Monday, December 7, 2009

is your story worth telling?

That was one of the questions posed at this weekend's SCBWI workshop taught by children's book writer Deborah Davis, author of Not Like You (Clarion, 2007) . It was also a question that really made me think, and to answer it, yes, I think my magical-realism book, Trevelyn's Shimmer, is worth telling, and here's why:

Ever since I was a kid, I've disliked coming up against mean, nasty people - who doesn't, right? But I mean, I really, really don't like it, and I don't see why some people feel it necessary to be purposefully rude - I hate that. So that is the feeling I've loaned to the protagonist in my book, Marie, to tell. She dislikes when people fight and she wants the world to be a better place and the people living in it to be happy. But she's not finding happiness in her fifth-grade class or with any of the kids in her small town, especially Landon, a boy for whom she has mixed feelings. So when she finds a large balloon attached to a swing, locked away in her garage, Marie suddenly dreams of a world where everybody is always happy and smiling - a world which she knows she can find with the help of the balloon.

After I scribbled down my thoughts from above in class on Saturday, Mrs. Davis posed another question: maybe what your character originally thought she wanted turns out to be something else?

This, of course, made me think some more, and I realized that she was right. Marie's initial intentions are to find a better world with kinder people where she can live, but really what she wants is to just fit in - something that can be extremely difficult when you're 11-years-old and trying to figure out who you are.

The workshop was filled with other helpful tips as well, like how to overcome writer's fatigue and angst. I especially liked her name for that nagging voice in your head which tries to convince you that you're no good - the "itty bitty shitty committee." Writer or not, everybody has that voice, and her advice was to bargain with it. Ask it what you need to do to make it stop, but listen to it as well because it is a part of you and has its own wisdom to give, no matter how annoying.

And finally, this statement struck a chord: "Ideas are always ready to come as long as you're willing to write them down." I think this rings true for all aspects of life, whether you're trying to start your own business, looking for a new job, or searching for a plot to a new novel, write your thoughts down - you never know when something might become useful!

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