...I have a pet peeve with modern books that have adult characters with names that have only come into vogue in the last few years (such as Madison or Zoe). Even if I like the name in general, I find the mismatch of it very jarring. I mean, really, do you know anyone over the age of 10 with the name Madison? So why should this book character have it when it doesn’t match at all with the generational context?
I have to completely agree with that. I obsess over naming my characters, and I hate using names that are either so common as to be unmemorable or so bizarre as to be laughable. Striking a balance can be difficult.
I also wanted to put in a major plug for this month's issue of The Edge of the Forest (which I totally hyped to one of the editors at the conference!). Don't miss the great features: Adrienne's editorial about the sudden popularity of sock monkeys, Kelly's fabulous interview with the divas of Readergirlz, articles by MotherReader and Liz B., an audio interview with Daniel Pinkwater (can I just say I was obsessed with Lizard Music as a kid?), and much more, including a YA book review by yours truly. I'm honored to be in such amazing company, I really am!
So, I should tell you right off that the main reason for my attending this Davis conference was not for what I might learn (because the last time I attended, it seemed that the majority of info was geared toward writers earlier in their careers) but for who was going to be there. Of course, I still found myself jotting down random notes and learning despite myself! The literary agent who attended, Jennifer Jaeger of Andrea Brown Literary Agency (where I sorely want to submit my current novel after revision), had a few illuminating insights into the life of an agent and his/her relationships with the writer. For instance, on the question of whether or not a writer needs an agent in the first place, she says, "Can you ask your boss for a raise? If not, you need an agent." However, she stresses that it's a collaborative relationship, so if you decide to seek out an agent, it's crucial to do your research. A great way to find out about agents, she says, is to haunt discussion boards, something that hadn't really occurred to me but makes complete sense. One of the other speakers at the conference suggested a site called AgentQuery, which has a truly huge amount of resources for writers including agent listings.
The other person I was excited about seeing at the conference was Tim Travaglini, who is an editor at Penguin Putnam, and who sent me a review copy of Monster Blood Tattoo. I'd seen him speak at an SCBWI conference in LA a couple of years ago, too. So, here's my ulterior motive for going to the conference: it was possible for writers submit the first 10 pages and a synopsis of their manuscript (for an additional fee) and get written comments from one of the manuscript editors from Writer's Ink. But 10 (or 10-plus, in this case) manuscripts would be chosen to receive comments from one of the editors or agents at the conference. So I decided to take a gamble that either Tim Travaglini or Jennifer Jaeger would actually see my work and I'd get a professional opinion.
And, YAY! My gamble paid off! Mr. Travaglini was the commenter, and I now have numerous very useful written comments from an ACTUAL BIG-TIME EDITOR, which I will take very seriously and implement as much as possible. I also made sure to speak to him and introduce myself, and thank him for the review copy as well as the written comments.
That's all for today, but I'll post again in the next few days with more conference notes (including some awesome links) and, of course, another cartoon at the end of the week!