Thursday, March 25, 2010

Revision Notes

by Hilde Garcia

Last week, I shared my notes from Karen Cushman’s break out sessions. Here is some excellent information from Jordan’s session as well as a little about him.

Jordan Brown joined Walden Pond Press at HarperCollins Children’s Books in October 2008, having spent his first five years in publishing with Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster. One of his first acquisitions, M. Sindy Felin’s Touching Snow, was a National Book Award finalist, an Edgar Award nominee, and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

In the notes I took in his sessions, he discusses two types of revision and pacing.

Jordan Brown
Now What? Revision

Large Scale Revision Tips

  1. What is the age of the MC? Make sure to match the age to the group you write for.
  2. Ask yourself, can kids relate to your character?
  3. What’s the number one thing that drives your MC?
  4. Not all scenes build on narrative thread… so pay attention to sub scenes or stories.
  5. If you delete sub stories, what is your main thread? Is it clear?
  6. Play with the order of your scenes and where your story begins and don’t toss anything away.
But there are times when it is helpful to put your beats/scenes in order, ie historical fiction.

Small Scale Revision Tips

  1. Overwrite if you have to, so then you can edit what the character actually sees and wants to say.
  2. Look for the moments that tell you about MC by showing them in a situation and how they react.
  3. Write an important and unique story and try not to do something that is over done.
  4. Delete a character that is not serving the story’s arc. How does that improve the story?
  5. What’s this the most important story/moment in the character’s life?
Pacing Consideration
  1. If it gets to resolution to quickly, it didn’t go the extra step, that’s a let down, so go back and add levels.
  2. Give something that you don’t expect should happen.
  3. Telling old stories in new ways is great like a classic story with a new twist.
  4. Think outside the box in the format of your story telling.
  5. Great characters have to be in your story, not just great main characters.
  6. A great plot does not equal a great book. Look at elements like theme, etc.
I enjoyed listening to these tips. I love when someone like and editor or an agent breaks it down and makes it tangible. I feel it helps give me a starting point. I am in the middle of a grand scale revision, which Jordan said, traditionally is longer. His session was very helpful. I have these tips in my notebook and when I am stuck, I check them to see if there is something I can do to move my writing forward. I am glad to share them with you.

Jane Yolen refers to revision as a “new vision”. You see your words in a new way and that gives you another layer for your story. I like that. Here’s wishing you a happy new vision on all your story ideas.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wisdom on Revision

by Hilde Garcia

As the year begins, I reflect on notes I took at conferences and seminars. Last summer, I attended the SCBWI National Conference in LA

Each Key Note Speaker titled their speech and then proceeded to share amazing words of wisdom, tips and techniques. It was inspiring to hear of their successes as well as of their insecurities.

Karen Cushman, author of Catherine Called Birdy and The Loud Silence of Francine Green, among others, offered these nuggets on writing in general. Each point listed below, she illustrated with examples of how she would achieve each it.

(Parenthetical information, if offered by me, is for clarification purposes.)


Karen Cushman
In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

Pay no attention to the rules, once you know them.


1. Show Up
-Demark your day and your writing. (She meant actually find a time and place to sit and write).
-Slow down, let ideas grow
-Give power to thoughts
-Write rather than fantasize

(Showing up not just physical but spiritually, ready to let the ideas find their way on to the paper).

2. Pay Attention
-Look and listen- stuff yourself with senses and words (Think about the following themes).
-Love versus Hate
-Excites versus Infuriates
-Stories come from paying attention, so you’ll be ready for your muse (when it shows up).

3. Tell the Truth
-I love research. It gives me a place to stand with facts. (Note, her novels are historical fiction).
-I use 10% of what I find, but the other 90% gives my story strength.
-There’s an emotional connection in the truth.
-So tunnel below the obvious and come back to your words.
-Things that we are morally certain of, like kindness, and evil, love and loneliness, honor and expediency, peace and war, are things I write about because I need a book to be hopeful.

Publications are only one of the reasons to write. We write because we are writers.

4. Write What You Can
-With Passion!
-Do it your way.
-Blaze your trail.
-Trust yourself and then you will write.
-Words are sacred… if you get the right ones in the right order, you will then have the responsibility of that dream.

(I think she meant if you write a powerful story that moves your audience, you then have a responsibility to those words and to that story and that’s a sacred feeling).

