Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Making Sense of Painting, Writing and Life: Jenna Quentin Guest Blog Post

This is what I love about the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. It's an international organization so people like Jenna and I can be writer buddies. The amazing thing about the Internet (and SCBWI conferences world wide) is that it makes it easier to keep in touch. I did a guest blog post for Jenna a while back, and now she's doing one for me! 

Here's a little bit about her from her blog ... 

I'm a 24 year-old American from Kansas (don't bother getting the map - it's in the middle). I am married and living in my husband's homeland of France. I plan on eating as much cheese and wine as one petite girl can, while avoiding snails, goose liver and frogs. I'm a home birth, full-time mom to 17 month-old Luca.

Since 2007, I've been writing in magazines and for websites including: Brio, Focus on the Family Clubhouse, Relate Magazine, SUSIE, eHow and others. I'm a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature and holds diplomas from Bordeaux University, France.  I'm currently working on two middle-grade novels and a picture book with no end in sight, but lots of optimism.

And here's her guest blog post about: Making Sense of Painting, Writing and Life!

Since I have lived in France for the last three years, I now look forward to the French holidays. The 14th of July was Bastille Day, the French Independence Day. France is not a country of unpatriotic people, but let me just say, we don't do anything to celebrate it. Maybe watch the parade with the President on the Champs Élysée, or go to the village-wide garage sale and fall asleep to fireworks banging, but that's all.

I spent about six hours of the holiday painting a second and third coat on our bedroom walls. The bucket of paint said it was "mono-couche" one-coat satin paint. Lest you think France is a country of either illiterates or meanies laughing in their sleeves at me needing a third bucket of "Gris Doré N°5," let me say I think they just don't know how to count, 'cause my hubby says I need a fourth coat for it to be a done well.

Which of course, started a heated conversation, mostly about his native negativity, perfectionism and inability to just "let it go." And maybe a bit about me being artistic (i.e. sloppy), optimistic, tired and very ready to do any touch ups ... later. Can I just say, don't spend your holidays like that. Shower the people you love with love, says James Taylor.

Even if you're tired and pregnant and he's stupid and you both just want to sleep in the room instead of on the couch and you both just want the project done and there's just been complications from the slick satin pink paint that was already on the walls to him thinking the grey taupe you picked is too dark and the paint sprayer you borrowed took a week to get and then there was something wrong 'cause the paint dripped all down the walls of the closet like melty coffee ice cream but you don't want to do it anymore and you just wanna be done!!! Please!!!

So, why am I telling you this? Because I'm scared your marriage/relationship will end over a lousy paint job?

Nathan Bransford was an agent and is now a writer/blogger (if you are a writer and don't know him, discover him and his blog). He recently wrote a post called Stories Are How We Make Sense of Life.  Here is an quote that I think goes with what I try to explore on my blog.

"Life is too complicated to hold in your head and relationships are too immense and multi-faceted to easily comprehend. So we write and tell stories to make sense of our relationships and existence. A novel can capture more than we can readily contemplate, and an author can, brick by brick, build a world that can illuminate and give meaning to some part of the full tapestry of our lives and relationships. They help us understand things that are too difficult to think about all at once." 

Is this why I wrote and published a teen magazine story on the death of my grandfather? Is this why my novel was absolute rubbish until I set the story in France, including my love/hate relationship with my adopted land? Is this why somehow, I feel compelled to tell you all that one more layer of paint on the bedroom walls is not worth your marriage, when all I am really doing is trying to understand my own?

Does writing explain life or does life explain why we write? I love Jan's blog, because she  also studies this question. How does life effect your writing? Do you write about your life? Write about other peoples' lives? Do you see the world as living literary inspiration?

If you want to chat more about these questions, you can find me on Facebook, on Twitter @JennaQuentin and on my blog, Meandering in a Field of Words. (This post was originally written on my blog 7/15/11)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dealing with Rejection: Angela Ackerman Guest Blog Post

Angela is one of my Calgary SCBWI friends. She writes on the Dark and Mysterious side of Chapter Books, Middle Grade and YA. Her work is represented by fabulous Jill Corcoran at the Herman Agency. And she's all about zombies! She co-blogs at a blog called the The Bookshelf Muse - Writing Tools and Musings about reading, writing and other randomness. The blog features the popular thesaurus series where she and her co-blogger provide a detailed thesaurus on just about everything. It's a great tool for writers.  

