Happy and sad emotions fill me as I write the final post for book club camp -summer 2010. I’m sad that camp is over, but it’s been a wonderful week, with many fascinating and fun author visits, lots of great writer’s tips learned, many new friends made, laughs shared — and of course, books read. I hope all the campers and their families have a wonderful end of summer and please come visit in the fall!
Just a quick recap of our day: Author Barry Lyga came by around 10. Barry told us that since childhood he has been a comic book nerd (surprise, surprise). He always wanted to write comic books and novels. His last job before he became a full-time writer was as a marketing person at a comic book distributing company and he in fact started Free Comic Book Day in 2002. Here are some of the great tips he shared and important things he’s learned in his writing life:
*Always keep learning, trying to get better and don’t be discouraged. He said that new writers have to write and write and write before getting to the good stuff. He told us that he wrote many short stories and 3 1/2 novels — none of which were published — before he wrote Fanboy and Goth Girl, his first published book.
*It’s important to have people you trust to whom you can show your work and who will be honest with you. It turns out he and Tuesday’s star visiting author, Libba Bray, are friends and early readers of each other’s work in progress.
*With dialogue, you know it’s good when it sounds right.
*Write what you know. Sounds cliched, but it’s true. Barry explained we should take what we’ve experienced and use that to build something authentic. For instance, if you’ve been the captain of your school baseball team, you could write a book about a starship squadron leader. He told us that his life in high school was his starting point for Fanboy, but there are invented characters (such as Kyra) and situations etc. We were amused to hear that Barry came up with the Great Tortoise Blight idea when he was in high school and used it on his own teacher!
*He told us he hates when he’s asked where he gets his inspiration. Ideas are everywhere; you just have to be open to them. Just look around you. He suggests that if you try to see things “the wrong way” you may find an angle that no one’s ever considered.
Barry showed us some alternate cover designs for a few of his novels, including Fanboy. He was asked to weigh in on the cover design and one of his favorite designs was picked. He loves the cover for its companion, Goth Girl Rising.
He told us that he thrives on juggling several very different projects at once. That way, if he’s having trouble writing one, he can switch to another. Among his many current projects are a graphic novel (a teen romantic comedy with supernatural elements), a film script and a book for 9-12 year olds, about a 12 year old with superpowers who decided to kill the local superhero, called Archvillain, which will be released in the fall.
His favorite comic as a kid was The Legion of Superheroes, which he was happy to see has recently been revived and the original writer Paul Levitz will be writing it again.
He talked about how much he enjoyed writing Goth Girl Rising from Kyra’s perspective, his first time writing from the female point of view. That is his favorite of his books.
He gave us a few writing challenges that helped us to get past our internal censor (by free writing for 10 minutes), be inspired to avoid cliches in our descriptions, and open all of our senses when we’re writing (so that our stories will be very rich and readers will be able to experience them with all their senses). For our last exercise, we had fun brainstorming ideas for updating athe Romeo and Juliet story, showing us that you can start from a story you know and create something very different.
Finally, Barry told us to keep in mind that we have lots to write about. He quoted the great Southern writer Flannery O’Connor, who said that anyone who has lived and survived elementary school has enough material to write about for the rest of his or her life.
After getting our books signed and assembling for our group picture, we waved goodbye to Barry and headed to the park for lunch. The afternoon included some fun games on stage (including many rounds of The Big Wind Blows, during which we found out some new fun facts about each other, and Ninja).
Back in the camp room, we enjoyed some treats at the party and laughed a lot. We traded contact info so we can keep in touch through the year.
Finally, we all trooped into the Thalia Theatre to listen to actors Matt Cody and Jen Regan perform some wonderful stories and poems by the campers. The actors brought the stories and poems to funny, sad, wacky, moving and dramatic life. It was a great way to end the week.
Happy End of Summer, All!