Karen Cushman was vibrant and poised, her advice attainable. I was inspired. I wish the same for you.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Share a Story - Shape a Future’s 2010 Blog Tour

This post is part of Share a Story - Shape a Future’s 2010 Blog tour entitled It Takes A Village To Raise A Reader
Share a Story - Shape a Future
The purpose of the tour is to share ideas on how to encourage a love of reading.
I believe reading the first line or paragraph from a book is a great prompt to start off a reader. For this post, I am including links to the books from Amazon.
Here are the answers from my last post. These books are all great boy books. They run the gamut from Picture book to YA

Being dead was colder than Mark expected.
(Given that first line, I am off to the library to check it out.)

Look, I didn’t want to be a half blood. If you’re reading this cause you might be one, my advice is: close the book right now. “
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Monday 9:28 AM “What the hell, Dixie?” A piece of paper slammed against Dixie’s computer screen eclipsing the game of Ski Free he’s been playing for the past hour.
(This is a funny book!)

“I am such a coward,” Ben said to himself. “When someone pushes ahead of me in line at the bakery, I don’t say anything. When I wear my favorite pair of flowered overalls, I’m scared of being laughed at. And when I hear strange noised at night, I’m afraid it’s a spook under my bed. I need help.”
Brave Ben by Mathilde Stein. Illustrated by Mies Van Haut
(I read this one at the library. I loved it.)

Here is a story that’s stranger than strange. Before we begin you might want to arrange: a blanket a cushion a comfortable seat and maybe some cocoa and something to eat.
Zorgamazoo Robert Paul Weston

Once upon a time in the Wild Wild West, there lived a rancher and his wife. Every morning just as the sun was coming up, the rancher saddled his horse and fed the cattle, while his wife baked biscuits. Biscuits with butter, biscuits with honey, biscuits with jelly…Yes those breakfast biscuits were as plump as pillows, soft as clouds and tasty as a big Texas barbeque.
The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Saures Illustrated by Holly Berry
(This is not only a debut picture book by Janet, it is the retelling off an old story. And it is beautifully done).

One hot summer morning Peter Pig woke up and thought of a new song.
Peter’s Song by Carol P Saul. Illustrated by Diane de Groot

The story I am about to share with you takes place in 1931 under the roofs of Paris. Here you will meet a boy named Hugo Cabret, who once long ago, discovered a mysterious drawing that changed his life forever.“
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on my skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink when the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst Illustrated by Ray Cruz.

Look around you. What do you see? If you’re inside, you might see walls carpeting, furniture. If you’re outside, you might see grass, buildings, sky. But the world is a lot more complicated than it seems.

Here are 5 first lines from books more of interest to girls

"I have been accused of being anal retentive, an over-achiever, and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things."

“I have had not so good of a week”
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. 2007 Boston Globe/Horn Book Award.
(This is a mid grade illustrated novel. I loved it. Wonderfully funny. This one is fun for kids and parents.)

Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Alanna, the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce.
(This book doesn’t have a great first line. If you click on the link, you can read the first page. There are four books in this series which is about a girl training as a knight. I read this series once a year.)

These last 5 Lines are from picture books.

Rock, Shore, Pebble, sand. Body, Shoulder, arm, hand. A moat to dig. A shell to keep. All the world is wide and deep.
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee.

Everybody knows the story of the Three Little Pigs. Or at least they think they do.
The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs - Jon Scieszka - Illus. by Lane Smith
(I love everything Jon writes even if I cannot pronounce his last name…)

The morning the rainbow came, Genevieve's sheep were still white. Or rather grey and dirty brown and sheep tend to be.
Rainbow Sheep written and illustrated by Kim McDougal

Out in the hottest, dustiest part of town is an orphanage run by a female person nasty enough to scare night into day.
Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
(This one I sat down and reading the library. I loved it)

Bliss to you. Bliss to you! Is me who is dog, Trixie Koontz, happy dog.
I, Trixie Who is Dog -Dean Koontz Illustrated by Janet Cleland
(I had to use this. Dean Koontz normally writes some of the best first paragraphs around. Treat yourself to an hour in a bookstore or library reading them. This is the only children’s book I ever saw by him)
Some of these are from my earlier posts. If you browse some of my earlier posts, you will find more great first lines. There are so many wonderful first lines to be discovered. Treat yourself and your child to a first line hunt at the library or at the bookstore. Happy reading.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Notes to Self

Everything I needed to know I learned from story books:

Men like long hair. Not only is it a great fashion accessory, but also useful for scaling edifices. Do not try on climbing wall at gym.

Household skills are worth $$. A domestic diva uses her skillbase to start a home based business. Martha Stewart really worked this one.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang:
A reliable, if somewhat older model, car that is well cared for is always there when you need it and is often coveted by others. ‘Nuff said.

Alice in Wonderland:
Yes, it’s a long, strange trip, but it’ll broaden your horizons and you’ll meet some interesting people along the way.

