By Susanne Marie Poulette
It was another great conference this year. Kudos to Jan Kardys, and all the dedicated organizers and staff of the Unicorn Writers’ Conference! Now, my takeaways, as promised:
♦ Stephanie Evanovich gave the keynote address. She’s as funny in person as she is in print, a first class comedian with a drama background, and what a hoot. Stephanie told about her path to publication, much faster than the typical book launch, but nothing to do with the surname she shares with her aunt, Janet Evanovich. Although she hasn’t suffered the throes of years of rejections like so many of us, Stephanie made it clear that she understands the frustrations of trying to snag a book deal. Her message was one of encouragement. She urged writers to persevere, to have confidence in their writing and in their voices, and resist giving up in the face of rejection. She cautioned against reading one’s own reviews. Stephanie cited an example of a criticism made to her about point-of-view, saying that it threw her for a loop (my words, not an exact quote, but that’s the idea). I admit that I had the very same experience in a writing group, that sent me reeling, but also sent me researching extensively. I learned that some comments can be well meaning and helpful, but they can also be incorrect and derail the writing process.
Stephanie said each reviewer has their own opinion, and we can’t please them all. The important thing is to keep writing and growing as a writer. She gave a great example of a poor review when someone apparently got caught up in a Tangle of Names. The confused reviewer wrote that “Evanovich” should stick to writing about her long-time protagonist, Stephanie Plum—who, by the way, is the star of her Aunt Janet’s series. So much for reviews, eh? I do want to add that I just picked up Stephanie’s latest book. I have this annoying habit of laughing out loud while reading, (it annoys others, not me) and this book doesn’t help me break that pattern. If you like a good laugh, you’ll enjoy Big Girl Panties.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
♦ Beena Kamlani is a senior editor at Penguin Viking, an award winning author, and professor. Due to a review appointment, I attended only the first half of her workshop on editing. How I wish I could have heard more. I’d love to pop downstate to Hunter College and take her editing course. She speaks beautifully about the art of writing. I’ll share my snippets:
Memoir: Never overextend the readers, let the book reveal your story, bit by bit. Immediacy is important, let readers drink it in, in the present tense. Make them see what you saw, and let your feelings for what you saw speak to them.
Fiction: Drop breadcrumbs for the reader and follow through with a reason for everything. Don’t reveal too much all at once. Dramatize, don’t tell everything. All dialog has to have a reason, but what characters don’t say is as important as what they do say. It heightens interest when the reader doesn’t know. Think about what makes you turn the page. Don’t refresh the reader’s memory, trust the reader to remember, and continue on with your story.
Click on the book for a video of Beena Kamlani describing how a developmental editor works with an author on the path to publication:
♦ Lane Heymont, literary agent and author, presented “World Building,” that is, creating settings. He described the infrastructure of a story, creating a consistent society with norms, culture, and rules. Setting needs a history to give the sense of its existence. It should be realistic, using the five senses to build a unique world, but it has to make sense. Share the world of your setting throughout the book, not all at once, and get to the action right away.
Lane suggests making a setting sketch and provided a downloadable handout for those who attended his workshop. Since it’s out there on the web, it may be fair game if you want to take a peek: http://laneheymont.com/blog/.
♦ Eliza Shallcross, author, editor, and copywriter with 30 years of experience, presented “Book Copy as a Marketing Tool.” Before this workshop, I didn’t have a clue about “book cover copy,” or any of its numerous components. Apparently, book cover copy services ( good tongue twister?) are part of the traditional publishing process, but I wonder how many self-publishing authors are aware of all the marketing factors involved in cover copy. So what is it? It applies to all types of books, hardcover, mass market paperback, trade paperback, and eBook. It’s everything that goes on a book’s front and back covers, and flaps. It’s the artwork, title, tag line (short teaser), author’s name with photo and biography, quotes from reviews, story description, and more, all within word count limitations. The book cover itself is the marketing tool, appealing to the reader and growing the author’s readership. Eliza Shallcross provides individual editing and copywriting services. You can find her at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizashallcross.
Sorry, but I’m hoarding the pearls of wisdom from my two excellent one-to-one manuscript review sessions (first 40 pages). All kidding aside, the reviews were invaluable, and I’m hard at work making revisions based on their suggestions. The Unicorn Writers’ Conference provides these affordable, 30-minute sessions with agents, editors, and speakers. I hope you can attend this conference and the review session opportunities next year.
© S M Poulette