Sign up for #KidlitSummerSchool 2016!

badge final 4x4-brighter heartIf you’ve already registered for Kidlit Summer School 2016… Hooray! You don’t need to register again, but you can still take advantage of the GIVEAWAY we are offering at the end of this post.

If you haven’t registered yet in 2016,  Just fill out the form by clicking HERE.  Regular registration is open from now until July 15 and to enjoy the benefits of the 2016 program, you should register this year even if you registered in the past. Note that this year we will not be offering late registration.

For those of you new to Kidlit Summer School – find out more about this awesome free program by checking out our updated ABOUT page. Also, if you missed last week’s great motivational posts, click on the home page and scroll down. You don’t want to miss the excellent advice from some amazing authors.

Our theme this year is Heart & Humor. The blog event will run from July 11, 2016 through August 5, 2016.  Why should you register? Well, as always, we’ve got perks for you if you do. Only registered (and pre-registered) members of Kidlit Summer School are:

  • eligible to win any giveaways or books, critiques, or other swag that we’ll be handing out during the month
  • eligible to participate in special Summer School events like webinars
  • able to access the Kidlit Summer School exercise book
  • invited to join our private Kidlit Summer School Facebook community where you can connect to other children’s book creators and lovers of kidlit

Best of all, you’ll be learning from our amazing faculty! Take a look at who you’ll be hearing from by checking out our FACULTY PAGE.

We hope we’ll see you in class!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS: All you have to do is mention where you shared this link on social media in the comments below, and you are entered in the drawing for a Kidlit Summer School 16 notebook and tote bag, even if you are already registered! One winner will be selected at the end of KLSS. 

Advertisements

Aimee Friedman: Do Looks Matter? Painting a Vivid Physical Portrait of Your Character

Aimee Friedman

Aimee Friedman

I’m an editor and an author, so I live on both sides of the desk. (And, on both sides, I’ve grown very familiar with the joy and struggle, the road-blocks and the breakthroughs, that go into telling a story). But most of all, on a fundamental level, I am a reader. Being a reader is what led me to these professions, and it is what sustains me — as a writer, as an editor, and well, as a person.

As a reader, I come to a story craving a sensory experience; I believe most readers do. I want to hear the crunch of leaves, smell the pine, taste the burnt marshmallow, feel the bark of a tree. That is the work of the writer, after all: to build a world up, piece by piece, so that the reader is fully immersed. And, in this world, I especially want to see everything. The surroundings — the campfire, the mountains — but, crucially, the characters.

Who is sitting around this campfire? Just as I need the characters’ voices and actions and desires to come alive for me, I need to have a strong visual sense of the characters, so that they exist vividly in my mind’s eye.

Aimee had to think of unique physical characteristics for her MC in Sea Change.

Aimee had to think of unique physical characteristics for her MC in Sea Change.

When asking an author of mine for a revision, one of my first requests will often be for a physical description of the protagonist. Ideally, I’d like such a description for every character, but the more minor players can be sketched with a less precise pencil. However, the main character — our inroad into the story, our compass — is most vibrant and fully realized for me if I can picture them clearly, and early on.

Is your protagonist blond? If so, what kind of blond? Pale as milk, or the color of sand? If she’s dark-haired, how might you describe the shade of brown? Is she tall, slim, full-figured? Is her nose snub? Does she wear glasses? What color are her eyes?

Needless to say, there are endless physical descriptors that can go into the introduction of a main character. The key is to not go overboard — you don’t want to lose the reader with a dense paragraph that details everything from the shape of the character’s face to her toe ring. A couple of evocative details go a long way. Also, these descriptions can be broken up and dispersed. An opening paragraph can show us the length of her hair; later in the chapter, we can learn her skin is freckled.

There are a variety of ways to introduce this physical description, rather than a plain “Mary was willowy and dark-skinned” or “I have curly red hair.” (though these work fine as well!). There is the comparison technique: showing one character in contrast to another. “Unlike her best friend, Jane, who was pale and petite, Mary was willowy and dark-skinned.” Right away, we have a visual: not just of Mary, but of Jane. The world is that much closer to being fully built. One can also drop a physical description in casually, almost sneakily. “The boys all called me ‘Carrots,’ so I came to hate my curly red hair.”

