What Do Alan Gratz, Harold Underdown, Jessica Alexander and a Sunflower Cake Have in Common?

What do Alan Gratz, Harold Underdown, Jessica Alexander and a Sunflower Cake have in common? They were special treats this past weekend at The Writers’ Plot Conference at Furman University.

This was my first Writers’ Plot conference. Nine awesome, editors, authors, and agents shared their nuggets of wisdom. The problem was deciding which workshop to attend since we were only allowed three.

Edie Melson, Pam Zollman, and Jessica Alexander presented during the first session. I wanted to go to all of them but chose Jessica since she was presenting “Getting an Editor’s Attention.” Since she would be critiquing my manuscript later that day, I thought taking her workshop would be wise.

Jessica Alexander, editor at Peachtree Publishers and children’s book author, gave a humorous but educational reading of how not to get an editor’s attention. (Made note to self about not sending a dishtowel hand puppet, of a book character, to an editor).

Alan Gratz, Katya Jenson, and Diana Flegal presented during Breakout Session #2.  Again, tough choice but I chose Alan.

Author of five middle grade and young adult novels, he gave an outstanding presentation on plotting and pacing. I look forward to applying his “7-14-7” guide to the middle grade book I’m working on now. Writing scenes on index cards is another thing I plan to try.

Harold Underdown, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books (one of the first books I read when I began writing), was our keynote speaker. He gave an inspiring talk about the need for writers to make promises to their readers within the first pages of their books. The examples he read made me want to go home and write something great. (Let me tell you, this is easier said than done!)

The last sessions of the day were taught by Pat Thomas, Vonda Skelton and Harold Underdown. Oh, how I wanted to go to all of them! I chose Underdown’s workshop on making your characters memorable. This was a great interactive class. We were given time to work on a character by applying the techniques Underdown discussed.

As mentioned earlier, I had a critique of my children’s picture book. It went well. The positive feedback and helpful hints will assist me in tweaking it (again!)

Throughout the day door prizes were given. Name after name was called (not mine) and each time the conference director would tell the winners they could choose any prize except the cake. A beautiful sunflower cake had been donated by a bakery in Greenville ("the bakery off Augusta") and it was to be the last, grand prize of the day.

Harold Underdown drew the winner of the cake and announced, “Sally Matheny!” Woo hoo! It would have been great if he was announcing my name as the next recipient of a publishing contract, but hey, the cake was the next best thing.

I told everyone who was drooling over my cake I would write a description of how it tasted. Here goes.

When I opened the box, the sweet aroma of sugar, married with butter, floated upward. My mouth watered as I gingerly lifted it from the baker’s box. Too beautiful to eat on a paper plate, a china dessert plate was retrieved. The knife smoothly sliced through the cake. Four layers of rich goodness  were united by scrumptious chocolate icing. Delectable.

How’s that? J

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