Saturday, November 19, 2011

COSCBWI Nov. Meeting: Edith Pattou and Writing Fantasy

This month's COSCBWI meeting featured the lovely author Edith Pattou and a discussion on writing Fantasy.  As a Fantasy writer myself, this topic is near and dear to my heart and I always love hearing advice from talented, published authors.  Pattou is the award-winning author of East and the picture book Mrs. Spitzer's Garden, as well as the first two books in a trilogy called Hero's Song and Fire Arrow.  (You may remember that back in June, I reviewed East and met Pattou at COSCBWI's Barnes & Noble Bookfair.)  Pattou is always a joy to hear speak and gave our COSCBWI group lots of great pointers for writing Fantasy books.

Since not everyone is familiar with the sub-genres (and sub-sub-genres) of Fantasy, Pattou first spent some time discussing those.  I learned about them back in college and they include such sub-genres as: "High/Epic Fantasy" (think Lord of the Rings); "Urban/Contemporary Fantasy" with the uber-popular sub-sub genre of "Paranormal" (yes, we're talking Twilight here); "Alternate History" (like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell--which I haven't read, but very much want to); "Steampunk" (like the Leviathan series and even The Golden Compass); "Dystopian" (oh, a little book called The Hunger Games comes to mind); "Humorous" (Pattou recommended Half Magic which sounds hilarious); "Tales of Pure Imagination" (like Peter Pan and Tuck Everlasting); and lastly, "Inspired by Folklore/Mythology/Etc." (like East!)  That's a lot of sub-genres!  Each one has their own standards and characteristics and demands different styles of research and writing.  Once you figure out what sub-genre your Fantasy book falls in, it's a good idea to study as many books as you can in that category.  (Hence why I read so much Animal Fantasy!)

The next topic Pattou focused on was "world building" in Fantasy.  World building is a huge part of Fantasy books because the author is taking their readers into a brand-new world/culture/society (i.e. "High/Epic Fantasy," "Dystopian," etc.) OR presenting the world as we know it in a different way (i.e. "Urban," "Paranormal," etc.)  Pattou pointed out that names and vocabulary are particularly important because they can set the mood, setting, and flavor of the entire book.  (You wouldn't name a knight "Bob" in a book set in medieval England!)  Pattou shared that when she writes a new book, she reads books with similar voices and creates word lists she can use for her own reference.  She also recommends doing a lot of research to make your world as authentic as possible and (if your budget permits), going to on-site locations.  (She got to travel to Norway while writing East--what an inspiring way to collect information!)

Lastly, Pattou recommended a few books Fantasy writers should be sure to pick up on craft and Fantasy-roots.  These included The Hero With A Thousand Faces and The White Goddess, which she always finds inspiring and informative.  She recommended plenty of blogs, too, particularly those by Patricia Wrede, Holly Black, and Cynthia Leitich Smith.  (Hooray for more blogs to follow!)

And do you want to know something really cool?  Pattou scored her first agent after meeting Madeleine L'Engle!  (Yes the Madeleine L'Engle of A Wrinkle In Time fame.  I'm only a little jealous...)  Pattou was wonderful to have as a COSCBWI presenter and bestowed a wealth of Fantasy knowledge on our lucky little group.  And to top it all off, members could buy her books right there at the meeting and get them signed as well.  (I adored East and eagerly scooped up both Hero's Song and Fire Arrow for signing!)  All I can say is, what a great way to end COSCBWI's 2011 year!

These books are mine, ALL MINE!  :)
If you want to learn more about Pattou and her books, you can check out her website at:  I look forward to sharing my COSCBWI meeting experiences with you all in 2012!     

Note: The cover art for East is from Pattou's website.

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