At the Feet of Masters: The Writing Track at JordanCon 2011 (Part 1 of 3)

Wherein I share and elucidate the mysteries revealed unto me whilst attending the Writing Track at JordanCon 2011.

The main panelists for the writing track were Guest of Honor David B. Coe, Eugie Foster, Jana Oliver, and Brandon Sanderson.  (The details of who taught what are in my blow-by-blow account linked above.)  Attending the writing track was definitely valuable for me, as an aspiring fantasy author.  But what was surprising, in some ways, was how little I learned about the craft of writing as compared to what else I learned by attending these panels. 

Which is not to say I didn’t learn quite a lot about writing during these panels.  I suppose I was expecting to learn more about the craft.  But what I did learn, I believe, will be enough to push me up another level – or so I hope.  But let me save the big, revelatory take-aways for the end, and let’s start with an account of what I learned along the way.  Which is a long account, so expect this to go on for several posts – this is considerably more detailed and thorough than my pictorial blow-by-blow.

Writing for Younger Readers

The first bit of craft advice I learned when I ducked into the Writing for Young Readers panel a little late.  The panelists agreed that you should write your protagonist at an age one or two years older than your target audience – specifically when targeting younger readers.  This is because younger readers are aspirational – they are interested in what people older than they are think and do.  However, the older YA readers tend to read more and more like adults, so the lines get blurred considerably.  They also pointed out that mushy stuff like romance: kids totally go in for that, whatever you may think.  Yes, even the boys.  Continue reading

Tricksy Halfling!

I’m still working through my notes from JordanCon and writing up a post on what I learned there.  There’s a lot more to write up about it than I anticipated.  In the mean time, since I haven’t talked about B.T. lately, I thought I’d share this little tidbit.

So, B.T. is walking these days.  Sort of, at least.  He’s been doing it for a little while already.  He can take a few steps on his own – sometimes this happens when he’s not thinking about it but lately he’s actually been putting thought into the decision to go it alone.  But usually, he likes to hold mommy or daddy’s finger (especially daddy’s, it seems like – as Dear Wife says, he knows who the sucker is) while he goes on his little walking romps. 

He also eats these little puffs.  They’re his favorite food.  And we’ve been teaching him some simple signs to ask for what he wants.  One of those is the “food” sign, which is basically just pointing to the mouth – easy, right?  So he’s been picking up on these. 

This morning, as Dear Wife and I were getting ready for the day, we thought we’d keep him mollified by asking him if he wanted some puffs.  It’s easier to feed him puffs than to have him hang on our fingers and walk around the house (which is what he’d usually really like to do first thing in the morning; and also pretty much all of the rest of the time, too).  He responded to Dear Wife’s signs by signing that he wanted food then pointing to the puff, so she let him have the puff.  Success!

Then Dear Wife had to go do something else to get ready.  Daddy’s turn.  I ask him if he wants a puff, and sign “food”.  He signs food and points to the puff, so I lean down to let him take the puff and eat it.  But he had other plans!

Within seconds he’s grabbed my finger and pulled himself to standing, and in no time at all we’re walking around the kitchen.  I’d been fooled, pulled in my his ruse of wanting something to eat when what he really wanted was to walk.  And once B.T. gets walking, there’s no slowing him down.   Resigned to my fate, I walk around with him for a while, the task of packing my lunch abandoned, temporarily.

One would think that maybe it’s a little early to be worried about a tricky little toddler – that surely at this age he can’t be that devious.  I am here to tell you: do not be lulled into a false sense of security. They’re watching you.  They know where you live.  And when you least expect it, they will strike!