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gene yang

Gene Yang teaching us about plotting with post-its.

Three Awesome Talks Today. OMG. Literally. THE BEST.

The afternoon started off with Jackie Briggs Martin and Claire Rudolf Murphy talking about vision and voice in non-fiction. Jackie’s BOOM Moment: She challenged us to Pay Attention. To say to our reader, “Look at this interesting thing. Listen to this story.” This was powerful because sometimes I feel that the work of paying attention, of story telling, is a frivolous thing. Jackie reminded me of how important the work of all story tellers is. #validation

Claire’s BOOM Moment: You can’t cover everything. You can’t have multiple visions. Or the work becomes muddled. In fiction, sometimes I think to have an interesting book means having characters with a thousand things going on. But it’s too much. The reader can’t keep it all straight. I CAN’T keep it all straight. I need to Simplify. Narrow. And Focus. She also said to honor who you are in your writing.

No one is like you.

Then, Gene Yang!

I feel literally shaky with the awesomeness of Gene Yang’s talk on plotting and beat sheets. If I ever write a book, his talk will be a key moment in that journey–a turning point in which I realized why my novel was sucking SO HARD. I’ll recall this moment, if I ever write a successful book, for Kerri Miller during my Talking Volumes interview on the stage of the Fitzgerald Theatre. Kerri will turn to me and say, “Was there ever a moment of clarity when you truly understood how you were going to put your novel together?”


Gene showed me that I had a bunch of characters feeling things and talking about things, but there was NO REAL ACTION propelling the plot forward. How did I miss that? Writing a book is truly a mysterious business of which the more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn.

And then if all that wasn’t blowing my mind, in walks Anita Silvey, wearing a fabulous floppy hat. This woman. This brilliant woman, tells the stories behind the stories. She literally knows EVERYONE who ever published anything or wrote anything having to do with children’s literature. For example, The Wind in the Willows wouldn’t have been published if Theodore Roosevelt wouldn’t have been friends with the author and called in a favor, because, you know, he’s the president of the United Sates, so if he wants his friend’s book published, it better be published damn it! Also, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle was rejected around 25 times, and Kate DiCamillo was rejected a total of 440 times before she was published. Anita says, “It doesn’t matter how many people say no. It only takes one person to say yes.

I’m humbled to have the opportunity to sit at the feet of some of the smartest people in Children’s Lit.

Even if a book never comes out of all this, it’s been worth the journey already.

P.S. Shout out to Anne Ursu and Gene Yang for a kick ass reading this evening!