Friday, October 21, 2011

Finding Your Voice through the Slush (and Slush Monsters)

“I will wade through dim and perilous fens of slush for voice.”
Editorial Anonymous

You’ve been there, sitting in the third row on the left. The conference organizer introduces the next speaker- a Very Important Editor from a Major Publishing House. After the editor’s wise words on “Latest Trends in Publishing” or “Why Picture Books Are Really Truly Going to Bounce Back, Pretty Soon” she gets to the part everyone in the room wants to hear-

“This is what I want to acquire…”

And year after year, editor after editor, she says the exact same thing.

“I am looking for a manuscript with a fresh, strong voice.”

Wait. Stop.

We’re writers. We know all about voice, right?

Miriam-Webster defines it as “a musical sound produced by the vocal folds…”


When it comes to writing what exactly is “voice”?

Maybe voice isn’t so easy to define with “mere words,” but like Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said of obscenity, we “know it when we see it.” Sarah Aronson says “When I first started writing, I thought that voice was some mystical element I either had or I didn’t. Now I know that just like everything else, voice can be taught. It can be acquired. Through hard work, intention, and knowing all your characters, every writer can find an authentic voice for their book.” If voice is the thing that causes editors to wade- nay snorkel- through the slush we need to learn to spot it—but more than that we need to discover our own unique voices and begin to capture them in words on the page.

Join Sarah, me and Sarah Sullivan at our one day Writer's Center workshop “Writing for Young Readers: Finding Your Voice.” I’ll kick off the morning with an introductory talk- I HEAR YOU LOUD AND CLEAR- Learning to open our hearts, minds, and ears. Sarah Sullivan will follow with KEEPING IT REAL- IS THAT MY VOICE OR IS IT MY EVIL TWIN. Sarah’s lectures and exercises have inspired writers to create award-winning work in voices they never suspected they had (REALLY! It’s true!). Sarah Aronson will round things out with DEVELOPING VOICE THROUGH DIALOGUE: How secondary characters can help you find your voice. Sarah is an expert teacher and her classes and workshops have yielded many debut novels and newly discovered talent. All day long we’ll have “talk breaks” and writing workouts. Plus there will be plenty of opportunity for informal questions on any topic from character development to publishing and marketing.

Sarah, Sarah and I look forward to seeing you there, loud, proud and ready to raise your voices!

Tami Lewis Brown, along with Sarah Sullivan and Sarah Aronson, will be leading the one-day workshop Writing for Young Readers: Finding Your Voice on Sunday 11/6. You can sign up for their workshop here.

Experienced lecturers and teachers, within the last five years Sarah Aronson (above), Sarah Sullivan (center) and Tami Lewis Brown (left) have published nearly a dozen picture books and middle grade and YA novels with major publishing houses. They hold M.F.A.s in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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