Friday, January 27, 2012

The Writers Roundtable Intensive... Our Morning Panel on Voice and Critique Advice

Lin Oliver started things off by praising all of us Writers Roundtable Intensive attendees for being here, acknowledging how it's “a very brave thing” to put your work forward, and saying “today begins the hard work of writing.”

Sometimes the work you brought is ready… and sometimes it's not, and you need to be open and curious about where your path might take you.

Lin shared the inspiring story of Ruta Sepetys., who three years ago attended this Writers Roundtable Intensive, and received a very disappointing response to her YA.  One of her critiquers suggested that maybe that novel wasn’t really in Ruta’s voice.  Did she have anything else?  Well, she did, and Ruta started working on it. It has since been published, and this year "Between Shades of Gray" is an enormous critical and commercial success.  So for Ruta, the Writers Roundtable Intensive three years ago was a turning point, just not in the way she ever expected going into it.

And with that sage bit of advice and inspiration, Lin introduced the morning panelists on voice: 

Samantha McFerrin, Editor, Harcourt Children’s Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Nancy Conescu, Executive Editor, Dial Books for Young Readers

Michelle Nagler, Editorial Director, Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Lin Oliver (far left, standing) moderates the panel on Voice.  The panelists are Samantha McFerrin (left), Nancy Conescu (center) and Michelle Nager (right)

Each editor read an example of voice from a book they’d edited, and explained what it was about it that grabbed them. 

They discussed authorial voice vs. character voice, and covered a number of things to beware of when crafting your voice, including avoiding adult knowledge inserted in where it doesn’t belong, the issue of pop culture references, and knowing your details and getting them right.

A great tip for “writing in your groove” that came up: 

Read your manuscript out loud

The panelists and Lin shared their advice on participating in the critiques, including:

Don't defend yourself or talk during your critique - listening is so important.  
Take notes - something may resonate for you later
Stay open

Overall it was a fascinating panel and a great introduction to the morning's roundtable critiques.

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