Today she's not writing about zombies or thesaurus entries, she's writing about rejection (ouch) and how to see the positive in the negative. Something every writer struggles with. 

Take it away Angela! 

I’ll never make it. I should just quit. I am a total loser. Bleak words, aren't they? Still, a familiar echo to anyone receiving the soul-consuming rejection letter. A perfectly good day can go sour at seeing, 'Dear Author'. Our breath cuts off, our chest tightens, the shoulders sag and despair slams us down. 

We ask ourselves why we put ourselves through this, why we can't just catch a break. Unfortunately being rejected (or e-jected) is just another part of the writing gig, like metaphors and modifiers. Rejection is out there, it will come for us at some point. Some letters hurt, others can devastate. All of them challenge our self belief. Staying positive in the face of rejection is tough. Each time our confidence is scraped, the rejection a message that our writing isn't good enough to take on, which we translate into meaning WE are not good enough. Sometimes moving past rejection is as simple as firing out a few more queries, tightening a synopsis or revising that first chapter for the 900th time. 

Other times, rejection can cause our foundation of determination and self-belief to quake. We feel like we're letting everyone around us down, including ourselves. Maybe we should face facts and pack it in. During these black moments, it's important to find a way to shift our thoughts out of the self-critical mode. This is difficult, but it can be done if we look at the rejection in a different light: as opportunity. I know what you’re thinking—rejections are closed doors. What opportunity could their possibly be from a ‘sorry, not for me’ type rejection? There are always things to learn, even from form rejections to queries. The trick is shifting the way you think from the negative to the positive. 
When a rejection pulls you down, consider these questions: 

What does the agent/editor need? What is my responsibility to them? What can I learn from this? How can I see this rejection differently? 

Who drank the other half?
Let's look at each one of these for a sec. 

What does the agent/editor need? The sarcastic answer to this is, ‘Not my work, obviously.’ But if you can set aside the hurt and place yourself in their shoes, there's insight to be had on their side of the desk. Pretend you are the agent or editor opening this query—what do they need from you? What will make them successful? They need to see a compelling query, well written with a character and voice that calls to them. They want to find something different, something that peaks their interest & makes it a no-brainer to scribble a note telling you to please forward the book. This person wants to sign great writers, and they'd like nothing better for this query to make them tingle in anticipation! They need a strong story and polished writing. They want to see a query from someone who has targeted them specifically because of who they represent/publish. 

What is my responsibility to them? It is the writer’s responsibility to write a strong, inviting query that offers enough information to make the agent/editor NEED to know what happens next--not too little, not too much. Give them the shape of it, a strong sense of the character, voice and style. Your best work shows them you are dedicated to this story being published. You do this by slaving over the query, polishing it until it shines as brightly as your belief in the book itself. You also show that you chose them specifically because they are a great fit, not that you spammed them with your query, hoping for the best. 

What can I learn from this? Turn an honest eye to the query. Evaluate whether you satisfied the editor/agent's needs and fulfilled your responsibilities. Is there something you can do better, or did this query simply hit your 'good enough' meter at the time you sent it out? Have you done all the research on the market that you can, do you feel a niggle of guilt over a corner you may have cut somewhere? Did you edit enough, critique enough, tweak enough? Have you done all you can to make this query a success, as well as any materials you sent with it (synopsis, bio, first chapter, etc?) 

How can I see this rejection differently? Of all the questions above, this one is the most important

When depression hits over a rejection, asking yourself this will lead you to a balanced perspective again. Because a rejection is in essence a negative, this question challenges you to find the positive. Think of the positive things this rejection symbolizes for you. It shows you had the courage to send out your work. It proves you believed in your story enough to get it published. This leads you to think about how far your writing has come, how your talent has grown, how many stories you’ve written or how long you’ve worked to perfect this one. Seeing the rejection differently sets you on a path that allows you to re-appreciate your own growth as a writer and your determination to reach your publication goal. How many writers have you helped along the way? How many writers believe in you, cheer you on and know you can succeed? 

