Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Help Me Out Here, People!

Next April I will be speaking at the Los Angeles SCBWI spring Writer's Day about . . . I have no idea. Picture books? Query letters? Voice? Character? How much I hate David Rosenthal, the new producer of "Gilmore Girls"? (I'm watching it right now, and Chris and Lorelai being married is just nine kinds of wrong.) I really want to get a head start on this, and you all gave me great guidance last time, so please -- tell me what I should talk about!

(Also, if I might brag a bit, very small-ly: My "Art of Detection" talk has had over a thousand hits in less than a month! I am pleased.)


  1. I know! Tell us what happens in Harry Potter 7!!!

  2. I haven't seen Gilmore Girls in a while. Chris and Lorelai got married?

  3. How about picture books? I'd like to read one of your talks about what makes a good picture book.

  4. You yourself suggested this when talking about Elizabeth's book:

    "I'm always fascinated by stories of the book behind the book and the brain behind the book -- the anatomy of the book, perhaps, the assemblage of parts and mind and spirit that makes a novel live."

    I can dig it. The editorial process as collaboration. Also, what authors can do to make the process move along smoothly. And how to get along!

  5. I second Lizzy. I'd love to hear your thoughts on picture books.

  6. pbs: American pbs generally have some sort of message--something for the reader to take away from the story. Slice-of-life is a hard sell unless one is Mo Willems writing about a pigeon. We're told that our characters must grow and change over the course of a story. Growth = message, IMO. However, an overtly stated message is dubbed didactic and is thus shunned.

    What exactly lies between a heavy-handed message and a story that gives readers nothing to take away? (Yep, I admit it: I'm guilty of both. I even have one ms that is in itself guilty of both! Is it any wonder I'm confused?)

    I've always thought that a message cloaked in silliness, absurdity, or cleverness was one answer. What are some others? And what are the features of the terrain between didactic and nothing-to-take-away? How will I know when I'm there?

    novels: How does one achieve character depth? How does one create characters that elicit an emotional connection in readers?

    Take it away, Cheryl! This west-coaster will be on the east coast in April, thank you very much. Pfffft.


  7. I'd also love to hear what you have to say about what makes a great picture book.

  8. So many good suggestions already. I like to hear editors tell stories about their experiences with authors/manuscripts/illustrators. Anecdotes. I also like to be given writing exercises. Inspirational quotes are good too.
    Publishing basics are great, but anyone who's been to a couple of conferences should know what that is all about. The anecdotes are interesting and give a picture of practical experience.
    Will you be at the summer LA conference too?
    Angela from Arizona

  9. My wish would be for you to talk about how to write magic, that delicious, seductive storytelling that keeps the reader turning the page, living in the book. Who has it? How did they get there? Why is it so golden?

    Talk about really amazing writing for children. I get the feeling that a lot of SCBWI writers write for themselves, not real kids. There’s piles of stuff out there about perfectly worded submissions and the mechanics of process but that’s all a waste without the story that is so wonderful that even a reluctant reader with a Game Cube calling to him can't put it down.

    I had a perfect moment today on the drive home from school. The boy told me all about "Matilda" by Roald Dahl. He was totally into it and told me all about it with great enthusiasm. It was like he was talking about his friends, people he knew, and it made me completely and utterly happy.


    We don't need lists of rights and wrongs,
    tables of do's and don'ts:
    we need books, time, and silence.
    Thou shalt not is soon forgotten,
    but Once upon a time lasts forever.

    Philip Pullman

  10. Well, I kind of like Melinda's idea... but since I don't live in LA and Lisa Yee does, maybe you two should get together for a duet.

  11. I agree about Chris and Lorelai, but that was a really good episode last night! Paris and Doyle dancing? The wolf-girl picture? Luke's tirade at the end?

    What I can't stand is the insipid Aerie girls commercials. Every week, they make me want to scream.

  12. Cheryl and Lisa sing Puccini!

    Oh, not that kind of duet.

  13. Ms. Klein,

    In regard to your “Art of Detection” talk, I’m probably responsible for a good portion of those hits. I finally printed it out and have been completely soaking in every word. I particularly enjoyed the section where you speak of Jane Austen and Hemingway. My critique group is comprised of mostly picture book writers and I write middle grade on up. Anyway, they constantly want me to break up my sentences and simplify, so where you edited Hemingway made me chuckle to no end. It also made me grateful that I had trusted my own instincts and left my sentences the way they were.

    Many thanks for sharing all your helpful articles,

    Kimberly Lynn

  14. I was there for the art of dection talk and found it interesting and useful. So happy you've gotten so many hits. How many of these talks before you can compile them into a book?

    As for L.A. I also like the idea of character development, what makes a protagonist someone you want to spend time with--how this varies in pb's and novels. OH, and here's something I've been thinking about: How dislikable can a character be before the book is dislikable? While I could never prove this theory, it seems like characters in YA novels are becoming "uglier." But I'm not convinced this makes them interesting.

  15. The best talk I've seen given at a conference was by Samantha McFerrin. She used one of her "favorite" author's titles to show how she went through the editorial process with her. I think the picture book went through at least seven rounds of revisions and she showed us the most dynamic changes. It really helped me see how to go about editing my own work.

  16. Whatever your passion is will be interesting to hear. You could take us through The Book of Everything, which
    is quite unusual, or if you have any Philip Pullman or Russell Freedman stories. You could dish on Lisa Yee although she'll be "in the house" too. Rachel did a great talk for the OC scbwi once upon a time that was so thoughtful and insightful, but you all seem to have that quality. Looking forward to whatever you decide to share.