what age group. But I also want to teach young people they can change the world without sounding preachy. This is a challenge in all my work. 
I look forward to any help out there. Please comment. I am sure I am not the only one who needs this kind of help. 

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March 18, 2016
Writing about our Personal Heritage

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Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day and the Irish everywhere and even those who may not have a drop of Celtic blood pulsing through their veins enjoyed a pint of Guinness. 
I often take inspiration for my writing from personal experience and those special moments of my childhood. One of those special moments was a meal of corn beef and boiled cabbage. I admit the cabbage was an acquired taste but I have a passion about this heritage and I have passed it on to my children. 
There are many conflicts that have gone on in Ireland, not the least of which is known as The Troubles. 
This is a tale of which I have not written. Perhaps I have found a new story to tell. 
I know of authors who have written successful historical fiction about Latvian injustices and those children sent from Europe to Canada to work on farms. What a wonderful way to teach our children about from where they come. 
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March 8, 2016
Getting the Motor Writing.

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I am not a morning person. It takes a big stretch and about 6 cups of coffee before I am coherent. 
I have also learnt that I am the same when it comes to my writing. I need a stretch. Thank Dickens!!  Some writer somewhere, sometime, came up with a writing  stretch. 
I know illustrators who do warm ups. Nothing that will make it into a book or their  portfolio, but some thing to loosen up their drawing muscles and creative juices. 
As a writer I need the same thing. Jumping into hard core writing right off is like trying to comprehend the Theory of Relativity while I'm in a coma. By the way, I don't completely get much of Einstein's work when I am wide awake. 
I use a book purchased at my local book store, pictured above. There are many excercises suggested on many websites. 
Some are short, such as "Create an Ode to an Onion"; or longer ones such as "Fix the Plot of the Worse Movie You have Seen."  
I have found these helpful even when it isn't a writing day. It keeps me in the groove and makes it easier to get started on a scheduled writing day. It is useful when waiting at a doctor's office or on public  transit. I prefer to use pen and paper but the smartphone can come in very handy too. 
So do that morning stretch and drink the gallon of coffee. Then find a little story to tell. Who knows, it may be the beginning of your next best seller. 

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February 29, 2016
Procrastinating.

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Can you guess what I did first on this list?  
I have made procratination an art form. When I was in school and was given a deadline, I was fine. I would create a time line so that I would stay on target. But when left to my own devices and discipline, I can waste a day with expertise and wonder how I did it. 
Suffice it to say, I have an issue with self discipline. I want that amazing ability that makes a person do something they are supposed to instead of watching funny kitten videos.   I have met people who ooze this mysterious power. If only it was contagious, I would walk into a clinic and inhale deeply the virus ridden air. But alas, this is not possible.
So, prior to actually writing this, I read three articles, watched two videos and checked my Facebook feed and Twitter to make sure I had all the information.  And I found that there were some recurring theme. 
1.  Cut it into bite size pieces. 
So. That novel is not a massive, terrifying, teeth bearing, drool dripping, snarling razorback, edit needing beast. 
It is simply a beautiful work of art that needs tweaking, one page at a time. 
2.   Start with what you like. 
So. When tweaking your work of art,  sometimes it is hard to know where to start, and this gives us another reason to not start at all. So find that favourite chapter, that dialogue that says it just right, and make it even better. 
3.  Close out the world. 
So. You know the stars are twinkling and your favourite band is on the radio. Block them out. The stars will still be shining later and we all know the radio will play your song 5 times before the end of the night. Focus on those edits and the stars will twinkle even brighter and the music will sound even sweeter. 
4.  You did good. 
So. Do you know what Da Vinci did when he finally looked at Mona and could smile back?  He sat down and enjoyed an espresso. You deserve it. You accomplished something big.  Have that decadent dessert,  take a long luxurious bath, watch Downton Abbey. Post how amazing you are on social media. Woohoo. 
We all have times when we have to work, but are not in the mood. But remember every word altering, plot changing, character mutating,  editing moment gets you that closer to your new agent or contract. 
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February 22, 2016
Talking Teen Speak.

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I have recently read an article on writersdigest.com. It was a guest post by a teen writer discussing her pet peeves in YA novels.
I found it informative.
It's been a long time since I have been a teenager and though I have two teen children, I rarely understanding what they are saying when they are speaking to each other. 
As a YA writer, I seek authenticity in my stories. I want teens to both see and hear themselves in the pages.  Unfortunately, I often end up sounding like that pathetic Mom who is trying to be "Cool" and I end up alienating the reader. 
Teens have their own language that is evolving everyday. There is no way as an adult I can keep up. I cannot write a book in language I do not speak. Writing in teen speak, makes as much sense as writing in Greek when I do not speak it. 
The article covers other mistakes that YA authors make. It is a good read. 
I would like to hear your ideas. Please feel free to comment. 

References:
"What NOT to Do When Writing YA Books"  by Jamie S. Margolin. 
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February 8, 2016