Thursday, June 26, 2014

WIFYR 2014 - Thursday

Here's what Ann looks like on Thursday.

We started with Karin Brown's manuscript. She's working on a magical retelling with a magical slant. I mean, more magical than fairy tales usually are. Here is Karin:

Her book has a fun concept and I look forward to seeing how it turns out. My biggest note for Karin was a scene with an explicitly romantic description of a prince's physique. I actually have the line memorized, but I won't share it because I don't think Karin should be immortalized that way. I was just like, "Karin. No. Just. No." We ended up laughing about it and she admitted that it really wasn't her style. It was a very entertaining interlude during our workshopping schedule and we all had a good laugh.

Next, we worked on Jennifer Beck's manuscript. Jennifer is working on a contemporary realistic YA novel. I don't have a photo of Jennifer because I can't find her on any social networks. Her manuscript was very fun, and nicely polished. The biggest note she got was to inject more sense of place.

We broke for a few minutes. Then we worked on Bruce Luck's manuscript. He is working on a time-travel/historical fiction/issues book. Here is Bruce:

Our biggest note for Bruce was to make sure the attitudes and ideas are relevant to millenials. He was very open to our feedback, and humble about the process, which is the ideal attitude for workshopping. Bruce was also Ann's assistant and he was a GREAT assistant. I was really pleased to get to know him.

Our last manuscript was by Valerie Harker. I don't have a photo of Valerie, because she's internet shy and as far as I know, she's not on Facebook. She is working on a contemporary realistic novel for adults. The manuscript was wonderful, and Valerie was such a valuable member of the group, with fantastic feedback for everyone. I loved Valerie's enthusiasm.

You can see Valerie third from the left. This was the other side of the critique circle, across from me. You can see: Karin, Tanya, Valerie, Scott, Bethany, and Jennifer.

Here are a thousand things to remember about revising your novel:

Read through your novel once it's finished. It's best to give it some space before you do this, some time. One good way to kick start the revision process after that first read through is to go back through and write an editorial letter to yourself. Phrase most of the problems as questions. It can be very helpful to work on a physical manuscript, so print the editorial letter as well as the manuscript and go through it point by point. You can use different colored Post-Its to mark each type of problem: plot, one color, character, another color, setting, another color. Here are some questions to ask about each element of your manuscript:


Does the reader want to find out what happens next?
Does one chapter lead to the next?
Does each chapter have a hook? Or end on: a high note, something big, a sudden revelation, an unanswered question, a hint of action to come, between stimulus and response?


Who is the MC? 
Can we SEE the MC? (Name, sex, age, appearance)
What does the MC want? (desire line)
What is stopping the character from getting what they want?
Are characters distinctly drawn?
Are names distinct enough so they're not confusing? (too many characters too quickly)
Are characters motivations consistent and real, or are they just moving the plot forward?
Are you using POV consistently?


Is there a good sense of place? (Physical details described by the character's interaction with it)
Does it help create mood?
Does it engage the reader's senses? (all five senses)
What kind of light?


Are sentences lean?
Do you use active voice? (Avoid overuse of passive voice. It's a tool.)
A pacing device: action described with short sentences and lots of white space.
Do you have chunks of text that don't add to the story?

Then we went to lunch. We sat in the awesome foyer, as usual, and ate the things we brought from home. As we were sitting there, Karin and Tanya were laughing about something. She said that she found some more romantic descriptions in her novel. And then she actually READ THEM TO US.

O.M.G. It was epic.

We all laughed so hard, even the people who were sitting in the foyer who had no idea who we were. Unforgettable. Thank you, Karin.

After lunch, we all went into the the auditorium (I sat with Geary and Scott) for the Cold Hard Read. This is an exercise to which people were invited to submit online prior to the conference. We could send in the first pages of our manuscript for a LIVE critique in front of the entire conference. Of course, I did not submit. I am very good at accepting critical review, but in front of the ENTIRE conference? I would probably cry, even though the suggestions would be good, that's just my body's natural reaction, and then it would be like a nightmare.

So Cherie, the editor (Kristin), and the two agents (John and Michelle), would read the first pages aloud and then grab the microphone whenever they had anything they wanted to note. It was brutal. But we all knew it was going to be brutal going into it. Coming from the art school background (where your artwork is put up on the wall and everyone tears it apart), I really liked the exercise. I thought it was a quick and dirty lesson in what not to do. Some people didn't like it, but I thought it was great. 

John's quote of the moment: "I feel like I'm getting applauded for beating someone up."

Halfway through the cold hard read, Geary was falling asleep, so I told her to go out to the couches in the foyer and take a nap. I knew everyone was in the auditorium, so she wouldn't be bothered. She was feeling very blah, so she left the auditorium for some much-needed sleep.