Focus on your strengths and your accomplishments. Finding the positive in any circumstance can revive confidence, lighten mood and bolster determination. Too, your body responds to positive thinking, helping to slough off despair and doubt. Breathing is easier, tension leaks from the muscles. Posture straightens as thoughts return to moving forward, and what can be done to ensure success. Suddenly the rejection is put back into perspective--one person's opinion, not a career-ender. 

 Try this for yourself the next time a rejection hits you hard--it really does work!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Write who you are: Candy Gourlay Guest Blog Post

I first met Candy Gourlay the way I meet all my new writers friends. I wrote her an email that started with the phrase: "You don't know me, and I may or may not be a stalker, but ...." It was good enough for Marty Chan when I challenged him to a comedy/mystery smack down, and it was good enough for Candy. 

I was going to London to do some research on Dead Bee in the Sarcophagus and then from there on to the SCBWI Symposium in Bologna and I decided I wanted to meet some SCBWIers in London. I emailed Candy with the above opener and she was all over organizing a pub night and well on her way to becoming my new best writer friend. 

In her guest blog post she talks about how I showed up at the wrong place (and then in Bologna showed up at the right place through telepathy) due to my geographical deficit disorder and then found her and her fellow SCBWIers amidst a throng of radical free range knitters - yes, you read that right - knitters! 

Oh, and Candy is quite humble in this blog post. Her y/a novel Tall Story won the SCBWI Europe 2011 Crystal Kite award. Her novel has been nominated for so many awards I can't keep track of them. In fact, I think they had to invent a few more awards just for her.   

Without further ado (as they say in London), here's Candy's guest blog post:

Candy Gourlay
Hello everyone, I'm standing in today for my favorite Canadian author of books with dead frogs on porches, Jan Markley!

Jan was my virtual friend on various social networks for a few years before we finally met in London ... well ... the truth is we almost didn't .

We agreed to meet up at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank and Jan went to the Royal ALBERT Hall just a few hundred miles away. Easy to mix the two royal halls up I suppose. Living here in London, every other thing is royal.

This is me on a good day in London
Anyway, I'm the author of Tall Story which is hopefully beginning to appear in Canadian bookstores, even if it's still in expensive hardback. It's about  a boy named Bernardo who's eight feet tall (you heard it right, EIGHT feet tall) - he's not a giant, he's got gigantism.

... and oh, look, here's a link to!

When I started out writing my book, I was interested in the idea of what it's like to be different ... but when I began to research giants, I remembered how giants are key to the mythology of my native Philippines.

The Philippines sits on the Ring of Fire - a crack on the Earth's crust. The countries that sit on the Ring of Fire - Chile, Hawaii, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines - experience a lot of volcanic activity, earthquakes, tsunamis. It's like sitting on the unstable lid of a bubbling pot of water I suppose.

The Philippines may be made up of 7,107 islands, but all along the Ring of Fire is a line of mountains like this,  some full blown volcanoes, thrown up by forces underneath.
A lot of our mythology in the Philippines attempts to explain all the mysterious effects of our geography - there are many stories about how mountains are just giants and earthquakes are just the giants shrugging.

A spread from The Secret Histories of Giants (published by Templar) - can you see the giants in the mountains?

Many years ago at the beginning of my quest to get my novels published, I was creating British characters in British settings.

I honestly thought that no publisher would be interested in any stories set in my native Philippines. But then an agent told me a British novel by a Filipino author would be a tough sell. Later, I read in a book on how to plot - the old adage "Write what you know" is true, but to invest your characters with their own distinctive reality, what is more important is to "Write who you are".

So Tall Story has Philippine mythology and migration and culture clash. Story of my life!
Then there was something on my shoulder. Something big and round and rough. And damp. It was so damp. It grew heavier and heavier and heavier. Crushingly heavy. Bending me down, down, down. A boulder. A mountain. What was it?
It was the Earth.
The Earth? Had i gone crazy?
I stood there like Atlas, oceans and rivers sending trickles of water down my arm, forests like sandpaper against my skin, mountains poking into the nape of my neck.
Too heavy, too heavy. I couldn't ... It slipped down my shoulder and I could have cried out as the mountain peaks jabbed hard against my skin. My muscles ached as I tried not to buckle under the weight, my hands scrabbling to hold on to it, the dirt grinding under my fingernails.
Mustn't drop it. Mustn't drop the Earth.
Excerpt from Tall Story

The great thing about Philippine mythology is a lot of it is handed down by word of mouth. Which means there is no correct version of one story. It gave me permission to put my own spin on popular legends.

