Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Notes on Editors Day

As this was my first Editors Day I had to get over the whole being in awe thing. Being in awe that I was there, in awe that I knew some people I met like three years ago at a Jane Yolen workshop who remembered me by my first name, in awe of the big-time super-duper editors. It didn't take long to get over it. Surprisingly everyone was very human.

There were about 85 of us, children's writers in all stages of development. I saw three men. Now THEY were the brave ones. All that estrogen!

This may be a bit long, but I hope you'll find something enjoyable/educational.

Sarah Shumway of HarperColllins talked about the editor/author relationship; what a writer can expect (from her) and what she hopes for from the author when the editorial letter arrives.

It's her job to see the intention of the novel and bring it to its full potential. The way to getting a novel to that point requires, trust, mutual respect, professional behavior, and a keeping in mind that both editor and author are working in service for the best intentions of the manuscript.

The editor's job is to read, analyse, critique and communicate. In this latter she has be thoughtful and tactful, supportive and honest. It is the author's job to understand and trust that an editor just might know what she's talking about and know more than author. The author's job is to think about, contemplate and thoughtfully consider all the comments made in an editorial letter. If there is any confusion or question the author is to communicate with the editor, keeping in mind that both of you want the same thing, which is making the manuscript the best possible thing it can be.

But who gets the final say? Well your name is on the book, but so is theirs (the publishers) so ultimately its always about compromise. She said she appreciates the author who thoughtfully considers her questions/suggestions and then finds his own solution. So it's not a matter of doing exactly what she says all the time.

So when you (or I) get that anticipated editorial letter we are not to curl up in fetal position and weep hysterically. We are to take a deep breath, dig in, and make our work better.

Julie Ham of Charlesbridge talked about character and voice. The first thing she told us was that Charlesbridge still accepts unsolicited manuscripts. That said, she reminded us that they receive EACH MONTH between 40 and 80 agented manuscripts along with 230 unsolicited ones.

Ms. Ham said you must answer YES to these questions about your character.

Is your character unique? In other words is there something special/different/unusual about your character?

Is your character relateable to others? In other words even if your character is a 10 foot tall orange caterpillar does the caterpillar have traits readers can relate to.

Does your character grow? In other words, does your character start out with a problem and is that problem satisfactorily resolved by the end of the story? That doesn't necessarily mean a happily-ever-after ending, but does your character change from what he/she was like at the beginning of the story to something better and/or different at the end.

Do you know what is important to your character? What motivates him/her?

In talking about voice, Ms. Ham said IT stays constant throughout the story whereas characters change.

Voice is the attitude your story has toward plot, setting, tension and character. Voice doesn't have to have strong dialect or speech patterns. Yet it should be recognizable, consistent and appropriate to the audience.

She said not to pigeon hole your work with a reading level, but to assume that readers are reading UP. She also said that MGs avoid trends! Which is something that I really liked hearing.

Our last speaker was the talented and entertaining author Carmen Tafolla. She gave five basic rules for writing.
1.) You have something to say, so say it.
2.) Write with authenticity, from your roots. Your own life is yard sale full of ideas. You don't have to go some place else or be somebody else to have something to write about.
3.)Speak with your own voice. Listen to it, because only YOU know what it has to say.
4.) Listen to others and the suggestions they make. Give them a chance. Don't be afraid to try them on. If they fit and look good on you, use them. If they don't, put them in the recycle bag.
5.) Don't be scared to write and rewrite and rewrite and polish and buff and rewrite. It's YOUR voice, your story And don't you want your voice to tell its story speaking as clearly and beautifully as possible?


  1. Thanks, Bish. Those were some great comments, and if I ever get that editorial letter I'm going to remember that advice. :D

  2. You'll get over the awe. And if, like me, you find yourself coming down from the conference high to a post-conference let-down, in which you suddenly feel like you must have talked too much, or too little, or made a bad impression on this person, or missed your opportunity to make a good impression on that one, or - whatever form it takes, remind yourself that none of that is real or true. It's the adrenaline rush crashing. I hope to see you at more of these things. I stay home myself a lot because if you're talking about writing and mailing out you're not writing and mailing out; but we all need to get out and make a few face-to-face contacts once in awhile. Editor's Days are important for piercing that no-unsolicited veil.

    And when the conference is in San Antonio, feel free to use the number on my card to contact me ahead of time, so we can go in together in mutual support mode, or you can at least get directions.

  3. Bish, thanks so much for this detailed feedback. I gained something from every one of the speakers. This post is much appreciated!

  4. You're welcome Tricia.

    Thanks so much Peni. Now that I have a possible ride into SA you may see me more often and I will definitely give you a call.

  5. Thanks for the great advice and info from the conference. It sounds like there were great speakers.
    I especially like that when I thought of my main character during Julie Ham's advice, I think I did well with all of her character tips.
    And you once went to a Jane Yolen workshop?! Oh how I would love to go to one of those . I love her!

  6. Wow these are some great lessons & info--thanks for sharing what the eds honed in on.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  7. Thanks for the thorough post! It was a fun conference. I am sending the Houston SCBWI group links to all the blogs I can find on this conference, so I will include yours.

  8. Nicely summarized! There's a lot of wisdom in each of these speakers' thoughts.

  9. Sounds like an awesome event. I'm so jealous. You're probably on that awesome high that comes from being around all that great writer mojo. Enjoy!

  10. It was fun Suzanne. And, I'm slowly coming down....

  11. Excellent post! What great information, and to be with editors? So exciting!!

  12. I'm glad you had a good time, Bish. And thank you for sharing your notes.

  13. I like the idea of the editor seeing the intention of the novel. Glad you had a great time, and thanks for summarizing it for us!

  14. Great post with useful information. Thanks for sharing your notes!

  15. Thank you so much for sharing this, Bish! I feel like I was (almost) there. Wonderful!!!


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