This past Saturday (the 6th) was one of the happiest of my life, and a very major reason was that I spent most of the day at Chapter One Young Writers' Conference in St. Charles, a suburb of Chicago. A short summary of why this conference was awesome:
- Published and agented authors giving superb advice!
- Meeting online friends in real life!
- Free books and swag!
Let's start with the advice :-)
First, there was a query writing workshop, led by Christina Li and Patrice Caldwell of the Ch1Con team, and even thought I'm not anywhere near querying yet, I'm filing away all the awesome things I learned in my mental folders (and hopefully it'll still be there when I'm in need of it in a year or two). One of the most useful things I collected at this workshop was: The Hook, The Book, and The Cook. This is a general outline of a query: first, you grab the reader with a one-sentence Hook. Then, you summarize the Book in a paragraph or two. And finally, you talk about yourself, the Cook, in a few final sentences. What a handy outline!
Next, Jordan Villegas, an unpublished but agented author, gave us a general overview about the non-technical aspects of writing. It really helped me feel better about not writing every day when he pointed out that we are not robots of inspiration, churning out stories. Perhaps there's a reason why you aren't producing writing on your slow days - you were experiencing some other aspect of life. After all, you can't write if you haven't lived!
Another one of the most useful things I got out of his talk was his "solar system" analogy when it comes to finding the theme of the novel. A good novel is like a solar system, where the theme is the sun in the center, and the plot points are the planets surrounding it at a good distance. But you have to be careful so the sun doesn't turn into a black hole and suck in the entire novel (the theme is too heavy and overwhelms the story), or so the sun doesn't shrink and allow the planets to float away (the theme is too light and doesn't hold the story down).
Next, Susan Dennard talked about her path to becoming a writer. I'm currently reading her book Truthwitch so this was perfect timing! She shared many of her own insecurities when it came to feeling valid in the publishing world, which is something so many writers face but you never hear about, and she said that even now, with a bestselling book like Truthwitch, she still faces those same insecurities every day. But one of my favorite things she said was - "There are no expiration dates on dreams." We've got to keep trying because no one gets it right on the first try!
The next talk, by Jennifer Yu, was about finding time to write in college, and was mostly focused on the high-school and younger audience. I agreed with a lot of her advice, since I'm two years into my college adventure, and I'm sure that were I in high school I would have gotten a lot of good advice out of her talk.
The final talk was by Francesca Zappia, whom I forgot to take a picture of. (Ooops.) It was about character building, and super useful! She suggested we draw pictures of our characters, even if we weren't good artists, and that we write out scenes from our characters pasts, even if those scenes didn't end up in the book.
Finally, there was a panel by all the authors, and here is a photo that I stole from the Ch1Con website. :-)
In addition to meeting these wonderful writers who spoke at the conference, I also got to hang out with people who's faces I only knew from their twitter profile pictures! Here are only a few of those marvelous people:
|Lily (center) and Katie (Right)|
And THEN. I got books signed! I also acquired some ARC's and swag. The most exciting was an ARC of The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart, MG author of The Mysterious Benedict Society series, which my sister and I ADORE.
All in all, it was a fabulous Saturday! I drove the hour long ride home with the windows down and the radio blasting (even on the interstate - ESPECIALLY on the interstate) and I legitimately almost cried because I was so full of happiness. (The gorgeous glowing clouds of afternoon sunlight didn't help either.)
If you are a young writer (as in college age-ish or younger), I HIGHLY suggest you check out Ch1 Con. I am definitely coming back in 2017!
Have you ever been to a writing conference? What's your favorite bit of writing advice?