I use legends - well, the making of them - in my school visits. Children are amazing - they can come up with legends at the drop of a hat! We must have made 20 within 15 minutes at a session I did at the Hay Literary Festival.

So here's a video I made on How to Make a Legend in Your Own Time. Watch out for The Legend of the Bellybutton, which was one of the stories we came up with after a hilarious brainstorming session at the Hay Festival.

If you're a teacher or a librarian and you fancy creating legends with your own posse of children, check out my Legend in Your Own Time download on my website!

Thank you!

Other downloads you might enjoy:

Candy Gourlay was a young journalist for the opposition during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. After the revolution that toppled Marcos, she moved to London where she attended to dictators of the nappy-clad variety before trying her hand at children’s fiction. Her debut novel Tall Story has been shortlisted for eleven children’s book prizes including the Waterstone’s, the Branford Boase and the Blue Peter prize. It won the Crystal Kite Children’s Book Prize for Europe.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Out of the cybersphere ...

Kinda looks like a Sasquatch writing cave!
I'll be out of the cybersphere for a few weeks. I've joined the french foreign legion, no, actually, I'm going to live in one of those domed eco-thingys; well, basically dear bloggowers, I'll be MIA (and not the rapper). 

I will have some amazing guest bloggers while I'm gone, and the blog posts are all brilliant in different ways. The amazing thing about the internet is that I have blogger friends all over the world, so you'll have a mix of local and international guest bloggers. You'll discover some new blogs and meet some of my friend and family bloggers. 

 As well, I won't be able to share the posts through facebook or twitter so if my bloggowers can give my guest bloggers some social networking love and share them around, that would be great. 

Here's the list:

August 24th - author Candy Gourlay who blogs at two places ('cause she's just not busy enough) Notes from the Slush Pile and her own blog

August 28th - writer Angela Ackerman who blogs at The Bookshelf Muse.

August 31 - writer Jenna Quentin who blogs at Meandering in a field of words.

September 4th - writer and actor Jocosa Wade (aka Jocosa of the Earrings) who blogs at I may not be John Irving.

September 7th - NY actor Katie Repman who blogs at Barbie Kong.

No bottomless pit in sight!
Remember when Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble always seemed to be falling into a bottomless pit? Yeah, I'm not there either! 

And on a parting note, if you think your novel is hard to sum up for a synopsis or a query letter - check out how these two dudes summed up the entire Harry Potter series, in song, in 99 seconds!

Hollar back at ya soon! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Interview with Georgia Graham - Presenter SCBWI Collaboration Conference Oct. 1

Not many people (except Canadians) can say this next sentence: I first met Gerogia Graham at her tree farm in central rural Alberta when I drove through a late May snow storm to get to the Young Alberta Book Society meeting. Yes, a late May (the month of May) snow storm! I blogged about my adventures and the high risk life of a children's author.

Georgia is an amazing artist and painter, she's been hooked on chalk pastels since grade four. She graduated from the Alberta College of Art in 1982 and first used her art to entertain children in her sunday school class. Her published works include "A Team Like No Other""The Saturday Appaloosa""Bibi and the Bull","The Strongest Man This Side of Cremona""Tiger's New Cowboy Boots", and more. Here's an example of some of her other work. 

Lots of Barred Rocks 

Illustrating is largely self-taught. What tools did you use to learn your craft and develop your talent?

For me, illustrating was self taught in the way I was a compulsive drawer as a child. My dad would bring "free" paper home from work. I did take Visual Communications at the Alberta College of Art for four years but the instructors never really "taught" a class. They would give an assignment and then they would critique the finished work. The most important tool for me as an illustrator is time -time to draw.     

Illustrating is a solitary pursuit and involves a lot of time in the Sasquatch cave (or what I like to call butt in chair time). How do you stay connected with the illustrating community and how does that help you develop as an illustrator? 

Yes, it is a solitary life. I meet up with other children's authors and illustrators a few times a year at Young Authors Conferences. When I'm at a school, waiting for the children to file into the library for my presentation, I often flip through books that the librarian has displayed. And once in a while I go to see what is new at a book store. That helps me to see what the trends are and what there is too much of. Reading articles in art magazines helps me to develop as an illustrator. 

