Sunday, June 22, 2008

Last week I attended BYU's Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop. Wow, what a week. I'm still reeling from all that I learned, just trying to make room in my brain for the overflow. I commented to my friend Shari at one point that I felt like my brain was dribbling out my ears. There just wasn't anymore room to hold it all in.

For those who haven't attended before, let me tell you how it works. Most days the actual workshop goes from 8:30 to 12:30 where the group of 14 or 15 people sit with a published author and learn how to write by tearing each others manuscripts apart. After that we break for an hour for lunch, then come back for a half hour meet and greet with the authors where we can ask them questions and listen to their responses. From 2:00 to 3:00 we would listen to author readings and have a guest speaker, usually an agent or editor. From 3:00 to 5:00 or 5:30 (I forget already) we'd attend classes presented by the various authors.

I loved listening to the authors in the afternoon, but there wasn't much that was new for me there. I've been going to conferences for several years now and you can only hear so much about plot and voice before it gets repetitious. You can approach it new ways, yes, and they were great presentations, but I've heard it before.

For me, the most beneficial part of each day was the actual brutality of the workshop in the mornings. I spent my time with Brandon Sanderson's group and there was not a person in there who couldn't be published. I was astounded with the quality of writing that was presented each and every day, some of the best being written brand new while attending the conference. It's not that anybody was mean, really they weren't. Nearly everyone was very professional with their comments, both the positive and the negative. It's just that seeing your baby torn to pieces before you is never a pleasant experience--but it is a valuable one. I not only learned where my weaknesses were, but I saw where weak writing in general could be improved. I learned to see it all much more objectively than I ever have before, and I used that knowledge to write one of the best darn pieces of urban fiction I've ever vomited onto a page. Granted, it's a rough draft, but my rough draft after this class was better than a third or fourth draft in the past. It was a pheneomenal experience.

Brandon has a way of making everything interesting, even if he does talk too fast for me to take proper notes. He is engaging, entertaining, and extremely knowledgeable. It was a pleasure to be in his class. I've heard from him before at the LDStorymakers and LTUE conferences--have even communicated with him via e-mail before his first book (Elantris) came out--but this was the first time I've spent extensive time learning from him. The man has a brain I can only dream of having. He holds so much information in there, I don't know how he does it. I used to remember things really well, but . . . *sigh* oh well. I digress.

This is a workshop I will go to again and again and would highly recommend to anyone contemplating attending something to further their writing. I've never learned so much in such a short period of time and it was well worth the money spent.

Hey, maybe I'll see you there next year.

Quote of the Day: "Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies."

~Emme Woodhull-B├Ąche

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Book Review: Forged in the Refiner's Fire

I first met Candace Salima at the LDStorymakers conference in 2006 during early morning writer's boot camp and immediately felt a connection with her, despite her staunch disapproval of writing in first person. Candace has charisma and a strong personality that is tempered with a kind and giving heart, and thus it came as no surprise to me to discover the kinds of stories that combine to create Forged in the Refiner's Fire.

I didn't actually purchase the book for myself. It was a Christmas gift for my mother who tearfully placed it in my hands when she was done, insistent that I read it as soon as I could. With her testimonial shining in her eyes, I dug in and relished each and every story. This isn't the kind of book I could race through. It required savoring, one chapter at a time, letting the memories and thoughts linger in my mind long after I was done, much like the smoothness of european chocolate that should be allowed to melt and flow across the tongue. I could no more snarf down that chocolate than I could read this book in a day. It may sound trite, but this was one of those rare books that changed me. It changed my perspective and gave me an understanding of the learning and growth that come from our trials and helped me to look to the lesson rather than the pain when I must endure the agony of trial. It made me think, and what greater purpose can the written word truly have?

If you're looking for a recommendation, I couldn't give one much better. Forged in the Refiner's Fire is beyond worthy. It is well written and full of heart and faith, the kind that changes the hearts of those who read.