Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thank You, Kathy Temean

Writer and Illustrator, Kathy Temean blogged about my summer reading book review in the July 2013 issue of Parenting.  Kathy is very supportive of writers and illustrators.  As RA of the NJSCBWI, she has organized countless workshops, conferences and networking opportunities for fellow writers and illustrators.  Several years ago, I wrote about her infectious enthusiasm and  wonderful workshop in a piece published in Sprouts.   You can read a reprint of that piece below:





            I cried all the way from Long Island to New Jersey.   It was the first time I went away without my husband and children, and was on the verge of turning around and coming home, several times.

            Something, however, kept propelling me onward. Perhaps it was the dream of publication.  Perhaps it was my growing stack of personalized rejection letters stating how much this-or-that particular editor enjoyed my manuscript, but in the end “it just wasn’t right for me.”  More likely, it was Kathy Temean’s infectious enthusiasm about the mentor workshop.

            Wiping away tears, I mustered up the courage to enter the guest house of the Tom’s River Country Club and was greeted with smiles, wine, great conversation and a delicious dinner.   

            Over the next two days, I was reinvigorated with all the writing axioms we’ve heard before, but sometimes lose sight of through our many rewrites.  Among the best tried and true tips that I revisited in Toms River were:

·         No set-up without a payoff, no payoff without a set-up.  In other words, avoid any superfluous exposition.  Unless the reader needs to know it for a climatic event in the plot, cut it out.  Similarly, don’t pull unjustified plot twists out of thin air.

·         Be fastidious with your words in picture books.  In picture book writing, make every word count.  If it doesn’t further the plot, cut it.   

·         Highlight sensory information.  After you’ve revised and revised and revised, take your fifth/sixth/ twentieth draft and highlight all your sensory images.  Are you just using visual images?  Are you engaging all senses?

·         !Viva la vivid verbs!  Avoid the passive voice.  Instead of “The car went by,” try “The corvette raced away.”

·         Strengthen your dialogue and say no more.  If the dialogue is strong enough, you only need the word said with no qualifiers.

·          Avoid adverbs.  Again, vivid verbs and strong dialogue should take care of this.

·         Don’t be authorial.  This tip came from the first page session.  Agent, Nadia Cornier pointed out that an author’s voice was sneaking into the character’s voice, making it seem inauthentic.  It’s an interesting distinction to make.  To read more on this topic, I would recommend James Wood’s book, How Fiction Works.    


            I had time to reflect on these tips during my long drive home.  As I crossed the Verrazano bridge and hit the sea of brake lights on the Belt Parkway, I smiled because I was home.  Stuck in my own New York traffic, I looked up at the sign that read Brooklyn, how sweet it is! 

Sweetest of all, I met fantastic women with whom I am still critiquing.  We exchange manuscripts and comments via email.   So, would I go back to Toms River in the future?  ABSOLUTELY!  - Only next time I would bring my family and get a hotel room nearby, so I could snuggle my babies at night. 
To read my  current Parenting piece that Kathy so graciously blogged about, pick up a copy on newsstands now!
Happy reading,

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