How has attending conferences contributed to your development as an illustrator and your professional career? Why is it important for the aspiring illustrator to attend conferences?

I have never attended a conference but only presented or instructed. But I still get to talk to other authors and illustrators at conferences and hear their unique journeys and their advice which is extremely valuable.

Was there a turning point in your career when you went from trying to be an illustrator to 'wow, I'm really doing this and making it happen'?

My first two books were sort of "dead ends" that for years did not lead to other books. A steady flow of books began with my third book, and at that time I began to do steady school visits as well. Without the school visits, I never could have made a living. 

"Man cannot live on royalties alone." - Georgia Graham 

True dat, Georgia, true dat!

Georgia Graham will be presenting at the Collaboration Conference October 1st, 2011. Registration is now open and closes August 25th. Contact Pamela for more information or check the SCBWI West Canada web site.  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Interview with Pat Kozak - Presenter SCBWI Collaboration Conference Calgary Oct. 1

Pat Kozak will be presenting at the SCBWI Canada West Calgary Conference Collaboration on October 1st, 2011.

I had a chance to catch up with her and ask her some burning questions I had about comma splices, sour ju jubes, and the elusive world of editing. I *cough* edited the editor's interview ...

How does one become an editor? Did you stay behind at recess and pour over Strunk and White? What tools did you use to learn your craft and develop your talent?

I’m sure some kids — perhaps those who studied Strunk and White at recess — know they want to be editors while they are still in school. I assume these dedicated individuals go on to take the appropriate formal training then dive straight into an editing career. However, I don’t know anyone who has done this, and it certainly wasn’t the case with me. I didn’t become an editor until my own kids had left high school.

Most editors I know became editors by editing. That may sound trite, but it’s true for many of us. We come from diverse professional backgrounds and often start editing because someone in the workplace asks us to check a piece of writing. Once we find out how much fun editing is, and that we are actually pretty good at it, we start wondering whether we could become “real” editors.

The way we learn our craft depends on what sort of editing we are considering, e.g., scientific, corporate, literary, etc.  But, we all need to brush up on grammar, punctuation, and the current writing styles in our chosen fields. Once we feel confident about those basics, we take courses and also ask experienced editors about editing methods and processes. Then we practise, practise, practise, and network, network, network. Finally, we get work as editors. But we never stop learning our craft or developing our talent.

I came to editing via my second career as a professional writer. I regularly edited annual reports and newsletter articles but I did not get hooked until I started copy editing one of the small magazines I wrote for. Then I decided I wanted to edit fiction and creative non-fiction. I was lucky enough to get a contract with a local publisher to edit biographies. I considered this my apprenticeship because I edited under the direction of a series editor. I was also freelancing during this period and found it suited me very well. By the time the publisher disappeared from the scene (publishing is a tough business) I was considering retirement, so freelancing was the obvious and, as it turns out, perfect choice for me.

If any of you have a hankering to join the editing ranks, I encourage you to give it a try. It is a demanding but rewarding occupation, and you meet really great people — writers.

The Editor’s Association of Canada now offers a certification program.  

The theme of the conference is collaboration; can editing truly be a collaborative endeavour? By the time a writer gets published I'm thinking they'd agree to anything the editor suggests.

From the viewpoint of a freelance editor, editing is definitely a collaborative process. (This may not always be the case with in-house editors because the publishing house could be looking for particular content or want the book written in their house style.)

I feel my role is to help writers reach their writing goals, whether that is to explain their ideas more clearly, express their thoughts more creatively, or be consistent in their chosen style. I give feedback, suggestions, and examples. I do not dictate or manipulate. It’s not my book!

How has attending conferences contributed to your development as an editor and your professional career? Why is it important for the aspiring editor to attend conferences?

Attending lectures, presentations, and workshops offered by the Calgary Association of Freelance Editors and the Editor’s Association of Canada has contributed to my development as an editor by introducing me to different aspects of editing and related fields. Editing, like writing, is a solitary occupation, so it’s important to get away from your desk and talk shop once in a while. Even if you think you already know all there is to know about the subjects under discussion, not only will you learn something, you will come away from a conference feeling pumped by all the creative energy.

I've never met a comma I didn't splice. What's your favourite punctuation mark and why? What punctuation makes your eyes hurt and keeps you up at night? 

