Monthly Archives: November 2018

BWS 14.11.18 report: “Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies,” with Anne Laurel Carter

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Anne Laurel Carter grew up in Don Mills. She’s been a librarian and ESL/ FSL teacher. Her 19 books were inspired by her experiences or interviews of interesting people or by the dreamscape of her imagination. She lives in Toronto and Nova Scotia.

At our event last week, Anne stopped by to share her what strategies she uses to engage  young adult and middle grade audiences.

 

When I used to do manuscript evaluations it was obvious to me that adults writing for Middle Grade or Young Adult readers had the distinct advantage of maturity and experience compared to young students trying to do the same thing (students I taught in the school system). If the adult writers read YA avidly, studied the literature carefully, and attended writing workshops, they could acquire a good set of craft tools. They knew how to hook a reader quickly. Their 11, 14 or 17 year-old characters sounded their age and were focused on issues that concerned their peers.

However, adult writers had the disadvantage of being parents and feeling ‘wise’. Too often they tried to slip a moral lesson into their story. Subtle or from a soap box, it always weakened, if not ruined, a story. In addition, whenever benevolent adults were given secondary roles they inevitably gave ‘important advice to save the day’ or worse, stepped into a crisis scene and solved it.

The more I write MG or YA the more I remind myself that I’m not writing for a younger reader. I’m writing as a young person. I cut or minimize the benevolent adults. I evoke the emotional landscape of my character’s age by observing and remembering, vividly, the events that happened to me growing up. I recall vividly being that age.

So here are three key strategies to help you write a story that will win the interest of MG and YA readers:

Viewpoint

Nail this one. Be the character. Stay true to her age. Readers love a clear voice at a particular age. It’s compelling. When you’re totally immersed in the viewpoint of your character her voice – when it rings true – can carry the story.

For example, when I was 13 I knew I would never get married (by the way: I’ve been married twice). My mother was a frustrated, often-angry housewife. I had never heard of sexism or depression – terms I would study much later. Looking back, with the advantage of an education and some therapy, I know I transferred something about my mother onto my rejection of marriage. All of which I ignored to write a novel, Last Chance Bay, in the voice of a 13 year-old girl living in Canada during the 1940’s when most girls had limited career choices. It was easy to nail Meg’s voice in the first line: “For the longest time, right up until my fourteenth birthday I wanted to wake up as a boy.”

Story

Tell a good story. Do you have a strong premise? Younger readers demand a good story, while some appreciate literary writing they never do at the expense of story. If your writing is dense or slow or boring they won’t read on. So take your character to the edge of the cliff in your plot and push them over the edge. Don’t be nice. Crank up the stakes.

Let the young protagonist drive the action and solve the problem

MG and YA writers used to love orphan stories for good reason. No parents were around to supervise. Unexpected adventures happened. Danger. The kids had to find their way out of the climax without adult help.

Find a creative way to achieve the same thing without killing off your characters’ parents (a cliche at this point). Readers will enjoy the kids’ solutions. The less “adult” the better.

 

Stay tuned for information about our next event and features on our upcoming writers! 

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BWS 14.11.18: Glynis Guevara

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Glynis Guevara was born in Barataria, Trinidad, but has lived in Canada for more than twenty years. She attempted to write her first novel at fourteen, and even though it was never completed she never gave up her love for writing. Several years after completing high school, she moved to London, England to study law. She successfully completed a Bachelor of Laws (honours) degree and was admitted to the bar of England and Wales and Trinidad and Tobago.

Glynis enrolled as a student at Humber College School for Writers after she was laid off her job at a Toronto hospital; she hasn’t stopped writing since. She was shortlisted for the Small Axe Literary (short fiction) prize in 2012 and the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean LiteratureUnder the Zaboca Tree (Inanna Publications, 2017) is her debut novel. Her second YA novel, Black Beach was published in September 2018. She currently works as an adult literacy instructor in Toronto.

 

 

In 2005, I was bumped from my job as a technical writer / computer trainer at a Toronto hospital. I was suddenly unemployed and didn’t have a clue how I was going to close the townhouse I’d already signed the contract to purchase. I totally remember my first day at home without a job. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I decided to write about my life. I didn’t have any plans to write a novel then; I just wrote to deal with the pain. The days passed, and I couldn’t stop writing. I got up early every morning and wrote all day long. I eventually began to put my focus on drafting a manuscript called Pain of My Imperfections. Eventually, I enrolled as a student at Humber College School for Writers. I was lucky to have Rabindranath (Robin) Maharaj as my mentor. During this course, I worked on the Pain of My Imperfections manuscript.  After the course ended, I put that novel aside and began to write Under the Zaboca Tree. It became my debut YA novel, published in June 2017 by Inanna Publications.

Under the Zaboca Tree 

Under the Zaboca Tree tells the story of ten-year-old, Baby Girl as she moves from Canada to Trinidad with her dad. Baby Girl can’t recall ever meeting her mom, but she never gives up her dream of one day reuniting with her. Many people have told me that Under the Zaboca Tree seems true to life but is fiction. My childhood was very different from Baby Girl’s. I had a very stable childhood, while Baby Girl has to learn how to deal with constant changes in her life. She and I are similar in that we both love books and using our creative energy to deal with difficult situations.

Black Beach 

Black Beach tells the story of 16-year-old Tamera who lives in a tropical fishing village with her parents. While Tamera tries to find herself, she must deal with numerous issues including her mother’s illness, the absence of her boyfriend who moves out of the village to work, the disappearance of a classmate and an environmental disaster that hits her community affecting the villagers’ health and livelihood. I was motivated to write this book after reading about an oil spill in south Trinidad in 2013.  Black Beach was published by Inanna Publications (2018).

What’s Next?

Currently, I’m writing a sequel to my debut novel, Under the Zaboca. The biggest difficulty so far is dealing with a challenging health issue, but the manuscript is already written in my head. It is just a matter of finding the time to commit my thoughts to paper. The working title is Poui Season and it follows Baby Girl as she returns to Toronto for the first time at sixteen years old. Besides writing Poui Season, I’m also seeking a literary agent for my solo adult manuscript Pain of My Imperfections which I’ve revised within recent years. Pain of My Imperfections is written in a man’s voice and deals with the many trials immigrants face after arriving in Canada. The novel is based in Canada, Trinidad and Grenada.

 

Glynis Guevara visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Priya Ramsingh, Anthony Easton, Rocco de Giacomo, and guest speaker Anne Laurel Carter presents us with tips on “Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies.”

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