Tuesday, August 10, 2010

6 Conference Round-Up: Linda Sue Park from SCBWI-LA 2010

The fabulous, and I do mean fabulous, Leah Odze Epstein (@leaheps on Twitter) has given us some information on one of the many wonderful SCBWI-LA Conference intensives. This one is from Linda Sue Park, the award-winning author of many books, including Newbery Honor winner A SINGLE SHARD.

Linda Sue Park is another speaker you'll want to hear in person if you ever have the opportunity. She uses her own books to illustrate and inform her tips, she provides enough actionable information to immediately help you transform your writing.

Tips from Linda Sue Park's Workshop on the Middle Grade Novel

Why do kids read?
  • Very young children read to find out about their world, i.e. stuffed animals.
  • Middle Grade children read to find out about The World.
  • Young Adults read to find out about themselves.
  • In middle grade, you can explore a broader range of topics.

 The Great Mission of Middle Grade Novels

The great mission of middle grade novels is to show young people that the world isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean it has to be miserable.


Scenes are the basic building blocks of fiction. LSP says think in scenes, not chapters, or paragraphs. Something plot-wise has to happen in each scene. Think of a camera eye in a movie. The camera is moving in space to capture what happens. In some young adult novels, the camera doesn’t move, the character is thinking and it’s all inside the character’s head.

Kinds of Action

There are two main kinds of action:

1. REACTION: Something happens to a character (passive)—example: An earthquake hits

2. ACTION: The character makes something happen (active)—example: Fern yanks the axe out of her father’s hand.

The two kinds of action need to be balanced in a novel. PLOT progresses because of a character’s choices. A character’s choices cause action.

Finding the Exact, Right Word

Good prose is words in the best order. Poetry is the best words in the best order.

Linda Sue Park aims for the best words, in the best order to serve her story (she writes poetry, too).

When you’re talking about a novel, where there are thousands of words, it’s easy to forget that word choice is just as much in play. It’s important to get the exact right words. In a novel you don’t think about “is” “and” “the,” but the words, taken all together, are important.

Finding the exact right words, for many writers, means unchoosing words. 99-100 times, you’ll be asked to cut your work, rather than add on.

More Conference Round-Up Information

Ara Burklund has offered up another wonderful round-up on the session with Claudia Gabel: Think Like a Packager. Read it for gems that will help you build marketability into your work, including a pitch formula that will transform your novel, and your query.


  1. WOWEE- "in-depth" is right! Made of awesome!

  2. I'm in the middle of revising a MG fantasy, so this post is a godsend. Thanks to Leah and LSP!

  3. Wow! Talk about thorough. And some great NEW suggestions. I especially like the idea of giving your character an object when your stuck to see what he does. I think a lot of this can be used in YA as well. Thanks!

  4. Wow - that was awesome!

    Middle grade readers are risk takers and love to soak up all kinds of knowledge. There are so many kinds of books they love :)

    Thanks so much for this!

  5. Holy cow, that was helpful. Thank you!


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