During the first month of a journalism course, I had a paper downgraded from A to A- for the sin of creating a comma splice. That incident did not give me nightmares about semi-colons or commas, but it gave me a greater respect for punctuation in general. My favourite punctuation mark is any mark that has been used correctly.

Some see dead people, you must see grammatical errors everywhere you look - how do you stop yourself from taking out a sharpie and correcting them?

Yes, I do see errors everywhere. For the first few years of my editing life it took a great deal of self control not to do a Lynne Truss — especially at restaurants. But these days, even menus are safe from me. I don’t know why; perhaps I have just mellowed.  However, if a waiter inadvertently left a sharpie at my table, he might discover that it’s had been changed to its, and that desert had become dessert.

While I joke about punctuation and grammar, editing is about more than that. If a writer has a good editor it can take their story to a whole different level. What elements does an editor bring to a piece that a writer can't?

In my opinion, there are only two things writers cannot bring to their own writing; a fresh pair of eyes and a different perspective. That is what we provide.

I've been open on my blog about my disturbing addiction to sour ju jubes. Is there a sweet treat that you like that makes your editing hours sing?

There is not a treat in sight at my desk. But if the copy sings, so does my heart.

Nice save Pat! 

Pat Kozak will be presenting at the Collaboration Conference October 1st, 2011. 

Registration is now open and you need to register by August 25th . Contact Pamela for more information or check the SCBWI West Canada web site.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interview with Lincoln Agnew - Presenter SCBWI Collaboration Conference Calgary Oct. 1

Lincoln Agnew will be presenting at the SCBWI Canada West Calgary Conference Collaboration on October 1st, 2011.

Lincoln attended the Alberta College of Art and Design, where he obtained degrees in both illustration and photography. Lincoln made his debut as a picture book illustrator with Harry and Horsie, for which he won the 2009 Society of Illustrators "The Original Art" Founder's Award as well as the Marion Vannett Ridgway Award. And his book has a strange and unusual connection to David Letterman.  

I had the pleasure of interviewing him (actually I just emailed him the questions and when he was finished devouring a bag of Doritos Sweet Chili Heat - he emailed the answers back to me). 

Q. Illustrating is largely self-taught. What tools did you use to learn your craft and develop your talent?    

A. In the beginning I just used a pencil and watched a lot of, studied ninja movies.  I spent a lot of time drawing ninjas as a child, I haven't been asked to do it since but the process definitely helped me understand the structure of human form as well as the awesome power of Ninjutsu.  

Yes, well who doesn't love ninjas!?

Q.  Illustrating is a solitary pursuit and involves a lot of time in the Sasquatch cave (or what I like to call butt in chair time). How do you stay connected with the illustrating community and how does that help you develop as an illustrator? 

A. I stay connected mainly through the internet, I would like to get out more but the sun burns my eyes and I'm afraid of the dark.  It's a problem. 

Illustrating and writing sasquatches the world over feel your pain.

Q. How has attending conferences contributed to your development as an illustrator and your professional career? Why is it important for the aspiring illustrator to attend conferences?

A. I enjoy these conferences because it gives you the opportunity to meet others who share similar struggles.  Not everyone understands the difficulties of being a freelance illustrator so it's nice to meet those who are far more successful.  It not only gives you hope, it also fuels your bitterness and hunger which in turn strengthens your artwork.

Q. Was there a turning point in your career when you went from trying to be an illustrator to 'wow, I'm really doing this and making it happen'? 

A. I think the turning point was quitting my 9-5 job.... I didn't have any plans at the time to be an illustrator, but I did have plans to do something more creative. Every mistake that I've made since that day has led me to this moment but I wouldn't be here without the love and support of family and friends.  It's not an easy road, it still isn't... but something inside of me won't let me stop.  They made this "happen" more than I did, I'm just trying to make them proud.  

Q. I've been open on this blog about my somewhat disturbing addition to sour ju jubes. Is there a sweet treat that makes your pen sing?

A. I'm not a big sweet tooth, I like salty snacks.  I have a small addiction to Sweet Chili Heat Doritos but I can't eat them while I draw because the artificial flavouring gets all over my sketchbook.  I thought at one point that it might add the look of my work, but sadly no... the aesthetic of orange fingerprints enhances very little.  

