(NOTE: I welcome back guest blogger and YA writer Lisa K. to MuseInks. When I heard of her experience at a recent writer's conference, I asked her to share her insights with my readers. She shared Part 1 of her experience on Friday. Today -- the rest of the story...)
After lunch and four cups of hot tea, I am refreshed and ready to tackle the publisher’s course titled, “Getting to the Heart of Your Story.”
Publisher (introduction paraphrase): “I work at X publishing company where writers dream to be published. Don’t send me your stuff, I will shred it. You have to have an agent and then I’ll still probably shred it anyway. I can take three months to a year getting back to your agent. I can do this because I work for THE number ONE publishing company for children and don’t YOU forget it!”
Yikes! I start to cower in my seat.
Publisher: “Does anyone know what a plot is?”
I think: This is right up my alley. I’ve taught literature for almost 20 years. I know it. I’ll raise my hand.
Publisher: “You, what do You THINK a plot is?”
I’m called. NOW I can dazzle her…
Me:“A plot is a series of events starting with an introduction which leads to a rising action that goes to the highest point of the story which is…” I’m brilliant!
Publisher (cutting me off): “Yes, I guess it is that one way to define it.”
What? My definition is correct. I was teaching this when you were still in grade school.
Publisher: “Here is a picture of a cliff. This is what plot is.”
No, it’s not. You need to have a falling action and a resolution, not a conflict and then nothing…
Publisher: Let’s do an exercise. I will give you two minutes fill in the following blanks.”
******* Actual exercise:
Jane is _________________
Jane gets lost in _______________
Jane is _______________________
It begins to rain.
Jane sees ______________________
Jane feels _______________________
Bell goes off after two minutes. I am done anyway. Publisher asks for picture book volunteers. A few people read their story out loud.
Publisher: “Hmm, that’s okay but it’s kind of lame and boring.”
Publisher asks for middle grade. A few more people raise their hands. Same thing occurs.
Publisher asks for YA – No one raises hand except ME! Double Yikes!
Skinner is 16.
He gets lost in reality.
He is baffled by his parent’s ignorance.
It starts to rain.
Skinner sees his own shadow.
He can’t take it anymore; he runs away and auditions for a popular singing reality show.
On the show, he makes it to the top ten. He doesn’t win, but has a CD contract and becomes the number 1 singing artist of all time.
Publisher: “Well, interesting. You didn’t use the name Jane though. Can I see this?” (Reads it out loud again.) “This is actually pretty good for two minutes, huh…”
Publisher gives it back and talks about something totally different.
Me (to myself): Say what? What just happened?
Lady next to me: “She liked your writing, aren’t you psyched?”
Me: “Yeah, I guess.”
Time passes slowly in the frozen tundra room. I drink so much tea that I have to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes.
Finally, 3:55 arrives. The time I have been dreaming of the whole conference. It is now that I get to meet privately with Publisher and see what she says about my first five pages.
I paid for this time separately. I sent in the pages two months ago just for the next ten minutes…
Publisher: “Well, you’re ambitious for taking on these heavy topics for teens. But, I don’t like it.”
(My book deals with cyberbullying, peer pressure, and teen suicide.)
Publisher: “The voices don’t sound authentic. It does not flow. Teens aren’t going to want to read this.”
I don't want to be argumentative, but I've done my research.
Me: “Umm, I gave it to a library panel of about fifteen or so teens and most of them loved it. In fact, an 18 year-old male told me I was right on target with the language.”
Publisher: “Oh, well, teens aren’t the ones publishing your book. Agents and publishers are!”
Publisher: “Look at the time, it’s up. Listen, your writing's good, I will say that from the exercise we did. Send me five pages of another novel and I’ll consider it. It needs to be post marked by June 8 and sent to this address.”
Publisher hands me a card, stands up and says, “Bye now.”
Something else? I don’t have something else.
Well, I do have this one idea...
So, I get busy writing my “something else” for her. I don't want to miss my chance at having my writing go through a big time publisher's shredder!
All in all:
At my first writer's conference, I met some wonderful writers, but the agent and publisher acted too big for their britches. I'm sending my stuff anyway. You never what could happen!
Lisa blogs at YAEdgyDark. She's hard at work writing one novel while polishing up another.