As part of Blood on the Bayou: BoucherCon 2016, the world Mystery convention, authors Harlan Coben, Chris Grabenstein, Kelley Armstrong, Lissa Price, and Ridley Pearson were in town, and they spoke about writing kidlit, with R.L. Stine moderating.
For an entertaining hour, the authors answered questions from R.L. Stine about bests and worsts:
Best and worst public reading
- R.L. Stine once sat on a panel next to a writer who brought a live chicken to pass around the audience!
- Ridley Pearson did a reading at Disneyland, complete with a cannon and characters dressed as Peter Pan and Captain Hook
Best and worst things about writing for kids
- Kelley Armstrong appreciates kids' brutal honesty--if they love it, they really love it; and if they don't they'll let you know!
- Chris Grabenstein likes writing for short attention spans like his own, which helps reluctant readers like he was
- Lissa Price: Learning to balance writing with promotion
Best and worst advice
- R.L. Stine: Don't sit here writing all day, go outside and play!
- Harlan Coben: You bring your own weather to the picnic, and mistakes are part of life--don't be afraid to make them (or to ignore advice)
I think what I love about listening to writers riff is feeling like these are members of my tribe. Senior members, sure, but I still know what they mean when they are excited about the existence of waterproof paper and pencils you can stick in your shower for when ideas pop in your head. Or how impressed everyone was that Isaac Asminov used the same post office as R.L. Stine to mail his manuscripts--all 550 of them.
It's also heartening to hear that each writer up there had two or three novels in their drawer before one got published.
I'm intrigued by something Ridley Pearson mentioned about how he wrote the last book of his Kingdom Keepers series. He posted a website where kids could vote on which direction each chapter would take, and then he'd write it accordingly and publish it the following week. What a cool collaborative idea! He said it was an amazing experience. Something worth investigating!
And their advice to the kids (and other writers) in the audience about process is just good advice and so helpful to hear: outline or don't, start from the ending or the beginning, begin with short stories and work up to novels, but whatever you do, keep writing.
A not-very-good photo from my view in the back of a good-sized crowd:
Pretty sweet way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon!