Last weekend I attended the fabulous SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference, in Wilsonville Oregon. The conference consisted of a Saturday full of workshops–my two favorites: Rosanne Parry‘s “Character and the 7 Deadly Sins” and Susan Blackaby‘s “Poetry: Rhyme, Reason, and Tricks of the Trade.” In Rosanne’s workshop I learned how to use a character’s primary temptations, as well as his or her inherent cardinal virtue, to deepen and better delineate his or her character in planning, writing, or revising my novels. It is a strategy I am eager to apply to my works in progress as well as my future writing.
In Susan’s class we got to play with words. How I love to play with words! She taught the techniques of poetry–assonance, consonance, alliteration, rhythm, rhyme…and we got to practice them crafting poems. These techniques, Suz pointed out and I have always believed, are also useful in crafting memorable prose.
Sunday was the day for intensive workshops. Since YA is primarily what I write, I spent most of my time in the YA track. However, I strayed, and was glad I did, for the midday session offered by Susan Dobinick on “Fantasy and Magic in Middle Grade.” It turned out what she had to say about fantasy and world building was every bit as applicable to YA as it was to MG fiction. And, she led us in a fabulously fun, group writing exercise for turning a realistic story into a fantasy story and then describing its new realistic storyline. The products we produced as a group were hilarious, and the effort underscored the fact that magic is not what fantasy fiction is about. Excellent fantasy fiction, like all fiction, is about an individual or group of individuals challenges and struggles and how their experiences alters them.
This year’s SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference was outstanding. Thank you so much Judi Gardner, Susan Ford, and all the members of the steering community who worked so hard to make this a memorable event.