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Back from SCBWI Conference April 6, 2009

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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I spoke at the SCBWI-Nebraska conference last weekend about “Divine Words: Writing for the Inspirational Market.” One thing about teaching: you learn your subject so much better yourself. I had ordered most of the children’s magazines in the inspirational market to share with the writers and illustrators attending the conference. A few of those magazines I had never seen myself. I became interested enough in one of them that I submitted a story immediately after the conference–and sold it within two days!

Andrew Karre, editor at Carolrhoda, also spoke at the conference. Talking with him, I learned that he expects most of his YA submissions to be in first person. He said he almost questions it if a YA manuscript isn’t written in first person.

I’ve written most of my books in third person even though first person would have probably been more natural to me. I kept diaries from eighth grade on into my thirties, and my first novel (which never saw print) was in first person. I had submitted that first novel to a couple of editors, and one of them, Wendy Lamb, responded with a full, one-page personal letter. I didn’t realize at the time how rare that is.

I guess I quit using first person shortly after college. I had read interviews of editors at literary journals, and they said they were tired of all the first-person stories they received. They described the writing as “navel-gazing.” Some also seemed to suggest that first-person writing had been overused as a shortcut to immediacy with the reader. I took up the challenge to try to evoke emotion through third person. But now I’m rethinking first person again . . .