Saturday, May 10, 2014

8th Annual Cliff House Writer's Retreat

The Eighth Annual Cliff House Writer’s Retreat held May 2-4, 2014, was another huge success. With such diverse manuscripts, everyone learned something new. We discussed two MG novels, one realistic and one supernatural. Five YA’s— contemporary romance, suspense, historical, steampunk and LGBT.

On Friday afternoon, we brainstormed additions to one member’s final pages, to make a stronger, more effective ending. Her story is headed to her agent and then off to the requesting editors. :)

Friday night, all seven of us enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Peter’s Europa House. Toasts were issued around the table. Four of the seven of us had books published within the last year. J

That night, after brainstorming sequel titles and concepts for one of our MG writers, we had a very deep discussion led by Ruth Knafo Setton, writing instructor at Lehigh University and Roxanne Werner, former editor at Stories for Children.  Needless to say everyone ran home to “SAVE THE CAT!” J

Saturday morning began with ‘sunrise yoga’ led by Milan Sandhu. Once we stretched our bodies we were ready to stretch our minds.


Readings, comments, critiques and plenty of note-taking commenced. After lunch break, we headed back for more. Writers had individual time to write and revise.

Supper was a community effort with vegetarian red lentil soup, various cheddar cheeses and dill crackers, chicken, grape and apple salad, heritage tomato salad, Spanish olives, chicken cutlets, and a large tossed salad dressed with Italian spices, vinegar and olive oil.

We finished up Saturday evening with the last writer critique and brainstormed topics for our next meeting.

Sunday morning, breakfast was a melancholy event, because everyone knew the time to leave was fast-approaching.  
One last round table meeting to cover synopses, queries and pitch lines and before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye.

Lookout world, the Cliff House Writers mean business, and with any luck, more of us will be published this year. J

If you are interested in joining us for a paid retreat in the fall, drop me a line and I’ll forward your information to our Fall Retreat coordinator.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Catch your readers…Hook, First Line and Story

“May I have your attention, please?”

What if you started off your novel this way, asking for the reader’s attention?

If you are a good writer, you do just that, only in not so polite a way. You stick the reader in the beginning of your story with such a traumatic/outlandish/dark & gritty or unusual beginning, they can’t help but read on to find out what is going to happen to the main character in the story.

Examples of great beginnings:

First the colors.
Then the humans.
That’s basically how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.

Here is a small fact…
You are going to die.

THE BOOK THIEF – Markus Zusak 


We are orphans. We use our brains and our bodies to survive. But the only things that thrive in Metro City are the rats, and not all of them are rodents.
                                                                                                            Jax Stone


A narrative hook is a literary technique in the opening of a story that "hooks" the reader's attention so that he/she will keep reading.

Ideally, the "opening" is the first sentence or paragraph. Sometimes , as above they are quotes from a character or a small prologue.

A few more examples where the hook is the first sentence.

***Here is everything I know about France: Madeline and Amelie and Moulin Rouge.

                                --Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins

***Makenna had to stretch onto her toes to reach the small stone lamp, for the shelf that held it was higher than a grown woman's head, and she was only eleven.

                                     --The Goblin Wood - Hilari Bell

***In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind.

                                      --Graceling - Kristin Cashore

The hook must create immediate tension, ask a question or find a way to allure your reader into the story. The hook sets up the entire scene, makes way for the plot and opens the door for the characters to shine, flawed and all.

Check over your manuscript and choose the best sentence to introduce your story. It might be the second or even down the page, but your story deserves the strongest beginning you can give it.

Next up on "The Author's ABC's……….Independent Publishing.

Energized to Write for the New Year

 So happy to be attending the SCBWI National Conference this week. My peer critiques went well two nights ago, and energized me to see the p...