Monday, October 19, 2009

And The Winner Is...

Robin Constantine is the winner of my First Pages Blog Contest. She will be receiving the Mad Libs American Idol edition, where she may use adverbs as freely as she pleases.

I appreciate those of you who shared what you've learned. You rock!

Friday, October 16, 2009

First Pages: An American Idol for Writers

First Pages create lots of buzz at SCBWI conferences. Writers can choose to turn in a first page of a manuscript. If the page is picked, it will be read in front of a panel of experts (usually editors and agents) and an audience of conference participants. These sessions are a bit like an American Idol for writers. You hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. Everyone wants to watch, but only the brave participate. Sometimes the feedback is brutal. At least names are left off the manuscripts, so a bad “audition” won’t cost you your dignity. Every now and then, a piece will shine.

I’ve watched American Idol since the first season. I pride myself in my ability to predict what the different judges will say after a performance. This is the beauty of attending a First Pages session. As the panel responds to the pages, those listening get a better understanding of what editors and agents want to see and what turns them off. Although I’ve never had a piece read during one, I can still apply the feedback.

For example, during the last SCBWI Carolinas Fall Conference, an editor pointed out that it was not a good idea to use brand names in a manuscript, because it can make your work seem dated in later years. This was new to me, and I was able to change the brand names in my work in progress to generic ones before sending it out again.

So what have you learned from a First Pages session? Leave a comment and follow my blog. On Monday, one sharer will be randomly picked to receive the AMERICAN IDOL MAD LIBS edition. Remember, I must be able to contact you to send you a prize, so make sure you leave me your twitter name or email address if I can’t find it through your blog account. I will only mail the prize to a U.S. address. Good luck, and thanks for sharing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

David Macinnis Gill's YA Workshop

YA stands for young adult, and according to SOUL ENCHILADA author David Macinnis Gill, YA is a marketing category, not a genre. At the SCBWI Carolinas Fall Conference, he explained what YA is and how it distinguishes itself from middle grade and adult books.

Generally, YA books span ages 12 to 18+. But not all YA is appropriate for 12-year-olds. As YA reaches out for college students, the themes become darker and more complex. The language and content of YA books often keep them off the shelves of libraries.

So how do you know if a book is a YA? Gill listed four characteristics:
*a teen main character
*an inherently teenage story problem
*written for a teen audience
*told in the here-and-now, rather than from adult retrospection.

Middle grade and young adult books can share similar characteristics and have an overlapping audience. The main difference between the two is intensity. In a middle grade book, romance might involve hand holding or some kissing. Young adult takes it further. In middle grade books, a bully might hit or push. In a young adult story, a bully might kill or cause serious injuries. In a middle grade book, a teacher might be mean. In a young adult book, the teacher might be a predator.

Writers should have a good idea who their audience is when pitching manuscripts, but the final decision is often out of their hands. Editors, sales and marketing, and agents help decide a book’s category.