The Wizard of Oz:
It was a long, strange trip and thank heavens we’re home.

Mary Poppins:
Show up when needed. Deliver services in a professional manner with a little flash, so that client cannot discern how results were achieved. Refine exit strategy so that moment of departure coincides with client, being delighted with deliverables and begs you to stay on. At that moment, move on, as the positive word-of-mouth has already secured your future contracts.

You may be smaller than the rest, but you can still compete with the big dogs. Don’t give up.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Due to Popular Demand...

I'm reposting this blog due to recent news of airplanes and children.

(No, this doens't mean I've run out of blogs to post. I've got more...oh yes...I do.)

Boy On A Plane
by Lupe Fernandez

At 5:45am, I board Delta Air Lines flight 3248 at McAllen Airport. A week of humid, sweaty research in Texas for a memoir manuscript about my father is over. The twin jet engine plane is cool and dry, not sticky and exhausting like the Rio Grande Valley weather in May. As I relax in the aisle seat, I hear a boy cry at the front access door.

“Don’t worry,” a brunette flight attendant says to a small blond boy, “it’ll be okay.”

The flight attendant escorts an eight year old boy down the aisle. They stop at my row. The boy, thin body, pale skin, and glasses, has a plastic identity card around his neck. I get up and allow Barry P. access to the window seat.

“It’ll be all right.” The flight attendant leans over and smiles at Barry. Other passengers stare at us.

I want to say to them, “We’re not together.”

Barry’s chin slumps on his backpack. He draws in shallow, stuttering breaths and wipes the snot from his nose. I think Barry is afraid of flying.

I’m a 47 year old stranger with no children; I’ve never changed a diaper. But this boy is upset and alone. I could reach over; pat Barry on the shoulder, and say, “Don’t worry, son. Everything will be all right.” Barry might scream at being touched by a stranger and a Federal Air Marshall would escort me off the plane. I could ignore Barry if he rolls into a ball of tears, shrieking for the entire flight. The other passengers would then give me the evil eye as if I were his neglectful father.

Perhaps an innocuous conversation will calm Barry.

“Where you headed?” I say.

Barry stops crying to answer. “Memphis.”

I nod as if the boy and I were two business men talking about traveling. “I’m going to California,” I say.

A flight attendant asks for carry-on luggage to be stowed in the overhead compartments or under the forward seat. Barry shoves his backpack under the forward seat.

“We’re going to Memphis,” Barry says. He’s eyes regard me as if I’m lost.

“It’s a stopover,” I say, “The plane goes from Memphis to Los Angeles.”

Barry nods and stares out the oval window as the plane takes off. After the plane reaches cruising altitude, the brunette flight attendant pushes a metal cart down the narrow aisle.

“Peanuts or pretzels?” She stops the cart next to us and talks over the engine roar.

“Peanuts,” I say, ears plugged.

“Pretzels,” Barry mutters.

The flight attendant gives him extra packets.

I munch on my salted peanuts. “I like peanuts,” I say to the boy, “not a pretzel fan.”

“I like pretzels,” Barry sits up and munches on a tiny twisted braid.

“Visit McAllen often?” I say.

“I was visiting my Dad. I don’t want to go home.” Barry frowns. His jaw quivers.

“How do you like McAllen?”

He shrugs. “My dad runs a big warehouse. I sat around in his office and watched them do stuff. They distribute things. I don’t want to go home.”

“Who’s at home?”

“I live with my mom.”

Barry feels the pain of separation from his divorced parents. Time and distance break his heart.

“Who’s picking you up at the airport?”

“I don’t know. My mom’s supposed to. If she’s not there, I’ll have to call my grandmother.”

“Why don’t you call your mom?”

“She’s probably sleeping. She sleeps a lot. Grandma will be mad.”

I wonder if his mother suffers from depression. There’s nothing I can do or say to take his pain away while we fly over Texas and Tennessee. After two hours of flight time, Flight 3248 lands at Memphis International Airport. Seat belts unclick like metallic applause. I move out into the aisle to let Barry pass.

“So long,” I say.

“Bye.” Barry drags his backpack down the aisle and I never see him again. Maybe his mother will be waiting for him at the airport with hugs and kisses. Maybe not.

I imagine Barry gets home, tosses his backpack on the floor and throws himself on his bed in despair. Then he reaches for a book on the floor or under his bed. Barry opens the book to the first page and for several hours or days, however long it takes him, the boy loses himself in a story about heroes and villains, about adventures in faraway places, and forgets his pain.

Today, I will write for kids like him who need a book for solace, as I did when I was his age.