Thursday, February 2, 2012

Authors and Workshops and Signings, Oh My!

Being a writer is an interesting job. It's something that I don't feel particularly confident about, even though I love it. Even though other people tell me I'm pretty good at it. I'm constantly trying to learn more about this craft I'm so passionate about. I'm sure I'm not alone in these feelings. In fact, I can bet that at least 74 other people experience these same emotions, because we were all at the same writing conference this past Saturday.

I'm not saying that there aren't confident writers. I'm sure there probably are. But I think, in general, that writers (and artists of any kind) are always skeptical about their talent. We never really trust that we're good enough, and so spend all of our time learning how to be better. For those of us who write, conferences can do that, and I highly recommend attending one in your area if you can.

I spent Saturday with my friend Skye (who runs a blog here). We arrived at 8:30 in the morning to get our schedules for the day. Luckily, we were able to get coordinating schedules and attended all of our workshops together. There were 4 workshops offered, and each attendee was able to choose 3. Skye and I began our morning in the Heroes and Villains workshop, taught by Aprilynne Pike (the Wings series), Kiersten White (Paranormalcy and Supernaturally), and Anna Carey (Eve).

We learned that often, when writers sit down to develop their heroes and villains, their villain ends up more well-rounded. We think about our heroes, and plot out basic characteristics and traits. Then we move on to our villain. We put more thought into the villain, giving them qualities that will challenge our hero, while still giving them a backstory that will make them relatable to readers. At this point, most writers (myself included) need to remember to go back and flesh out the heroes, giving them characteristics that create good tension between them and the villain. For a hero/villain relationship to work, to give the story excellent tension and conflict, the hero and the villain need to be a matched pair (not necessarily like Harry and Voldemort, but they need to complement each other, challenge each other).

Highlights of the Heroes/Villains workshop: being assigned Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog for homework, Anna Carey's fresh twist on the Hero's Journey outline, building a hero and villain with Aprilynne Pike

Our second workshop was on Unforgettable Characters, taught by James Owen (Chronicles of the Imaginarium series), Adam Rex (Fat Vampire), and Bree Despain (Dark Divine series). I have to say I was a little bored in this workshop, but it was probably because it was their second one of the day, and they didn't want to rehash everything they'd already discussed in the first session. I did learn a few things though, like even secondary characters are main characters in their own story (and can become unforgettable). James Owen stressed that you never really know what's going to cause a character to become unforgettable, so pour all your best ideas into each one (you'll always have good ideas, so don't worry about saving them for later).

The best part of this workshop was...

Adam Rex's steamship-goggle-fish! He drew it on the whiteboard while James Owen listed off the stereotypes of steampunk. I wanted to get a picture of it, but Adam erased it before I could. When I made it to his signing table and he asked me what he could draw for me, I immediately asked for it, and he was happy to oblige. :)

Once our second workshop was over, we headed to lunch. Five of the authors were unfortunate enough to be on a panel about the differences between YA and middle grade (which meant they had to eat between questions, and on a stage in front of everyone). Adam Rex was on the panel, and he opened with, "Last night, I had a dream that an audience watched me eat a sandwich..." And then everyone laughed. :P

The highlight of lunch was: eating with Kiersten White! That's right people, I got to sit and eat lunch with Kiersten White (and Anna Carey, who is equally awesome but not as famous). She was super friendly, and was willing to answer any questions we had about writing and publishing. Once lunch was over, she signed my books and Skye and I headed off to our last workshop of the day, Edgy Fiction.

Edgy Fiction was taught by Tom Leveen (Party) and Cecil Castellucci (First Day on Earth). I can't remember if I mentioned this in a previous post, but I took a dialogue workshop with Tom a couple weeks ago. He's hysterical, and Edgy Fiction didn't disappoint. He and Cecil taught us that every character should have the same things Superman has (a superpower, a thing they love, a weakness, an enemy, and a secret place). Try it with your favorite character...I guarantee it works on all of them! We did writing exercises in this workshop, which frighten me a little, but even those were fun and taught me things. Cecil and Tom together brought a lot of energy and fun to a sometimes serious topic, and I loved it. :D

I encourage everyone who's able to attend a writing conference at some point in their life. It will change you for the better. :) If any of you have questions about my experience, feel free to ask in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them!


PS For your listening pleasure, a song that never fails to make me wiggle where I'm standing/sitting/lying down. Enjoy!


  1. Gah that sounds like so much fun! Thanks for the little synopses (synopsises?) as well. I think I'll try the Superman bit...

  2. Conferences are awesome. Hours packed full of overwhelming information and being with your own kind. Glad you had a great time! I love the superman tip.

    Love A Fine Frenzy!!

  3. That sounds great. Makes me all the more excited for LTUE next week. Love the fish! :)

  4. But Superman is now one of the worst characters ever. It's horrible. He's good in concept, but he sucks in the comics. And the movies.
    Smallville did pretty well with him, but that's because he was limited.

  5. This was a really good write up, and the conference sounds so useful, you obviously got a lot out of it. I'd love to attend one at some point. One day :-)

  6. Thanks a bunch for sharing your experience at all those workshops. I found out a bit late and couldn't make it. Crossing fingers for next year.


Now that you took the time to read my message, let's see what you have to say! Unless it's mean...then you can just keep it to yourself. :)