The last event of the SCBWI Working Writer’s retreat consisted of 3 minutes allotted to each attendee to read aloud their first page of a manuscript. Professional critique was squeezed into that 3 minutes from a panel comprised of 4 agents/editors. All conference-goers were in attendance. We all heard what we all wrote. Y’all.
I. Heard. A lot. Of first pages. Bless all writers, O Muse(s)–bless their creativity, whim, persistence, inventive ideas, bravery: standing before a roomful of writers and critiquers, NOT fleeing when some in the ‘audience’ shout (so loudly that I put my hands over my ears): I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What I noticed about the panel’s critiques:
First pages that were concise, action-packed and character driven were the most well received, i.e. (literally): “Yes, I would continue reading if this came across my desk”.
Also noticed: I disagreed almost every time the panel’s conclusion was a unanimous: “No, I would not continue reading if this came across my desk”.
Whoever made Gripping First Pages the new criteria for getting a manuscript read by industry professionals must be the same person who pushed HDTV into the norm: Laser beam vs. magic (lack thereof).
I don’t believe love of story has been flattened by Mario Kart et al. And my son loves Mario Kart. He also loves Cornelia Funke.
Listen: You know in the movie Always when Holly Hunter sleep-talks her shopping list? That’s what I sound like whenever I leave this particular retreat–or, honestly, any SCBWI event. JK Rowling. Rebecca Stead. Gary Schmidt. Joan Aiken. E. Nesbit...
My comfort loop. Carrying on even when I stop for a comforting Chipotle chicken burrito. Sour cream, guacamole, Cornelia Funke, E. Nesbit, extra chips, Philip Pullman…
It’s about story. It will ALWAYS be about story.
Yours in enlightening retreats,
Yes. I like to think I read enough to be up on the trends. I can gather what ideas from them that might work for me, but I decided a while ago that no matter how much I want to be published, if I’m not writing what I need to write then I don’t want to do it. I’ll keep trying to perfect my thing, follow my thread until the they catch up and see what they’re missing. If I’m not published, well, at least I know I’m not just a hack getting rich on trends, I’m doing what feels important. That’s what I hear you saying to some extend. And I respect that so much.
Yes, that’s what I’m saying, no matter the media, no matter the century–story, story, story.