Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Smith's workshop on writing YA

Yesterday I attended a writing workshop given by authors Greg and Cynthia Leitich Smith. For more thoughts on the workshop itself, see Varians post.

One of the most valuable things I walked away with (but can't seem to find now that I need it — dang!) is a character development worksheet. On it, one fills out a list of important details about the character being developed such as name; age; hometown; address; eye color; pets and so on. Looking over my list brought many ideas on the direction my novel could take — things I hadn't considered before.

While I learned much about writing for young adults, I was also tuned into the mechanics of their presentation. I've been getting more invitations to speak to groups of adults, so I wanted to see exactly how the pros do it. Three things especially stood out: The agenda, the examples, the interactivity, and the take-home goodies.

Before delving into the meat of their talk, they briefly set an agenda, giving us a clear picture of why we were there, and what we would do over the next hour or so. As they spoke, they offered many examples of books to support their words. This proved they had done their homework. Both Greg and Cynthia kept us on our feet by keeping the audience involved. In one case, we were asked to fill out our character development list, and given a small writing exercise. But they didn't take volunteers until after they started picking folks at random. I learned that next time I’ll do the writing exercise and not sit there and think about it, and given the groans of those who were called on, they learned the same thing as I. Lastly, they handed out a YA novelists bibliography and reading recommendations.

I have been doing one thing right. I've been reading. I'm not a fast reader, and with my busy schedule, I only get in a few pages per day, but I'm continually reading something. Once I finish Red Polka Dot later this week, I'm moving onto Tofu and T. Rex. Then I'm going to take Cynthia’s advice and read a book before I judge it (I sort of eluded that it may be inappropriate for teens in an earlier post). I'm going to read Rainbow Party, not only because it's so controversial, but because...well, dang-on, it sounds tantalizing to a brotha.

3 comments:

Varian Johnson said...

You know what...I think I'm gonna join you and read Rainbow Party as well. I'm pretty liberal, but I'm actually afraid that the subject matter may be too much for even me. And if that happens, would I be so quick to defend the novel if and when censorship issues occur? I probably won't get to it until next January or February, but I'll let you know what I think.

rindambyers said...

I never review books I haven't read but it takes a really good book to keep my interest, no matter what the subject is.
I have an extremely low tolerance for boring writing, and I'd rather re-read a good book many times over than read a whole lot of boring/bad ones.....

I also don't read books just because literary experts think they should be read, becasue the books win awards, or because the books are on best book lists or because other writers or writing teachers think the books should be read.....I never permit experts into my private reading and writing rooms......never, never, never...I wander free there....

Josie said...

Interesting post on character development. I read a lot and can agree that it's a missing ingredient in a lot of popular books.