ABC Event with Lois Szymanski and Edie Hemingway: Accomplished Authors Headline Workshop in Delaware

Happy Monday, everyone!

Can you believe there’s only twelve–count them–twelve days until the Creating Sparks: Kindle the Fire of Imagination Conference?? There’s still time to register, so if you haven’t already, hustle your booty on over to our regional website to sign up.

Well, don’t hustle quite yet.

First you have to read this awesome report on our recent ABC event!

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Saturday, June 16, about twenty Delawarean SCBWI members gathered at the Newark, DE library to hear our Co-Regional Advisors, Edie Hemingway and Lois Szymanski, share their advice and experience. Audience members also had the chance to ask questions related to their own work and writing processes.

“I swore to myself that I wouldn’t miss this,” said one audience member. “These workshops always inspire me – and motivate me to write.”

Delaware SCBWI members Carolyn Griffith and Loretta Carlson share some of the highlights.

From Idea to Inspiration: Folders from My Writing Life

In her presentation, Lois shared tips she’s gleaned in the course of publishing twenty books. Inspired to the writing life as a child by her favorite book, Misty of Chincoteague, Lois has written many books about the famed Assateague ponies and about the sea – a fact that illustrates two of her important principles for writing success:

1) Write about what makes you passionate.
2) Turn your research into as many publishable projects as possible.

Lois also shared her perspective on

1) finding and generating story ideas from interviews, research, dreams, and pure serendipity
2) knowing your characters and setting inside and out
3) working through writer’s block
4) organizing your revision process
5) creating a writing process that works for you
6) remaining true to your story – even when it means forgoing a publishing contract.

True to the dictum, “show, don’t tell,” Lois entertained us with examples from her own books. The first editor interested in Wild Colt, for example, wanted to change its ending in a way that violated Lois’s sense of the heart of the story. Six years later, Lois sold the book to another editor – and was paired with an illustrator who knew each of the 150 Assateague ponies by name, an illustrator who shared her passion for the story.

“Write what you love and love what you write – and don’t give up!” Lois says.

Fresh Perspectives: Show Don’t Tell

After a short break—enjoying delectable desserts and refreshing drinks, of course—we settled down for the second half of the event: a presentation on the tried-and-true topic of showing versus telling. This time, middle-grade author Edie Hemingway, whose co-written novel, Broken Drum, is currently optioned for a movie, led the way. She and Lois offered thought-provoking examples that demonstrated how plain vanilla sentences can be turned into memorable prose.

As both Edie and Lois stressed, the most effective way of showing is by immersing ourselves in our main character’s point of view. How does she feel? What does she see, hear, taste, and sense?

When we get inside our character’s head and walk around in his shoes for a while, our scenes will come alive. Our readers will find the stories irresistible as they, too, enter our character’s world and feel as if they are living the story along with him.

Of course, the speakers also reinforced the importance of using strong visual verbs instead of relying on adverbs to add all the color. Adverbs add a layer of distance and take the reader out of the story.

For additional ideas, they suggested that reading the work of authors we admire, as writers, and consciously studying their scenes to see how they bring characters to life. We can even learn to spot showing and telling by reading our own work aloud.

Edie’s most important piece of advice: trust yourself. We know our characters better than anyone else. Let’s show the readers what we know.

Many thanks to Edie, Lois, and Registration Coordinator and Listserv Moderator Sue Poduska for making the long trek to Delaware. Besides offering ideas and inspiration, the event was a rare and worthwhile opportunity for Delaware SCBWI writers to reconnect and meet others in the local writing community.

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Awesome, thanks so much, Carolyn and Loretta, for such a great report! You both made me feel as though I were there, too. 🙂 Thanks, also, to Naomi Milliner, ABC Coordinator, and to Sue Peters, another lovely Delaware member, for sending me the photos and report. Delaware rocks!

Happy writing and drawing, everyone!

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About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, and blogger at As The Eraser Burns, Joyful Miles, and Write, Run, Rejoice. In the past, she's been a waitress, telemarketer, cook, real estate agent, and during her college days, a costumed character at holiday parades. (Memories of being terrorized as a candy cane still haunt her at night.) At the age of thirty, she pursued her dream of being a writer. Her first novel, Beauty Shop for Rent, a “Steel Magnolias for teens,” was inspired by a rusted sign by a charming old house, and now, she can honestly say that writing is a thousand times more rewarding than being a candy cane!
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