RALEIGH—At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2016 Fall Conference, November 4-6 in Raleigh, award-winning author Eleanora E. Tate will teach a course on writing fiction for children titled "Don’t Pull the Plug on Your Character's Life Support "
Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2016 Fall Conference is open.
In this workshop for writers primarily of middle grade fiction, Eleanora will offer attendees techniques to use to help resuscitate dreary, boring, ailing, languishing characters. During her years of critiquing manuscripts for the North Carolina Writers’ Network and other writing organizations and institutions, she's read hundreds of aspiring writers ’ manuscripts. Though the plots were feasible, the conflict worthy, the setting admirable, and the point of view workable, the main character (and thus the writer) was unable to carry the story forward to resolution because that character was too weak, uninteresting, or just downright pitiful. Attendees should be prepared to discuss problems they're having with their main character by bringing a one-page excerpt /scene with their character in action. Eleanora will also share insights about some other literary weaknesses she's found over the years and how to try to remedy them.
We asked Eleanora, “What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger writer self?”
"Back in my green salad days, I neglected to sufficiently learn definitions of voice, point of view, story arc, and many other terms of literary craft. Maybe that was because I’d sat through boring junior high, high school, and freshman English classes where the study of craft was by slogging through equally boring short stories and books. Nor did I take the time to learn how to apply them accurately enough to my work. This was hard work!
"I preferred to just write. People said what I wrote was good, so that was enough for me. It wasn’t good enough to get my stories published without extensive editorial direction, however. The result was that I wasted hours fruitlessly revising my writing—fruitlessly because I didn’t know what look for to revise. My short stories were known for my settings and my characters, but writing pages of useless sensory description and honoring characters who had 'authentic' voices and no personality didn’t make for good writing, either. Character traits were important. A character has flaws, is never perfect, with enough appealing qualities that readers will be sympathetic to his or her (or even its) peril, and keep reading.
"In my early days I attended a gazillion conferences (International Black Writers Conference with poet Gwendolyn Brooks; Broadside Press Festival of Writing with founder Dudley Randall; Children’s Defense Fund Children’s Book Roundtables with scores of nationally known black writers like Joyce Hansen, Mildred Pitts Walter, Walter Dean Myers, illustrator Tom Feelings; along with the annual International Reading Association, National Council of Teachers of English, and more). But a particular Bread Loaf Writers Conference in Middlebury, Vermont, which I attended one year as a children’s literature Fellow comes to mind. There I sat in awe as such notable writers as Erica Jong, Tim O’Brien, John Irving, Paul Thoreau, and many other writers voiced thoughts about their stories using literary phrases I’d never heard of. Well, yes, I’d heard of them (ahem, back in high school and college) but hadn’t much paid attention. Psychic distance? What in the world did that mean?
"After years of being with sometimes gentle, often aggravated editors, I finally realized that I needed to do my homework—acquire knowledge about definitions and techniques of craft, and then more skillfully apply them to my work. Simple enough. Well, not so much, but necessary. Now with twelve books, numerous short stories, and years of teaching creative writing and children’s literature under my ample belt, I can give the following advice to today’s writers: absorb basic meanings of as many literary terms as you can (refresh yourself, if necessary), then read like a writer to learn to recognize how other writers illustrate these elements of craft in their work. That’s how you’ll learn so that you can write 'mo better' too. It’s impossible to apply ALL techniques of craft to your writing, but you’ll surely employ some. Your stories, poems essays, and books will be the better for it. Mine are."
Eleanora E. Tate has conducted creative writing workshops in schools, community centers, for SCBWI, and in libraries and universities for children and adults for over forty years. A NCWN critiquer, NCWN conference workshop leader, and former NCWN board member, she’s the author of twelve novels for young readers. Her book Just an Overnight Guest was adapted into an acclaimed television film. In 2015, Tate was honored by the North Carolina Museum of History and the Wake County Library system for her contributions to children’s literature. The South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate previously cited her for her literary and community activism. Her books have been on numerous state children’s book reading lists over the years. She’s a Zora Neale Hurston Award recipient, the highest award given by the National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc., of which she is a former national president. She was also named to the organization’s “Esteemed Elders Circle.” Visit her website: www.eleanoraetate.com.
Register for NCWN's 2016 Fall Conference now at www.ncwriters.org.
The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers, in all genres, at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.