***If you are following me AND leave a comment in this thread by 5 PM PST Tuesday, 5/25, you will be entered to win a $10 iTunes gift card. Plus you will receive one entry each toward the query crit by my agent Laura Bradford and the ten-page crit by writer Eleanor Morse. Full details here.

Workshop: Met with the four writers in my workshop, led by Julie Brickman. We discussed our pre-reading – excerpts from Gone to Soldiers and House of Sand and Fog – before spending an hour workshopping MY piece. Tomorrow I will share my piece, the feedback and tips that might be helpful. Today, let me just say – it was AWESOME! Great feedback and one of the greatest compliments I’ve received – that I’d written a lot of lines that writers would kill to have written. <- That is going above my desk.

Lunch/Closure Meeting with Eleanor Morse: Falafel. Hummus. Pita. Eleanor Morse. Discussion of writing. Heaven. Eleanor has been the greatest mentor I could have asked for this last semester. She will have to saw off a leg to escape me at this point as I consider her a for-the-rest-of-my-writing-life kind of mentor.

Nap: We’re supposed to pace ourselves. I interpreted that as attend every lecture available. Today it caught up with me.

Lecture: Surrender: The Act of Method Writing
Silas House, Lecturer
My favorite lecture so far. I wish all of the YA writers could have heard this one – though its applicable to all writing. Lots of great tips.

  • Method Writing is all about giving yourself over to your characters. Try the things you have them doing. Experience what they experience so you can ground yourself in who they are. Store up the emotions from the moment caused to put them into your writing.
  • Let your characters have the freedom to veer from the plan you’ve made for them. You have to find a balance between knowing when to let your characters run wild and when to rein them in. The revision process is when you tighten things up.
  • Music can be a great way to get to know your character. Figure out what kind of music they would listen to and try listening to that music when you write. Silas also sends the soundtrack to his editor so she can listen to it when she’s editing.
  • As a rule, use everything in your arsenal – be naked on the page. Readers won’t know it’s your shame and hurt playing out on the pages.
  • Know the secret that your character would never share with another. This helps you to dive into who they are.
  • An exercise he did when writing his YA novel was to have his young daughters take pictures of the things that mattered to them. These pictures helped him add color to his character, reminded him how children are always looking up (perspective), and reminded him about a child’s sense of wonder.

Book-in-Common Lecture: Chopin’s Garden
Eleanor Morse, Lecturer
Eleanor discussed her writing process for her novel Chopin’s Garden, including where she got the idea, her research methods, and how it made it into print. It was interesting to hear her struggles with POV (she switched from 1st to 3rd multiple times) and with plot since she is a character-driven writer.

Discussion with David Kipen: The Schreiber Theory
Featured Author David Kipen
This man is hilarious. When he asked how many of us read his book and we all raised our hands, he whipped out a phone to take a picture of us to email to his mother. His book is all about how credit owed to screenwriters is given to directors. He likens it to book editors getting credit for the books they edit rather than the writer. He made an interesting point that TV writers are getting more credit, and you can see writers migrating to TV “from space.” Hence, the better quality of TV over film lately. Really great Q&A session where we got to barrage him with questions.

Dinner: Great conversations with fellow writers over my favorite – Pasta night!

Student Readings: 3rd and 4th semester students read from their works or act out their plays. It’s a good opportunity to practice reading your work in front of a crowd. I’m up on Wednesday, much to my everlasting terror.

*These tips are all my own paraphrases. This blog series is not sponsored by Spalding or its faculty.