Alane Ferguson has written tons of books, including a series called the Mysteries in Our National Parks and the Sleuth Forensics series, and she was such a riot. She talked about her life and what inspired her as a writer. My favorite thing was her two common problems to avoid for the opening of your book, which for me is the hardest part!
1. Too much back story. Alane said the hook time, especially for kids, is shorter and shorter, and we only get two paragraphs to snag their attention. TWO PARAGRAPHS? Yikes! But I've heard this from agents too, to wait and add back story in until after we make readers care about our characters first. TOUGH!
2. Make sure dialogue and setting are necessary. Is it something your character will notice? Or are you throwing that tree in there for your purposes? An interesting thought.
My favorite was meeting Kate Testerman, literary agent with KT Literary. Kate was adorable. She was super nice and very knowledgeable. She did a workshop on queries and said she has over 200 unread emails in her inbox over the past two weeks or something like that!!!! :O I can't imagine getting that many emails--no wonder agents are so busy! Kate suggested we look up her 10 Steps Before You Query video from WriteOnCon last year and she also went into the hook for a query, which, for me, is super hard to come up with! One big thing Kate said to NEVER do in a query is to start with a question like, "Did you ever wonder if..." Because it opens things up for the agent to say NO right off the bat--the last thing we want!
Overall, it was an excellent day. So fun to mingle with other writers. But I especially liked meeting Kate and getting her feedback on my first ten pages. She helped so much! In case you're interested, here's her video on querying. It's seven minutes long, but if you're (like me) getting ready to query soon, it's well worth your time:
Such good points!!! I especially like her suggestion about preparing a spreadsheet.
Anyway, hope you all have an awesome week!! :D