I always tell my students to avoid the word "very" -- but sometimes, a person just can't help it. I'm just back from the Packaging Your Imagination conference in Toronto and I'm feeling VERY inspired. The conference is run by a great group called CANSCAIP (that stands for Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers). But let me get to the interestingparts. First, I heard several children's writers speak at the conference and I want to pass on some of their great ideas. Also, while I was in Toronto, I met up with two fellow writers and I want to tell you a bit about what they're up to.Â
Okay, I'll start with the conference. The first speaker I heard was Vancouver Island author Susan Juby. (I just bought her first book which is called Alice, I Think). Susan discussed the importance of writing "in scenes." She told us not to focus too much on "back-story" (those are all the things that happened to your character before your story begins) or on description, but to tell a story using scenes, which she defined as "units of action with beginning, middle and end." Susan also said something that writers who are just starting out would be wise to pay attention to: "Don't stop writing, no matter how unpleasant it gets!"
The next author I heard was Janet McNaughton, who comes from Nova Scotia. She focused on character development. For me, the most interesting thing she said was that it's best not to rely too much on real people when you develop characters in your stories. She suggested that real people can be a jumping-off point, but that we know characters better when we make them up in our imaginations. That really got me thinking since, to be honest, I am often inspired by real people!!Â
The last author I heard was Frieda Wishinsky, who was there to talk about chapter books. Frieda talked about the importance of using strong verbs -- and avoiding adverbs. She told us how she does a lot of her writing in coffee shops and that she enjoys discussing her stories with trusted friends. I liked that part because I do that too, although I know there are plenty of writers who feel it's best to keep a story to themselves when it's in progress. Frieda also said how sometimes it is important to put a book away in your drawer and forget it for a while: "Sometimes we get too close to our own material. It's really important to give it a rest. It's so easy to miss things when you're close to it."
You know, I think I've already given you lots of stuff to think about today, so how about I save the stuff about my writing friends in Toronto until my next entry? Besides, I want to plant some flower bulbs in our front garden -- and because I was away for three nights, I want to make my husband and my daughter something interesting for supper. Only I haven't figured out what!!