Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jennifer Rees, editor at Scholastic, talks about "Voice"

SCBWI Chapel Hill Writing Retrea

Numero uno: Jennifer Rees is an top-notch, classy editor.

Numero two-ish: Jennifer Rees is cute as a button . . . isn't she?

Numero Three-o: She also has an AWESOME pair of boots! The girl has it ALL! Brains. Style. Cutie-pie-ness . . . is there anything more?

Editors and agents stress the importance of "voice" in a manuscript. Writers strive to find their "voice" and yet there are no easy definitions for this monster they call VOICE. I love listening to different professionals in the industry share their thoughts on what "Voice" is. After years of listening and digesting this info, I think I'm finally starting to catch on. No. I don't have a clear and easy definition. However, I will share the basic 10 points that Ms. Rees mentioned as being the elements that influence your voice.

1) Character
2) Manner of Expression
3) Narrator
4) Dialogue
5) Setting
6) Perspective
7) Tone
8) Genre
9) You
10) Story

In attempt to digest the things Ms. Rees said about each of the 10 elements, I came home and tried to find a small section of a book that I thought embodied all 10 elements. It's not that easy to do. There are some books that are easy to hear voice. Books like Savvy and Dovey Coe. I wanted to find a section that wasn't quite as colloquial. One where the voice doesn't come from accent or regional flare. Finally, I settled on The Hunger Games. I thought it fitting since Ms. Rees was the editor for this book. Here's a short scene that I love and see as including all of the above influences.

This is a scene from Chapter 5 when Katnis first meets with her prep team for her makeover.

Venia and Octavia, a plump woman whose entire body has been dyed a pale shade of pea green, rub me down with a lotion that stings but then soothes my raw skin. Then they pull me from the table, removing the thin robe I've been allowed to wear off and on. I stand there, completely naked, as the three circle me, wielding tweezers to remove any last bits of hair. I know I should be embarrassed, but they're so unlike people that I'm no more self-conscious than if a trio of oddly colored birds were pecking around my feet.

The three step back and admire their work. "Excellent! You almost look like a human being now!" Says
Flavius and they all laugh.

I force my lips up into a smile to show how grateful I am. "Thank you," I say sweetly. "We don't have much cause to look nice in District Twelve."

This wins them over completely. "Of course, you don't you poor darling!" Says Octavia clasping her hands together in distress for me.

"But don't worry," says Venia. "By the time Cinna is through with you, you're going to be absolutely gorgeous!"

"We promise! You know, now that we've gotten ride of all the hair and filthy, you're not horrible at all!" Says Flavius encouragingly. "Let's call Cinna!"

They dart out of the room. It's hard to hate my prep team. They're such total idiots, Ad yet, in an odd way I know that they're sincerely trying to help me.

So, How does this one section envelope all 10 elements?

First I see how the Characters, their perspectives of each other, the manner in which they speak, their actions, the setting the tone they use w/ one another . . . it all blends together making this scene vivid in my minds eye. The tension. The contrast of how each side sees the other as barely being human at all. We are in the narrators head, so we know what she is thinking, however, we don't have to be in the Prep teams thoughts to get an idea of how they think and feel. Their actions and dialogue are clear. Though we see human flaws in each of the characters we also see glimpses of good intentions.

Second, the genre and Suzanne Collins unique story line and her story telling skills all add to the flavor of the voice.

So, make a mental note: editors don't see voice as simply being an accent. That may be only one part of your voice, if it fits the story.

INSIDER INFO ALERT!!!!: Ms. Rees shared a little info about the earlier MS of The Hunger Games. She said that at first the story was written in past tense. However, that didn't seem to work. It tended to cut down on the tension which is so crucial to the story line. So, Ms. Collins rewrote the story in present tense and Voila! That goes to show . . . don't be afraid to rewrite in a different tense. You never know what will work best until you try.

If you have anything to add to share how you view the "voice" in this section, I'd love to hear it. I'd also love to hear any insights on what you think about "voice" outside of this section as well. It's a wild beast to master!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

REfreshed, REfueled, REtreated!

Uh-huh, oh yeah! That's right! I'm a new girl now. My writing confidence has been lower than a tick on the belly of a worm. But this weekend . . . Well, let's just say that I'm still flying high from being refreshed and refueled. It also doesn't hurt that Jennifer Rees, (the editor of The Hunger Games) critiqued my work and had very nice things to say about it. Things that will keep me going for quite some time.

The guest speakers in attendance were: Jennifer Rees from scholastic, Bruce Hale, Author of the Chet Gecko series among other books, and Stacy Cantor from Walker books.

It was an amazing retreat, restful and yet productive. Pure nerve-soothing, confidence-boosting fabulousness.

As I digest the things that I learned, I'll post about them here. So many great things. Enough to possibly give me blogging material for the rest of the year! In addition to Critter postings, of course.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Critter in his element!

I'm so stoked! Rena took Critter on an awesome outting!

Check it out at Rena's blog.

YaY, Critter!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Creative summer challenge: Embrace your inner Zonkey

Here's my challenge to you for the summer. Just m@ke art! You gotta check out Zonkey Street.com. It's a site, developed by Critter's creator, Ian Sands. His philosophy is that art is for everyone and need not be only the stuff you see hanging in a gallery. Art should be fun and enjoyed by all.

Here's the way Ian describes it:

"What is Zonkey Art?

Zonkey Art is any art that is public, collaborative and interactive.

Public: Art can be for everybody, not limited to a few people who enter the doors of a gallery. Zonkey art is accessible to anyone.

Collaborative: An artist doesn't have to work alone. Art can be created in pairs, or by small teams or even in large groups.

Interactive: Art doesn't have to be static. Anyone who comes in contact with Zonkey art should be able to add, subtract, move, share, comment, give, take, build, destroy, help, arrange or interact in some way.

Art for Everyone
By Anyone

Have you gotten involved? Create Zonkey Art and post it on
The Art of Zonkey Street Facebook Page!

So . . . you should do this! It's fun! And for writers, it can boost your creativity and help you find your muse. Check out Zonkey Street.com for idea's. (Critter is one of the featured Zonkey projects on the web-site!) But feel free to create your own idea.

Come on! I'm a Zonkey, he's a Zonkey . . . wouldn't you like to be a Zonkey too?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Winner! Winner!

And now, the lucky winners (insert drum roll, disco ball and yodeling monkey here.)

The winner of 10 Ways to Make my Sister Disappear is

Linda Anderson!

The winner of Prada and Prejudice is


Congratulations. I will contact you via the e-mail addresses that you gave on the entry form.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

It's a 2 book giveaway!

I'm Spring-giddy. The trees are budding, the air is warm, Critter is gaining lots of friends on Facebook and I feeling like giving books away. I have this mental image of me in a white cotton dress, skipping through the forest with a basket full of . . . not flower petals . . . . BOOKS! As I whistle a tune I toss books in the air for all those around me to enjoy.

Back to reality. I'm in my office wearing yoga pants and a t-shirt, I'm sitting on a bed (yes, I have a bed in my office instead of a desk. Gotta problem with that?) and I have a blog instead of a basket. This is as close as it gets.

The books in my spring basket:

Prada and Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard and Ten Ways to Make My Sister Disappear, by Norma Fox Mazer, were both part of the book pack that I won from Christina Farley. I hate to just let a couple good books collect dust on my shelf, so I'm sharing the love with you.

I'll choose a random winner Next week on Wed. So be sure to come back and see if you are one of the two winners.