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It was fantastic, almost too much to think about—one of those experiences that take will take me months to figure out how much I learned.
I got to ReaderCon midday on Friday. The first thing I did was attend a kaffeeklatchsche with Laura Anne Gilman and Holly Black. Sitting in a room with a handful of other people and two fantastic writers is an amazing learning experience. At one point I was talking about the scenes I’ve cut in order to focus “Matchbox” more firmly on the young protagonist. Everyone seemed to agree this was a good approach to making a novel more YA, but Holly sensed that, though I said I wanted to do it, I was uncomfortable about something. I kept thinking about my reluctance throughout the day, finally I realized I did have a strong feeling that the scenes shouldn’t be deleted. But, it wasn’t because they should be in Matchbox--the scenes belonged in the sequel, in a different character’s pov.
Friday I also attended Young (and Very Young) Adult F&SF with Holly Black, Michael Daley, Sarah Durst, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Sharyn November, Elizabeth Wein. The general comments were that editors and agents want well written YA. Themes and issues are what separate YA from adult, as does tone to some degree. If a scene feels important to you, but you wonder if it is too hard core for YA leave it in—trust your agent and editor to tell you if it needs to be cut or toned down. They won’t turn down a well written novel because it takes risks. Originality is important. Know what’s out there. Take risks, but stay true to what you feel comfortable with. Editors are looking for YA that boys will enjoy . . . Geeshhh, I heard so much great stuff that I lost track of where I heard what advice about YA.
Later in the day there was a panel discussion: the Retold Fairy or Folk Tale with Ellen Datlow, Holly Black, Theodora Goss, Gavin Grant, Catherynne Valente. An interesting question was posed about whether readers need to be aware of the original tale or if a retelling works simply because folk and fairy tale motifs speak to people at deeper level—it was left as food for thought, again a judgment call for writer and editor.
James Maxey read the beginning of his novel “Bitterwood”. It was great and convinced me to move the novel higher up in my stack of summer reading—and gave me a craving for barbequed dragon tongue.
Mary Robinette Kowal gave an outstanding talk on the Secrets Behind Great Public Readings: voicing, narration and pacing. Her advice about picking what to read is something I’ll remember forever. Also I decided hiring Mary to read might on occasion be the best advice. Her website has more information.
“Filling in the Middle” panel discussion was informative. Though some of the advice came across humorously--throw in a naked woman, blow something up—it helped me to understand that the scenes I cut in “Matchbox” need to be replaced with something active—well what is the use of boring scenes?
I had no trouble finding Kennedy and Danielle from boot camp 2006--which was wonderful. But we all were all doing so much there wasn’t a lot of time for talk—though Kennedy joined the Codex groups for our lunch get-together. It was really nice to finally meet people face to face! Next year I vote for a Codex suite so we can socialize more.
I found out my story “Black Pumps and Skanky Tom” is going to be in the premier issue of Cat Tales which will be coming out in November or December—an extra special issue, so be sure to order it.
Saturday I went to Catherynne Valente’s kaffeeklatchsch. Though I’ve never read anything of hers, she had impressed me by the comments she made on panels the day before. And I figured that someone who wrote both fairly erotic stories and YA would have a good idea about how they differed. A very interesting discussion ensued, spanning everything from her new project (look for some really cool books coming from her in the near future) outlining, sentence structure, obscure fairy tales, the winter queen, sexuality, poetry . . . what didn’t we talk about?
There was a panel discussion about archetypal evil in fantasy. The general opinion was that it depends on the story whether archetypal evil could be used or not. It gives a darkness that other lesser evils in a story can be measured against—shades of gray to a one-dimensional black. But in some stories archetypal evil simply doesn’t work. I noticed that throughout the weekend people cheered when evil was mentioned, so clearly that’s a vote for developing the antagonist to his nasty best.
I attended several other readings and panels and Holly Black discussion of how she wrote Ironside—which was cool and made me feel better about my evolving attempts at outlining and jumping from one novel back to another. It gave me faith that I am moving forward—and that I’m not doing as badly as my internal chatter monkeys tell me.
All the writers and editors and publishers were amazingly willing to talk one on one and were tremendously helpful. My only regret was that I didn’t have much time to socialize with my sister or writing friends—guess that’s a sign of excellent programs. I might have seen more friends, but I didn’t attend the parties—I had a hot shower and fell into my luxurious bed.
Glad to be home and cranked to get back to revisions. Hope I can go again next year.