Spent half of Day 3 doing deep dives into the craft of writing and the other half geeking out with authors I adore. So yeah, Saturday was a pretty damn good day.
How to Pitch a Story
Although I’m far from being ready to pitch anything, I still found this panel very useful in thinking about what my stories are actually about. Brozek broke down the differences between the different kinds of pitches – elevator, secondary, multipage – and when they’re used. We also got the chance to practice our elevator and secondary pitches with Brozek offering critiques. She also recommended watching Daniel José Older’s “How to Write a Synopsis.”
Idea Versus Story
Nicholas Eames, Cat Rambo
Another super helpful panel. Rambo noted that an idea starting with a character is usually easier to expand on than one starting with a setting because “a character creates the world around them.” My biggest takeaways: the beginning promises the rest of the story; always know the emotional core of your story; and the main character’s motivations should be clear at least to the author. Rambo recommended her book Moving from Idea to Second Draft.
The Magic of Plotting
Kenyon gave a lot of really good tips and tricks but…the session was awfully boring. The problem was she didn’t allow for questions and her entire presentation was her talking and us listening. It needed to be interactive or at least with time allowed for audience questions. I don’t have the kind of attention span to sit still and silently listen for 50 minutes, no matter how fascinating the topic. And as someone who does a lot of conferencing, paneling, presentations, and instruction, I always get annoyed when presenters have to constantly refer back to their notes. Both Brozek and Kenyon were guilty of this. Nothing drags me out of a presentation faster than a presenter who can’t remember their own talking points.
That being said, the most useful thing I got out of this session was thinking of a story in a 4 act structure. Act 1: Set up – the MC doesn’t know what the story problem is yet. Act 2: Responding – MC responds to a small problem with little effort, makes mistakes, etc. because they don’t know what the story problem is yet. Act 3: Attacking – MC is now fully committed to defeating the story problem and begins to fight effectively. Act 4: Resolution – MC risks everything and story problem is solved.
YA Books and YA Comics: What Do They Have to Learn From Each Other?
Nilah Magruder, Sarah Kuhn, Tina Connolly, Caitlin Seal
With the afternoon winding down, I needed a fun palette cleanser after all those workshopping panels. This was definitely a good choice on my part. Seal touched on one of the things I love the most about YA: how well it represents the liminal space between childhood and adulthood, between knowing nothing and thinking you know everything, when the world means everything and nothing all at once. There was a good discussion about how shitty it was when the New York Times axed its graphic novel bestseller list (as well as the mass market and genre prose lists). As Kuhn pointed out, the people that suffered the most were marginalized creators because now they couldn’t break onto any lists and get noticed by the general public. Not to mention the inherent snobbery of the Times snubbing its nose at non-literary works.
Afrofuturism: It Ain’t New
Rivers Solomon, Steve Barnes, Nilah Magruder
This is probably going to end up being the best panel of the con for me. So powerful to hear such powerful Black figures speak so eloquently about our history. Barnes is such a powerhouse. He’s clearly used to talking about Black history and Black culture – how can he not with the inimitable Tananarive Due as his wife – and he certainly had a lot to say. Solomon too had some impressive insights. They defined Afrofuturism as “blending the old and new” of the ancient traditions of the Black diaspora and visions of the future. This panel was so emotional for me. I felt it more than anything else. I could’ve listened to them talk Black power for hours. Barnes recommended the article “Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose” by Mark Dery.
I was also glad to hear Magruder call Barnes out on his ableist comment about Rhodey from the MCU. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to a pillar of the Black literary community in front of an audience of fans. I don’t think he was intentionally or maliciously ableist, but the harm was there. Good on Magruder.
Kelly Robson, Sarah Gailey