A writing teacher once advised me to never show a character looking in a mirror as a pathway to describing him or her. “Sue went into the bathroom and gazed at her hazel eyes.” But I think there are worse narrative sins — I think leaving out a visual of your character entirely leeches more life from a story than using this mirror technique.

Of course, there are arguments to be made against giving physical descriptions. We are taught, after all, that looks don’t matter: it’s what’s inside that counts. But the best physical descriptions illuminate something deeper about the character. For instance, perhaps a pudgy-cheeked character is resentful because he doesn’t bear any resemblance to his tall, chiseled other brother. Does your character wear contact lenses because she felt self-conscious about the glasses, and wanted to be perceived in a different way?

There is also the compelling argument that giving a visual description of a character can have a distancing effect on the reader — that he or she won’t be able to see themselves as easily in the story. That their imaginations can’t roam as

The Year My Sister Got Lucky

How do sisters look alike? Different?

freely. But let’s give readers more credit than that: their minds will always work to fill in the blanks, even if there is a physical description on the page. Before the movies came out and Daniel Radcliffe took up residence in our heads, I’m positive that my visual of Harry Potter was very different from that of my friend’s visual, even though we both knew he had black hair, round glasses, and a scar on his forehead. That’s the magic of reading. We enter the world conjured by the author, but no two people will picture it quite the same.

Can a story be enjoyed and reread and cherished if there aren’t physical descriptions of the characters? Certainly. In The Great Gatsby, we’re never really told what Daisy looks like — we only know she is beautiful and wealthy, and that is somehow enough. Like all “rules” about writing, this one isn’t hard-and-fast (I like to ignore my writing teacher’s advice about mirrors, after all). It’s ultimately about what works best for your specific story, for your process, for your characters. Sometimes the power lies in not knowing precisely how a character looks (take the wonderful Wonder, for instance, which is all about the character’s appearance, and yet not at all). Other times, you’ll want to spell it all out (take the enticing first paragraph of Gone with the Wind). Each writing experience will be different — as different and quirky and unique as the characters that populate your stories. And I look forward to reading about them.

Aimee Friedman is an executive editor at Scholastic, where she is fortunate enough to edit such titles as the New York Times bestselling series Whatever After by Sarah Mlynowski, and, of course, the acclaimed The Boy Project and The Boy Problem by Kami Kinard. Aimee is also a New York Times bestselling author of YA novels, including Sea Change. She writes for middle-grade readers under the pen name Ruth Ames. Aimee lives, writes, works, and searches for the perfect iced latte in New York City. Check out her website HERE and you can follow her on twitter at www.twitter.com/aimeefriedman.

 

GIVEAWAY: Aimee is giving away a signed copy of her book Sea Change! At the end of #KidlitSummerSchool one name will be drawn from all who comment on this post. 

 

And don’t forget the Webinar tomorrow night at 9:00 pm EST. You can find details HERE

 

Kidlit Summer School: Get it Write this Summer

badge50Kidlit Summer School 2014: Building Character!

Preregistration ended on July 6, and now regular registration begins. What’s the difference? While all preregistered participants were eligible for certain prizes, there is no difference in the program itself.  All who preregistered, along with all who fill out the regular registration form, are eligible for the rest of the giveaways throughout Summer School. These will include books signed by the faculty, manuscript critiques, several stacks of books donated by publishers, and more! So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t registered yet, go ahead! Regular registration has been extended to July 25 to allow people to see the first couple of posts.

This year’s Summer School focuses on Character Development

So if you…

  • are looking for a way to keep writing through the dog days of summer,
  • want to be inspired by some of the best writers in children’s literature,
  • and hope to create irresistable characters

You should join a fun and fabulous community of  people who are as passionate about kidlit as you are!

Enroll in Summer School now! (It’s free!)

kami and sKidlit Summer School is a blog-based four week writer’s workshop that will run from July 21 through August 15. Because we (Kami and Sudipta) both enjoy teaching writing classes, we wanted to find a way to offer craft-based writing advice on a particular topic each summer. Our 2014 course is going to focus on writing great characters.

Daily blog posts by authors and writing professionals will offer inspiration and help you hone your craft. Our “faculty” includes award-winning PB, MG and YA authors! Many of their bios are already up on our faculty page, and we’ll be adding more soon!

Kidlit Summer School is for anyone one who loves to write children’s literature, from accomplished writers, to those just starting out.

Regular registration is currently closed. Sign up for late registration by clicking HERE.