Midsouth SCBWI Update

Tomorrow I will remember every drop of red ink I’ve splashed on a student’s paper. It’s payback time. I will meet with 7-time NY Bestselling writer Ellen Hopkins, who will critique my manuscript. I’m bracing myself for what’s to come. It’s my turn to listen and learn.

The great thing is that Ellen knows how we writers feel. She’s been there. I admire the passion she possesses for helping other writers see their dreams come true. 

As I listened to her recount her  journey as she gave the keynote address, I realized that we writers all have our own journeys. Often our stories come from the pain we have suffered, and through writing we learn how to deal with our struggles. I hope that if my path continues to stretch toward publication that God will give me opportunities to help new writers, especially teens.

So here I am in Nashville.

I’ve made great strides since the Indy conference. I’m not on the 18th floor this time, but I am able to walk near the rails overlooking the open area. I haven’t pushed, bumped or cussed one person who nudged me toward the open space. (Please note that it is not my nature to do these things, but extreme fear brings out the worst in me.)

So far I’ve enjoyed all the sessions. I’ve picked up several autographed books, including one with a scary Sasquatch-looking creature on the front cover. It’s for my younger son, but all the Lockhart men have had their own dealings with Sasquatch–and no, I’m not referring to myself. I’ll save that story for a later time.

Editor Ruta Rimas of Balzer and Bray has been on hand to lead a few workshops, including the First-Page critique session. In case you don’t know, a First-Page session calls for writers to anonymously submit the first page of their work for critique. Ruta made several excellent points we writers should keep in mind.

  • Remember one editor’s opinion may differ from another. If you don’t get the response you desire from the first editor, don’t be afraid to submit somewhere else. Editors have their own preferences.
  • Writers who want to write for the YA market should double check to see if their topics are relevant in today’s teen world.
  • Fantasy (speculative) writers must, must, MUST create a believable world at the beginning. Otherwise, most editors won’t turn the page.
  • Don’t overwrite. Don’t over do the description.
  • Make sure you open your novel with the RIGHT scene.
  • According to Rita Rumas, historical fiction and “fish out of water” stories may be tough markets for new writers to break into in the general children’s market.
  • Rumas also suggests adding an unusual touch, such as maybe adding a paranormal element to the historical genre.
  • Lovely prose garners attention, but the story must move forward with successful pacing.
  • Each character should have his or her own voice in the novel.
  • Editors want writers who are already involved in a critique group.

Before I log off to finish polishing my manuscript, I’ll leave you with a thought. Adventure and story exist everywhere around us. You never know when you’ll meet your next character, so get ready to write.

Just a couple of superheroes fighting crime in downtown Nashville

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