>>> U and I Express <<<
A regional newsletter for members of the
Utah/Southern Idaho SCBWI chapter
March 2011 Issue
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
From Your RA
I’ve been enjoying a bit of a break between writing and revising my WIP. I love everything about the writing process, but it’s sure been nice to have a few lazy days of reading for pleasure! Now it’s time to get busy again—because we have so many fun learning opportunities in our region! --Sydney
Mark Your Calendar
Writing Intensive, March 2, 2011, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Log Cabin. Terri Farley, author of the Phantom Stallion series, will present a three-hour intensive on numerous aspects of writing and revision. A dynamic speaker, Terri will share her techniques for brainstorming, outlining, and moving plot forward. You don't want to miss this. You will be inspired and recharged to get to work on your latest WIP. Space is limited to 25 participants, so sign up early. Cost is $30 per person, payable to SCBWI. Contact Neysa Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Monthly SCBWI Meeting, March 7, 2011. 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Rediscovered Bookshop in downtown Boise, at 180 N. 8th St. Contact Neysa Jensen at email@example.com for more information.
Regional Conference, April 16, 2011 at Boise State University, 8:30 to 5:00 p.m. Speakers include agent Jen Rofe (Andrea Brown Literary), VP & Publisher Lori Benton (Scholastic Trade Publishing), author Carol Lynch Williams (Glimpse), author Judy Cox (Nora and the Texas Terror), author Sydney Salter (Jungle Crossing), librarian Linda Kerber, and literacy professor Maggie Chase. Cost is $110 for SCBWI members, $130 for nonmembers; $65 for BSU students. A limited number of manuscript critiques will be available for $45. Please see http://www.scbwi.org/Regional-Chapters.aspx?R=49&sec=Conf for registration details or contact Sydney at firstname.lastname@example.org
Monthly SCBWI Meeting, March 2, 2011 at the City Library (210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City). 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Kim Justesen (My Brother The Dog) will discuss strategies to overcome writer’s block. Questions? Contact Sydney at email@example.com (free event) **
Next Meetings: April 6th, May 4th
Writing For Young Readers, June 13-17, 2011 at The Waterford School in Sandy. Enjoy twenty Enjoy twenty hours of classroom critique, afternoon classes on craft, and plenary sessions by New York editors and an agent. For more information, and to register, go to www.wifyr.com Questions? firstname.lastname@example.org
Creating the All-Important First Line
by Lisa Hale
A few years after I graduated from college, my friend Tammy was killed in a collision on I-15. Her car hit a semi-truck, and she died instantly.
My mind reeled when I heard about the accident, and like all events that shouldn't happen but do, I was plunged into an alternate-universe where the rules no longer made sense.
The local news station reported Tammy's death: A 25-year-old woman was killed today . . . That's all they said. No name. No details about how she was commuting to her first teaching job or how she was newly married or how she had been the roommate who never entered into arguments over who had consumed whose milk. Just her age, gender, and the tragic event.
I've been to many writing conferences where writers and editors both point out the importance of a story's first line. "It needs to be compelling." "It must pull me into the story." "It's got to have voice.
Sometimes, we, as writers, think so much about the all-important first line that we push it into the realm of the dramatic, forgetting that it's the relationship between character, setting, and situation that forms the most compelling stories.
I asked my creative writing students to draft some attention-grabbing first lines that would actually make terrible story openers. Here's a sampling of what they came up with:
It was the beginning of the end of the world.
She turned the corner, out of breath, and then the world went black.
She shimmered into view and fixed him with a cold-blooded stare.
He realized that he loved her when he saw her at the funeral--in her coffin.
Even the casual reader will notice that most of these lines deal with death or a dramatic event, like fixing someone with a cold-blooded stare. So what's the problem with them? Fiction, after all, is about tension, right?
Tension is what keeps us page-turning. It's what makes our hearts pump harder and our eyes tear up. Tension is a large part of how we experience story.