After the cold hard read, Carol got up to microphone to announce the winners of the WIFYR Fellowship Award. She said, "Here is the runner-up." And then she read the first line of the novel and asked the author to stand up. We all clapped for her. Then she said, "And here is the winner of the Fellowship Award." And she read, "Mom always said that Creep was just pretend. When I was little I tried to believe her." 

Um... that's the first line to MY BOOK.

I looked up from my copies of manuscripts and the notes I was taking and Scott leaned over and he was like, O_O "Is that YOUR book?" And I was like, "yeah...."

And then Carol said, "Who wrote that?" And I dropped all my papers and stood up and started shaking and she said, "Come up here." So I walked all the way down the row where we were siting (in the middle of the back), and all the way up to the front and all the way over to the podium. I shoved my hands in my pockets so I wouldn't shake and I was just praying I wouldn't trip on the carpet and fall on my face and I got up to the podium and Carol gave me an awesome hug and I cried into her hair and then she said, "Do you want to say anything?" Into the mic like an Oscar acceptance speech and I was like, "NO."

"But we need to take a selfie." And Carol's like, "I don't take selfies." And I said, "But we're going to do it anyway." And she said okay and I almost dropped my phone and here it is:

$1,000 and a chance to publish with a small press in UT. 

I went back to my seat and I pulled the check out of the envelope and Scott was like, "What did you win? I don't even know." And I whispered it to him and he was like, "OMG that's amazing!"

And it really was. But it was also like an out-of-body experience.

And then they announced an award for Rick Walton and I was still in shock. And I saw Geary come in the back. I thought she was coming back in because she heard what happened. She came and sat down next to me and she didn't say anything. So I looked at her and I was like, "Did you hear that?" and she goes, "Hear what?" and I said, "I got the fellowship." And she's like, "WHAT."

And then someone said that Rick Walton reminded her of this scene in The Muppets when Kermit is sitting on a log in the middle of the swamp playing his banjo and singing and a reporter rows up in a boat and says, "Wow, you're really talented. You could make it big in Hollywood," and how Rick Walton is like that reporter. He rows up to all the artists/writers he finds playing their banjos in a swamp and helps them get to "Hollywood." I was still crying and I looked over at Geary and she started crying. And I whispered, "Are you thinking about Kermit?" Because we have cried together about Kermit before. Specifically to this song

We just about died when Kermit sings, "Would anybody watch or even care?" Geary and I were like, "WE WOULD!"

So I asked Geary if she was thinking about Kermit and she was like, "I'm thinking about YOU!" So we held hands and it was strangely spiritual. I know we were both thinking about the journey I've been on.

And then James Dashner showed up and gave us a keynote speech. They usually invite a commercially successful writer to WIFYR to inspire us, and James Dashner definitely qualifies.

A nugget of his snarky advice:

Pick the idea that seems the most unique
Steal ideas from newbie writers
Come up with a high concept plot
Check Twitter for #mswl and #tenqueries

He was funny and we were glad he came and the fact that he's a Utah writer with a book that has been optioned for film and turned into a movie is great.

Then we had a book signing. All the faculty, presenters, and some local writers will come and do signings that day. So I spent the rest of the time crying. Because I met with Ann Dee and cried when I told her how meaningful her book The End Or Something Like That is to me.

And I cried when I met with Carol and told her thank you. And I ALMOST cried when I met with John Cusick and told him how much I appreciated his time and how much I admire that he can both write great books (Girl Parts and Cherry Money Baby) and agent. And I was feeling pretty overwhelmed when I talked to James Dashner, but I knew Cyndal would want a photo, so I pulled it together. He was very gracious.

Geary had about a thousand books to get signed. And I think she cried when she talked to people too. 

We finally made our way out to the car and we were just like 


this day has been crazy.

So we went home, but stopped by the store on the way. We bought things for our class. Ann asked us to bring something to hand out that would remind the rest of the class something important about writing. So here's what we got:

I'll explain it in the next post.

Then we went home. Sean and Cate were gone with their kids to the Hess family reunion, so the house was quiet. We hung out in the kitchen talking while she cooked.

I ate pizza. It was delicious.

Geary said, "What do you want to watch?" And being the silly person that I am, I said, "We should watch the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who."

So we did.

And we cried pretty much the whole last forty minutes of the episode. Here are some images, because Doctor Who is awesome and we love it.

And that was the very emotional fourth day.


  1. Oh man. So I totally cried and laughed through this whole post. What a day that was. AND the Kermit video on top of it! Cry. Cry. Cry.

    1. Best day of the conference. But they were all the best day. Sigh. I miss you.


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