May, 2013

Workshops and Retreats

This month I was blessed to be able to attend not one, not two, but three different SCBWI events -all of which helped me fine tune my writing skills.

The first event was an SCBWI Kansas Master Class: The Anatomy of a Teacher Guide and Why You Need One. the class was led by Debbie Gonzales, an author, blogger, educator, and former Regional Advisor for SCBWI in Austin, Texas.

In the class, Debbie began by began by discussing and sharing examples of some of the different types of guides that could be created: discussion (a list of multi-faceted questions that span the Bloom’s Taxonomy levels which can be used at the end of the book), activity (contains things that children can manipulate like games, or make like recipes), teacher(written specifically with an instructor in mind, contain components of many of the other types- but with specific directives & examples on how to organize and present the material to students)  or cross curricular (contain pages with activities or information that relate to  multiple  genres such as science, history, & math , in addition to literature connections). She reminded us that in order to have both academic and mass market appeal, guides should be age appropriate, have snazzy graphics, make use of white space, include lesson objectives tied to State Standards and/or National Core Curriculum, contain a brief overview of theme, plot and character, and give a chapter by chapter analysis.

The list of additional items that could be added was endless: photos, recipes, links to You Tube videos or iTunes songs, rubrics, evaluations, arts & crafts ideas, puzzles, games, projects, and literary element activities such as discussion questions, graphic organizers, Reader’s Theatre writing prompts, research topics, and word study.

After Debbie gave a thorough overview of Common Core Standards, the real fun began! Participants used scissors, glue, markers, crayons, and templates provided by Debbie to create games based on their own novels or works in progress. Lastly, participants shared what they had created with the group.

This was a fabulous workshop. I am convinced that any author, whether their book is fiction or non-fiction, a picture book, Middle Grade or YA novel, will benefit by creating a guide. Check out Debbie’s website  for examples and links.

The second event I attended was the SCBWI Missouri Advanced Writers’ Retreat at Elfindale Masion. Along with 20 other participants, I spent an intense weekend in critique groups hammering out issues pointed out by Maggie Lehrman, Senior Editor at Abrams, who had read and commented on our manuscripts prior to the retreat. In addition to meeting with each of us individually, Maggie also addressed the entire group several times on such topics as voice, trends, and  the history of Abrams Publishing. Everything about this retreat was fantastic: the food, the venue, and the people-I wish I could have kidnapped my entire critique group and brought them home with me, their feedback was so valuable!

Lastly, I attended another workshop, this one hosted by SCBWI Missouri: The Truth in Fiction, led by  Margaret Stohl, author of the ICONS Series, May 7th release date from Little, Brown and the New York Times # 1 Bestselling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures Novels.  Margaret was fabulous and inspiring! She shared her author’s journey and then regaled us with anecdotes and helpful hints from both herself and other writers: Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, & Neil Gaiman, to name a few. My favorite  advice: “Don’t panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowl-curdling terror, as i contemplate the drivel on the screen before me…Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end.” Sarah Waters, and  from Margaret Stohl, “Finish. Have friends that will carry you. Be Cracked and allow your reader to see how Cracked you truly are. they will relate, because they’re Cracked too.  Jump or stay in the boat. But really, jump.” Be sure and take the time to visit this fantastic author if she is ever in your area.

So I’m off to apply all that I learned. Looking forward to fall when I plan on attending several more local area conferences!

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