Monday, April 30, 2012

Highlights Fantasy Reunion Day 2

Today was the second day of our Highlights Fantasy Reunion workshop.  This morning, we all had one-on-one sessions with our assigned mentors who critiqued the first 50 pages of our manuscript.  It's this individualized attention that makes the Highlights workshops so great.  Since Laura Ruby looked at my manuscript last year, Anne Ursu critiqued it this year.  We received our written critiques and marked-up manuscripts ahead of time, and today was an opportunity to ask our mentors questions and come up with a revision game plan.  

I feel so rejuvenated and optimistic from my chat with Anne.  I've actually been at a stalemate in my manuscript for a while now, and unsure what direction I should go with revisions.  A fresh pair of eyes was precisely what I needed to get back on track.  Sometimes when you're lost in the dark woods, all you need is someone to hand you a lantern.

Our workshop today was led by special-guest speaker, Patti Lee Gauch.  I was super-excited to meet her since she was the US editor for Brian Jacques' Redwall series.  Since I, too, write animal fantasy, Jacques has had a huge impact on my work.  Unfortunately, Jacques passed away last year so I'll never get the chance to meet him, but it was wonderful to hear about his life from Patti.  She even signed some of my Redwall books for me!  :)

Patti loves the fantasy genre and led us in a discussion about the "Ordinary versus the Extraordinary."  In short, this means making your fantasy believable by incorporating aspects of the real world.  This can be done in many ways, from interactions between siblings, to your character griping about chores or wearing hand-me-down clothes, to describing your unique fantasy elements using real-world terms (i.e. a monster's wagging tail, well-groomed Hobbit toe hair, etc.)  She warned that too often, fantasy writers think that their world must be filled with stereotypical "medieval language," but in reality, "thou's" and "thee's" and "on the morrow's" most often distance the reader from your world.  By incorporating images and words your reader can relate to, he or she then feels comfortable in the unique world you have created.  It's a bit of a balancing act, though, to make things both fantastic and real.  To drive the point home, she told us to remember that, "The bricks of your world are still from this world."   

Patti also gave us some general writing advice.  She urged us all not to follow a "recipe" for our books or spend our time worrying about rules.  She also encouraged us to revise until our work sings, and to strive for authenticity by truly knowing the fantasy worlds we create.  And of course she had one last recommendation for us all: read, read, READ!

Oops!  Took this before I applied the pretty sauce.
Patti stayed to eat dinner with us, but two great meals came before that.  Today's breakfast consisted of fancy scrambled eggs, bacon, and blueberry scones.  Lunch was peanut noodles, deli sandwich fixings, salad, and macaroons for dessert.  Appetizers during Patti's workshop included artichoke bruschetta, a new round of local cheeses, and spiced popcorn.  And (as if that wasn't enough), dinner was meatloaf with horseradish-ketchup sauce, seasoned broccoli and carrots, polenta patties, and garlic-butter mashed potatoes with lemon-coconut cake for dessert.  Yum, yum, yum!

Time to get back to my own critiquing!   

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