Oct 4, 2009

Notes From A Conference Part 1

I'm back from the 1st Annual Scarlet and Gray Writers and Illustrators Conference. I'm happy to report it was enjoyable and worthwhile. One of my breakout sessions was "Surviving the Slush Pile." The speaker was Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, author of The Floating Circus, 42 Miles, Reaching for the Sun, Sketches from a Spy Tree, and Steady Hands: Poems about work. I haven't yet read her work, but I thought she was an engaging and witty speaker. Here are some golden nuggets of wisdom from Tracie:

- Whenever the slush pile starts to tip over is when the editorial staff starts to deal with it.

- Your ms has 20 seconds to impress an editor.

- It cost about $30,000 to bring a book to market; most books don’t make that money back.

- You are going to be rejected! Even award winners still have manuscripts rejected.

- Focus on your craft and the rest will follow.

- Only 2% of the slush pile is worth looking at.

- Focus on character. Let your character get in to trouble, don’t spare them pain and suffering. Your main character has to change- or why would the reader care?

- Your main character must want something! Their situation needs to get worse before it gets better. Put a fire under the feet of your main character!

- Keep moving the story forward.

- Make the reader laugh, make them cry- make them WAIT! Pull your reader along; don’t give it all away too soon.

- Chapters for novels: if one starts out positive, end it negative and vice versa.

- Don’t have more than three characters in the first chapter, you’ll lose the reader.

- Read like a chef eats, taste for the ingredients and how it was put together.

- Revision is like a quilt, rip it apart at the seams and redesign it.

- Read. Write. Repeat.


* A picture of an actual slush pile that Tracie used in her power point. It scared me when I saw it!

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