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Oct. 14th, 2010

02:55 am - The latest Westside Schmooze--on "Voice: The End-All Definition"

Agnes Parker Girl In Progress.GoodReads.1556085 Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg.GoodReads.4414890 I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil.GoodReads.6192443 Hold Still.GoodReads.6373717 Gorgeous.GoodReads.5973767 Monstrumologist.GoodReads.6457229

Some of my favorite reads (and examples of Voice!) this year: Agnes Parker . . . Girl In Progress, by Kathleen O'Dell; The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, by Rodman Philbrick; I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want To Be Your Class President, by Josh Lieb; Hold Still, by Nina LaCour; Gorgeous, by Rachel Vail; The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey. (All images from GoodReads.)


All right. So here's the promise Lee and I made to the world in our latest e-blast about the SCBWI Westside Schmooze.

Subject: The SCBWI Westside Schmooze -- Wednesday, October 13th at 7 PM

Does October mean thrills, chills, and suspense to you? Well, it should if you attend the next meeting of the SCBWI Westside Schmooze! Because on October 13th, at 7 PM, we will meet to unmask . . .

VOICE: The End-All Definition

That's right. Editors and Agents often say that while they can fix everything else in a manuscript, Voice is that one special quality a manuscript must have from the start, for them to fall in love. Yet when it comes to defining what Voice IS, even the greats flounder, with many falling back on the axiom "You know it when you see it."

What is THAT about? Are we in the business of describing things or aren't we?? At the next Westside Schmooze we aim to settle this mystery once and for all--AND come up with an End-All Definition--by showing great examples of Voice, analyzing WHAT IT IS, and sharing exercises that will help each of us find and perfect our own. For Picture Book through Young Adult, fiction and non-fiction. Let's do this. It's time.

Now, I'll admit I've been frustrated in my outside life lately, and I wrote this email with a mad gleam in my eye when the weather had taken a turn for the worse.

But.

I think it's hilarious to set out to do "impossible" things--especially because (in my experience) 60-65% of the time, it totally works. Most of the time, the only reason anything is perceived as "impossible" is because it's unlikely you'll get enough people to back your vision. Once you have that, the thing itself is easy.

We had 41 people attend this Schmooze, and I really thought we were going to do it. Not come up with an "End-All" Definition like I'd advertised (that would be impossible!) but come up with a definition that we 40+ children's book writers could live with, which we would then throw down in cyberspace like a gauntlet to the world. I wanted to stir things up.

We had . . . an excellent discussion, full of impassioned, articulate insights--which I will blog properly with Lee at the official Schmooze blog. It's not true that no one knows what Voice is, or can define it in a few pithy words. Plenty of people can--and did tonight. It's just that every time someone put theirs out there, we all agreed with and then rebutted it. The spirit was willing, but the time ran out.

(Also, I think a lot of people like that Voice is an ineffable mystery and subconsciously sabotaged our efforts.)

I've been fed up lately with how no one can agree on what Voice "is," in a few blunt words, even though we do all recognize it when we hear it. Lee and I and Karol read examples from books tonight that gave everyone thrills and chills. Few people had the view of the room we did. 41 grownups turned into rapt little children, falling under a spell, every. Single. Time. Grr!

Sigh.

I had a vision of us gathering like tribal leaders that would go down in history.

Nathan Bransford, for your excellent post on Voice written May 10th of this year, I bow at your feet.

r

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