But how can we be terrified by a cold-blooded stare, if we don't know who's doing the staring or the person whose life is threatened? How does a story that starts with a coffin-side realization ever move forward? And why does it matter if the girl's world went black, if she's an anonymous character in a nondescript place being chased by anyone or thing.
In order for readers to connect to the story's tension, they must know and care about authentic characters who exist in realistic settings and encounter realistic situations.
This authenticity is what readers often describe as voice, although it is much deeper and richer than that.
The most effective first lines create a natural tension by introducing all three story elements--character, setting, and situation--through carefully chosen diction. The first line of Louise Erdrich's short story, "Sister Godzilla," illustrates this natural union well: "The door banged shut, and then the children were alone with their sixth-grade teacher."
Erdrich conjures an identifiable setting (sixth-grade classroom), recognizable characters (students and their teacher) and a subtle but palpable tension with the "door banged shut" and the "children were alone with their . . . teacher." The students are trapped. Something is going on with the teacher. That's what we feel when we read the story's first line.
Erdrich doesn't tell us, not yet, that the teacher has a prognathic jaw or that one of her students calls her Godzilla. After all, as a master-storyteller, Erdrich knows that she has to leave the story someplace to go.
In stories, as in life, we care most about what happens to those we love and know well. My friend Tammy was always up earlier than the rest of us and always went to bed later because it took her longer to learn the material. Part of what I felt at Tammy's passing was the loss of that tenacity and optimism.
When we build our character from the very first line of the story, reserving the dramatic tension for a little later on, we allow our readers to really connect to and care about what they're reading.
Erdrich, Louise. "Sister Godzilla": http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2001/02/erdrich.htm
Critique Group Wanted:
CRITIQUE GROUP TO FORM IN EASTERN IDAHO
And you don’t have to be present to participate
Hello published authors and all those, such as myself, that are ready to get published – just need that extra push. Could that extra push be having my work critiqued? I think so.
SOOOO – if you are presently doing a re-write of a script or have a work that you are pledging to dust off in 2011 – consider having your work critiqued by fellow writers. Contacting Nicole Stoddard, Eastern Idaho SCBWI Member at Nicole@playgroundhound.com
I have 4 children’s storybooks that need feedback before I push them onto another agents desk. I’m confident that having them looked at by LOTS of others will help me polish them up in ways I can’t do by myself.
AND – my teen-age daughter taught me how to use a nifty computer tool calls SKYPE – so even if we can’t all meet in the SAME LOACTION – we can meet at the SAME TIME.
Nicole Stoddard, Ashton, ID
Stories For Children needs poetry and craft submissions for the May, Summer and Back-to-School issues. They’re also looking for submissions from youth authors ages 17 and under. If you have any wonderful ideas you would like to share with us or know of a talented writer who might be interested, please pass this email on. The Stories for Children Magazine guidelines can be found at http://storiesforchildrenmagazine.org/Guidelines.aspx.
Crystal Kite Awards: Vote Now!
You now have a chance to vote for your favorite book/author for the 2011 Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards for books published in 2010. Log in to www.SCBWI.org to browse the list of books that are currently nominated and vote for your favorite.
Note: Voting was suspended on February 4 to give members more time to nominate their books. If you had already voted, you'll need to log in to www.SCBWI.org and go back to the Crystal Kite Awards tab of your Regional Home Page to vote again.
All votes should be based on personal opinion—please do not “campaign” for any particular book or author, since that can result in disqualification. Winners will be announced April 30 and will receive a crystal kite trophy. Winning books will also have a crystal kite sticker placed on the cover.
Voting is open from now through March 15, 2011.
SUBSCRIBING TO OUR NEWSLETTER
Subscribing to the e-mail version is easy: just send e-mail with your e-mail address and request to Sydney Husseman, Regional Advisor at email@example.com
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
8271 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048 www.scbwi.org