In June, before leaving to study multimodal writing in Santa Fe, I registered for three workshops at the 56th Annual Cape Cod Writers Conference August 3-6, 2018 in Hyannis, MA. Two were taught by best-selling young adult fiction writer, Laurie Stolarz. I selected these because I have a YA sci-fi story stuck in my head and need expert help getting it out. The third was taught by writer, teacher and storyteller Judah Leblang. I selected it because the title, “Flash Memoir.” The challenge of crafting an 850-word memoir intrigued me.
Writing Your First YA Novel Laurie Stolarz Aug. 3-5 10:15 am-12:15 pm
This workshop helps those interested in writing a young adult novel develop the tools to begin. We will examine literary devices such as plot, setting, character, dialogue, point-of-view, and tense, examine story structure and discover the best way to tell those stories. Additionally, we will explore what makes compelling young adult fiction. We will also look at the techniques used by contemporary authors of young adult novels to further pacing, the use of transitions and silences, and how they drive their work deeper into mystery.
Triple S: YA Story Structure Laurie Stolarz Aug. 3 & 4 4:45-6:45 pm
Structure, Secrets, and Suspense? Does your young adult novel pass the Triple S test? This workshop examines all things structural, secretive, and suspenseful as they relate to young adult literature. First we’ll examine the structural elements of young adult fiction, identify the essential components of story, and apply them to our own work. Then we will look deeper into story and character, identify the secrets of our characters, how they influence motivation, dialogue, action, relationships, and their opponents. Lastly, we will examine the role of suspense in fiction. Come prepared to test your work-in-progress or plan something new.
Flash Memoir Judah LeBlang Aug. 5 12:30-2:30 pm
Flash Memoir is one of today’s newest literary forms. These are short nonfiction snapshots as published in literary journals such as Brevity and The Sun. We will look at examples of effective short pieces and will complete several writing exercise that focus upon the development of compelling personal vignettes under 850 words.
Source: Cover photo and workshop descriptions (above) were excerpted from the CCWC conference program at capecodwriterscenter.org.
Writing Your First YA Novel
After six weeks of multimodal writing with eleven other students, laptops open in every class for hours of computer-based group work, it was a treat to be one of only four writers attending Laurie Stolarz’s “YA Novel” workshop. No computers in sight. Ms. Stolarz’s style of presentation was calm and informal, her voice soft and soothing. In the first few minutes, I felt the weight of the six-week technology-driven multimodal writing course lift. I could relax, listen and interact with Laurie and my classmates without computer apps, wi-fi speed bumps, and audio-visual equipment compatibility issues complicating communication. I settled in, grateful to be in this old-fashioned learning environment.
PHOTO: Laurie Stolartz
Ms. Stolarz shared a wealth of information about the process of writing and publishing based on her experience as a long time best-selling author. Her teaching style left easy spaces for questions and comments. It felt like a roundtable discussion among serious aspiring writers with one true master of the craft as mentor.
Triple S: YA Story Structure
Ms. Stolartz’s “Story Structure” seminar was filled with “how to” tips. At the end of it, she passed out a fat packet of printed course materials to help us move our work forward. Just what I needed to give my sci-fi novel a boost! Again, I was one of four writers attending. One laptop in the room. Laurie’s teaching style worked as well with the second group as it had with the first. She even gave us her personal contact information. A gracious, generous gesture. Time very well spent.
NOTE: One of my takeaways from Ms. Stolarz’s workshops was her reference to Scrivener software, published by Literature and Latte, which she and many writers she knows both use and like. I downloaded it. Here’s a brief description of my impressions.
For me, Judah LeBlang’s one-day workshop felt like a master class in close reading. He shared examples of short pieces, around 850 words, published in journals such as the online magazine “Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction.” Pieces in which every word contributes meaning. Lean pieces. All protein. No fat.
I had studied close reading for two semesters in undergraduate and graduate level English classes at UMass and Middlebury, so given the workshop’s size (around 18 people), I felt comfortable slipping out during the first break and not returning. 850 words or less. Concise pieces. Flash essays. I had what I wanted. Inspiration!
PHOTO: Judah LeBlang