Monday, September 29, 2014

COSCBWI Meetings: September 2014

This month's COSCBWI meetings were full of great advice for writers and illustrators! 

The Illustrator Meeting was a critique meeting for artists participating in the 2nd Annual Member Exhibition.  Members brought in their work-in-process pieces for a group critique.  It's been wonderful to see each illustrator's art process, from sketch to color to finished illustration.  Illustrator Coordinator, Stella Hickman, offered a lot of great illustration tips including:
-When designing a two-page spread, be mindful of the gutter.  (The space in the middle where a book creases.)  You don't want any important elements of your illustration to fall in the gutter--like your main character's face!
-Think about the movement and action in your piece.  An illustration full of stiff figures isn't as interesting as one with active, engaging characters.
-Be careful with details.  It's important to add meaningful details that add to the unwritten story.  But don't go overboard, or your illustration can become cluttered.  Try to strike a nice balance between the two.
The Writer Meeting featured a presentation by YA author Susan "S. X." Bradley.  Bradley was the former Regional Advisor for COSCBWI and is the author of Unraveled and Uncovered.  She talked to the group about "GMC: Goal, Motivation, & Conflict."  Goal, motivation, and conflict are three very important elements of storytelling.  They involve: 
Goal: What does your character want or need? 
Motivation: What drives your character to achieve his or her goal? 
Conflict:  Who or what is standing in the way of them achieving their goal?
A story that lacks GMC usually feels flat and hollow, and makes readers think, "What was the point of that book?" after they turn the last page.  A well-rounded story needs to have a plot (goal), a force that drives the main character (motivation), and challenges they need to overcome (conflict) in order to get what they want and ultimately grow over the course of the story.  Bradley recommended using a "GMC Grid" to consider these elements in your own story, and how you can make them stronger.  She used Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as an example: 
Harry's Goal: He wants to defeat Voldemort (external goal) and feel accepted (internal goal) 
Harry's Motivation: Voldemort killed his parents and he was brought up in an abusive family 
Harry's Conflict:  All the challenges he faces at school and in the wizarding world that lead to his big showdown with Professor Quirrell/Voldemort 
Bradley pointed out that Harry's GMC rings true to the entire series, with each story expanding on these elements as Harry grows.  If you're having trouble applying this technique to your own manuscript, she suggested trying the grid exercise with other published books so you can study how the pros use GMC to craft satisfying stories. 
A big thanks to Bradley for sharing this technique with us!  She highly recommends checking out author Debra Dixon's website ( for more information on GMC and other writing tips.  Be sure to check out Bradley's website, too, at
If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, please visit  or "like" the group on Facebook.  I hope to see you at the October meetings!     

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tornado Wrangling

Sorry for the few weeks of quiet around here!  Sometimes I think there should be an extreme sport called "Tornado Wrangling."  Essentially, competitors would walk up to an F5 tornado, lasso its tail, and hold on for dear life.  It'd be like professional bull riding, only the bull could throw you across several football fields.  Whoever didn't end up in the hospital would be declared a winner.

That pretty much summarizes my whirlwind September.

This has been a fun, exhausting, stressful, exhilarating month full of too many deadlines converging at the same time.  Much of it consisted of me running around like a maniac trying to get all of my materials ready for the 2014 Northern Ohio SCBWI conference.  The conference was this weekend, and it was AWESOME!

I'm not going to go into the conference details now, but I met so many wonderful people and had such an enjoyable, encouraging experience.  The conference is always a treat, and I'm thrilled that this was the seventh year in a row I've been able to attend.

Now I'm back home and facing the aftermath of my tornado.  And that aftermath is ugly.

The cleaning fairies didn't tidy up while I was gone.

But I can't rest yet, because I've still got that tornado by its tail for another few weeks.  So today I'm catching up on a humongous mail pile, making sure I've got clean underwear, and putting those scissors away before someone pokes their eye out.  (At least I remembered to put the cap back on my X-Acto knife!)  Just a couple more weeks of hard work, and then I can show you all what I've been up to over the last month!

And then I will nap.  I think I need a nap.  :)