Kendra Levin, Executive Editor at Viking Children’s Books, author of The Hero Is You, and the September speaker in the SCBWI-Metro NY Professional lecture series, shared how writers can use the hero’s journey model to create a “holistic, healthy, creative writing process.” Many writers struggle with process and experience dark moments where they wonder, “Why am I writing this?” Levin said. “Writers need to find ways to work organically and be their best selves.” (more…)
Henry Neff, author/illustrator of The Tapestry series of contemporary MG fantasy novels and our guide to world-building, began the October Professional Series lecture with an intriguing fact: J.R.R. Tolkien created the languages of Middle Earth before he imagined the world. “The invention of languages is the foundation,” Tolkien wrote. “The ‘stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows.”
“The end is in the beginning,” said Selene Castrovilla, quoting T. S. Eliot at the Metro NY SCBWI Tuesday Night Professional series on March 10, 2015. Selene spoke to a rapt crowd about the joys and challenges of writing non-fiction for children.
World-building is one of the most difficult tasks in writing fiction, said Ruta Rimas, editor at the Atheneum and Margaret K. McElderry imprints at Simon & Schuster, in the June Professional Lecture. The world of a book must be thoroughly imagined, audience-engaging, composed of authentic details, activated by voice, and event-driven, she said. And regardless of genre, from contemporary realistic to high fantasy, the world must be “inspired by reality.” (more…)
Writers who struggle with the concept of voice are frequently told, “You know it when you see it.” As Heather Alexander, assistant editor at Dial Books for Young Readers, pointed out, editors and agents also note when they don’t see it. Creating a strong, fresh voice is essential, she said, for making a book stand out.
In five “voice lessons,” Alexander discussed how writers can use voice to reveal character effectively. Here are the five components of voice that she recommended mastering, along with book recommendations where those elements of voice shine. (more…)
“Setting is like the forgotten child in writing,” said Michele Burke, editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House Children’s Books, at the January 2012 Professional Lecture.
It’s much less talked about than voice or character. Yet, Burke said, “mining your setting can help tell your story.”
She defined setting as “the world your characters inhabit” and added, “There’s an emotional heft to places.” While ‘world-building’ is usually understood as necessary for fantasy writing, Burke said it’s important for any book set in an unfamiliar world, including historical fiction. In picture books, much of the setting is conveyed through the illustrations.
Middle grade and YA author Nora Raleigh Baskin spoke on “Turning Fact into Fiction” at the May 8th Tuesday Night Professional Lecture. Author of eight novels and winner of the 2010 ALA Schneider Award, Baskin discussed how to find the story within one’s own memories and use it in writing fiction.
Baskin’s road to publication was a nine-year journey. It was not until she discovered truth within her own writing – and learned more about the publishing business, thanks to joining SCBWI!–that she found the path to success. “Don’t ever feel anything is wasted,” she told the audience.