Common Threads

The Arkansas SCBWI retreat has come and gone and I’m left with a bittersweet feeling. I tweeted that it felt like I was leaving summer camp. I was tired, ready to be in my own bed, but filled with fond memories, new friends and things I learned. (Plus I did get some kind of bug bite behind my knee while I was there.)

It was a privilege to meet Alex Arnold, Editorial Assistant at Katherine Tegan Books/HarperCollins. Not only was she totally adorbs, but she shared a wealth of information about the industry, as well as helped us with the craft of writing. It was great to feel like we were getting this information from someone who truly is invested in helping us succeed. This was the first time I have gotten any critique on this WIP and her suggestions for improvement have me excited for the revision process. It was great to know that my instincts are good and that I’m moving in the right direction. I have a new goal to finish revisions and start the submission process by December.

I also got the chance to meet some great new friends and colleagues. I have to admit I was a little nervous about walking into a group of people whom I didn’t know, especially when I realized I was one of only two people there who had never attended the event. My nerves were calmed before the end of dinner. What a wonderfully supportive and helpful community I have found. It means a lot to be included so quickly. I can’t wait to meet with everyone again soon.

We worked on our loglines during our sessions. Loglines are meant to strip your story down to its most basic form and tell the reader (agent, editor, publisher, person in the elevator) what the core of your story is. Imagine the movie voice-over guy saying, “In a world where…” That’s your log line.

If you are a writer who has tried to do this, you know it’s not as easy as it sounds. I was one who thought “I’ve just written 80,000 words, what’s twenty more?” Indeed, those were the hardest to get correct and probably the most important. You never know when your story pitch will turn into an offer from an agent or editor or reach just the right ears to help you along with your career. So, writers have to be ready with their log lines.

There were writers working on a variety of things ranging from picture books to middle grade to YA. They spanned all genres-contemporary, fantasy, humor, sci-fi. As we worked in our sessions, I noticed something-a lot of our common themes were the same. We had a few books dealing with death/suicide. There were some that were about recovering from a loss of some kind. There were some in which the main character was coping with being different in some way. There were works that dealt with growing up. It’s fascinating how different each work can be from another one, yet they seem to have common threads that run between them.

I think that’s pretty cool. One of my favorite quotes is from Edmund Wilson. He says, “No two people read the same book.” I think that’s true and wonderful. And now that I’ve experienced a writing retreat I can say that no two writers write the same book, even if they cover the same subject.

And I think that’s pretty wonderful too.

And now I’m off to eat some Dauntless cake. Happy ALLEGIANT Day!

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