Harry and Horsie - Lincoln Agnew Illustrator
Lincoln Agnew will be presenting at the Collaboration Conference October 1st, 2011. Registration is now open. Contact Pamela for more information or check the SCBWI West Canada web site.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Interview with Hazel Hutchins - Presenter SCBWI Collaboration Conference Calgary Oct. 1

Hazel Hutchins is an award winning Canadian children's author living in Canmore, Alberta. She's written picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and has more than forty books published internationally. And I have to tell you, she's one of the most humble people I've ever met. 

Hazel will be presenting at the SCBWI Western Canada Calgary Conference Collaboration where she will share with us what she's learned over the years as a children's author. 

Here's the interview I did with Hazel:  

Q.  Writing is largely self-taught. What tools did you use to learn your craft and develop your talent?

A.  Reading .... lots and lots .... from Superman comics to Faulkner.  When I had young children I brought home twenty picture books at a time from the library, went through them in a few days, and headed back for more.

I took the Alberta Writers Guild course by mail.  John Patrick Gillese really knew his stuff.  (I almost wrote "online course" but it was before computers. Come to think of it, my first book was done on a manual typewriter.  Good grief.  I AM old.)

Local community class in fiction writing. I don't think I actually learned anything of writing value at the course but it's where I met my wonderful friend and occasional co-author Gail Herbert.
Membership in organizations that had newsletters with writing tips and current market information. (LOVE YOU Writers Guild of Alberta!)

And, wherever I am, if I see a magazine with anything about writing, I stop everything and read like crazy.  It may have THE secret!

Q. Writing is a solitary pursuit and involves a lot of time in the Sasquatch cave (or what I like to call butt in chair time). How do you stay connected with the writing community and how does that help you develop as a writer?

A. I love the writing friends I've made.  However in some ways I think my partial isolation (living in a smaller centre and having a nature that is capable of being social for only limited amounts of time before I NEED to be alone) has helped to keep me focused on the work of writing.

Q. How has attending conferences contributed to your development as a writer and your professional career? Why is it important for the aspiring writer to attend conferences?

A. I get jealous when I realize what others have done and get more determined to do good work myself! Conferences are excellent....but always, always, always, my best advice to aspiring writers is to write.  Actually begin.  Actually finish.  Actually rewrite.  Actually submit.

Q. Was there a turning point in your career when you went from trying to be a writer to 'wow, I'm really doing this and making it happen'?

A. I'm always still trying to be a writer.  I'm always looking for a great idea and a way to write it better, smarter, more uniquely.  The "wow" for me is never about "career", it's all about the work itself -- the quest for that magical moment when a new insight steps forward and a story moves to a higher level. Yes!!!!

Great advice Hazel, it's back to the sasquatch writing cave for me! On with the quest!

Registration for the conference closes August 25th. Contact Pamela for more information. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Collaboration! SCBWI Calgary Writers/Illustrators Conference

Calling all children's book writers and illustrators! SCBWI Canada West is hosting a fall conference in Calgary Saturday October 1, 2011.                                                                                    

The theme is "Collaboration", examining the relationships between author and illustrator, co-authors, and author and editor.

Over the next two weeks I'll be posting interviews with the four presenters. I can't tell you what the questions will be but you can expect that they will have something to do with sour ju jubes, the sasquatch as a mascot for writers, and taking over the literary world one collaboration at a time! 

If you read my 'how I got published' story on this blog you'll know the role that attending conferences played in my journey to find a publisher.  

The conference will explore the following themes: How much direction can an author provide the illustrator of her picture book? How does an illustrator approach and interpret a new manuscript? Can two authors really collaborate on one book? What can you expect when working with an editor? How can a writer approach rewriting once the first draft is complete? 

Guest speakers are Lincoln Agnewillustrator; Georgia Graham author and illustrator; Hazel Hutchins, author; and Pat Kozak, professional freelance editor.

Join us at the Wingate Inn, Calgary, October 1st, 8:30 - 5:00 pm for information 
and inspiration. An informal social gathering is optional from 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm. 

Registration is $80 for SCBWI members, $90 for non-members. 

For more information, visit the SCBWI Western Canada website or contact the SCBWI Regional Coordinator Pamela McDowell

Registration deadline is August 25th, 2011 - which is soon people!