Tag Archives: story-telling

Report from KidLitCon 2011 – CONNECTION and AUTHENTICITY

KidLitCon 2011 was all about CONNECTION and AUTHENTICITY.  It was invigorating like this killer mural I passed in Seattle.

(Forgive the cross-posting with VivaScriva.com, but I couldn’t decide which blog needed this post more!)

Unlike many writers’ conferences, which are tinged with an air of desperation, the path to publication was NOT the focus.  Instead KidLitCon attendees are primarily bloggers focused on connecting authors and their books to readers.  Not as marketers (though some authors assume that every blog is a lightly veiled form of advertisement) but as matchmakers devoted to getting the right book in the right hands.  Need proof?  Take the passionate conversation with Colleen Mondor about how her review of a book she loved could “best serve the book.”  Inspiring!

It was deeply satisfying for me to meet others (in person, since I had connected with many via Twitter) who are committed to the tripartite nature of story-telling.  There must be a story, a teller, and an audience.  CONNECTION—I love it!

Another key take home for me was that these connections had to be AUTHENTIC.  Truth starts with the story.  The panel on diversity (Lee WindSarah StevensonBrent Hartinger,Sara RyanJustina Chen) reminded us that the heart of the story is inhabited by authentic, non-stereotypical characters whatever their ethnicity and orientation.  Writers (no matter their ethnicity or orientation) must get it right for truth to infuse the story.

Much discussion on authenticity circled around how we review books.  Bloggers make many choices about their own process and the key is transparency.  If you only discuss books you like (book recommendations vs. critical book reviews) then say so on your blog.  If you’re taking on the crucial job of true book reviews, remember that critique is not a litany of failures.

Authenticity was also a theme of Holly and Shiraz Cupala’s presentation on DIY marketing.  They urged authors to focus on giving value to bloggers, potential readers, book store buyers, and librarians.  We shouldn’t be trying to trick people into switching tooth paste brands.  We should be trying to fill a need.  Shiraz shared a quote from Simon Sinek: “People don’t buy what you do.  They buy why you do it.”  Isn’t that another way of saying we all want the heart of the story?

Perhaps the best gift of KidLitCon 2011 was the synergy with Angel Punk.  Devon Lyon, Matthew Wilson, Jake Rossman, and I presented a panel entitled The Future of Transmedia Storytelling: Angel Punk, Pottermore, and Skeleton Creek.  (For those of you who weren’t there, transmedia tells interwoven but non-overlapping story lines through multiple forms of media.  In our case, film, comics, novel, and online.)  Transmedia is about CONNECTION because of fan participation in the story-telling process and because each form of media engages and unites a different set of fans.  It was exciting to see the enthusiasm of other KidLitCon attendees for both our approach to story-telling and the heart of our story itself.  (Thanks, you guys!)

I’m still flying high from KidLitCon 2011.  I left with real, true, new friends—CONNECTION and AUTHENTICITY.

Transmedia, Talk Back, and the Power of Story


So my new project, Angel Punk, is a transmedia project, and I’m going to be on a panel at KidLitCon in a few weeks discussing transmedia.

“What the heck is that?” you ask.

Transmedia means storytelling through multiple forms of media: film, text, images, audio, blogs, tweets… you name it.

“How is that different from Star Trek?” you ask.

Good question.  Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and other astronomically popular franchises started in one form of media,  a TV show, a movie, or a book.  It became popular and the story spread to other media forms.  Transmedia starts out in multiple places.  We recognize that there are multiple points of entry into a story both because some consumers prefer books or gaming or movies and because some facets of the story are more interesting to some readers than others.

One key component  to transmedia projects, however, is consumer (I hate that word but reader/viewer don’t cut it) participation.  More than ever we want to be a part of our favorite stories.  I have a quidditch t-shirt.  I geek out following Neil Gaiman on twitter.  I get sucked into online explorations of the Game of Thrones universe.  Most transmedia projects want talk back.  We want to know what people like and don’t like.  We want to include consumers in the process.  We want some collective consciousness on board for story telling.  If you think about it, it’s like that game where everyone takes turns making up a few lines of a story.  I love it!

See you around the social media fire pit for the next story session!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This book is an absolute must-read!

I don’t care if you say that nonfiction is not your thing.  This book is your thing. Rebecca Skloot has written riveting story of both family and science.  You won’t be able to put this book down.  I promise.  Now get thee hence to a bookstore and BUY it because part of the proceeds go to help the family of Henrietta Lacks. Her cells changed the face of medicine and science and yet her family lives in deep poverty.  They deserve better.

And Rebecca Skloot deserves every one of the hundreds of accolades for this book.  She worked her butt off for ten years, risked her own safety, and pushed far beyond her own comfort zone to research and write this book.  She is a master storyteller!


Eddard Stark, Dumbledore, and Death as Plot

For a story to work, and by work I mean, grab me by the throat and refuse to let me go, I must be fully invested in the characters. I want to fall in love, to believe in their reality to such a degree that if Eddard Stark walked through my door, I would say, “A mug of mead, Lord Stark?” not “Where’s the freaking costume party?”

(I know I declared my intent to discuss plot and yet digress to character.  I promise to get to the point.)

So in the space of one week, I watched the season finale of Game of Thrones and finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to my children.  And…  well… two characters I fell in love with… they die.

Is that stupid story-telling?  Doesn’t that kill your plot (so to speak)?  What is the point of reading on if your favorite characters die?  That makes me think of BallyKissAngel. Thanks to Netflix, I was doggedly in love with Assumpta and Father Peter until – you guessed it – death reared its oh-so-permanent head.  I stopped watching.  

Why will I keep watching Game of Thrones and move right on to The Deathly Hallows but I won’t stick with BallyK?

Death drives plot forward when it is more than just death.  If the loss of a character turns the plot trajectory on its head by impacting other beloved characters so strongly that they start making different decisions, then it can work. Everything is different for Rob Stark, Arya and her sister when Eddard Stark falls.  And for Harry, his string of losses seems like more than anyone could bear.  No longer can he share his burden with Dumbledore.  Now his chance of successfully defeating Voldemort is slimmer than ever.

I have to know what happens!  I keep reading (or watching).

You writers out there, consider death.  By all means kill your characters, but make sure that what they stood for matters so much that the rest of the story will rise from the ashes like my buddy Fawkes.



The writer’s job: make alien out of auto parts

In my current WIP, my main character has a part-time job at an auto parts store.  While googling for a list of metal auto parts that I could talk about, I came across this amazing piece of metal art.

It strikes me that this what I am trying to do as a writer.  I want to take the pedestrian, the everyday, the bin of scrap auto parts, and transform them into something out-of-the-ordinary.  Maybe even out of this world!