My big thing is to think out of the box, especially when it comes to this business of writing.

Case in point:

I just returned from an invigorating day at the national conference of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in Los Angeles. These are some of the things I learned:

+ While mystery book conventions and conferences are often hilarious and entertaining, children's book events can be heart-warming, emotional, and transformative. I can't tell you how moved I was by so many speakers.

+ It seems as if every genre feels neglected and marginalized by some other genre.

+ Children's book authors know how to give good PowerPoint. And they actually prepare their speeches and panels. We mystery writers can learn much from their lead.

+ Whether it be in mystery or children's literature, African Americans are leading the way for other people of color. Just check out the artwork of Kadir Nelson. It's so beautiful that I almost cried.

+ I think illustrations will continue to play a larger role in fiction in the future.

My middle-grade book, 1001 CRANES, is coming out in August 2008, and I'm so excited to reach a new audience. I went to a panel, "Which Shelf? On Switching Genres," led by Linda Sue Park, and we discussed the difference between story-driven writers and genre-driven writers. Working in multiple genres (even within children's literature) can possible confuse readers, libraries, and booksellers, but it is important for the artistic growth of a writer, says Park. I agree with her. I don't think that someone should write a thriller, YA novel, etc. because it's the thing to do right now. You need to consider what stories you are being called to write (and I'm not talking about your agent or editor). It needs to come from within.

This SCBWI event was a good ballast for me. Now do I dare to go to the Romance Writers of America convention next August since my middle-grade novel has a little bit of a romance in it? I'm seriously contemplating it.

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Comment by Naomi Hirahara on August 21, 2007 at 4:10am

It's true! Writers are never happy. I guess this insecurity is an occupational hazard. And maybe keeps us all humble to some degree.
Comment by Scott Nicholson on August 21, 2007 at 3:46am
Heh, I guess everybody's marginalized unless they are top 10 bestsellers! And even those folks seem insecure sometimes...
Comment by I. J. Parker on August 11, 2007 at 9:00am
:) Just a matter of polishing the jewel!
Comment by Naomi Hirahara on August 11, 2007 at 5:11am
That's why I love the mystery/thriller genre--the importance of plot to fuel the story. It sharpens the quills and makes the book have focus. But 200,000 words? That is some big book. I'm so glad that you are having fun with revisions. I'm still in my "this is kind of crap" mode. I'm sure that the sun will shine on it shortly.
Comment by I. J. Parker on August 11, 2007 at 5:04am
Congratulations on the new book, Naomi. May it do exceedingly well for you.
I'm a story-driven writer and have meanwhile made excursions from mystery into mainstream novels. The last mainstream novel is a 200,000 word monster and, while it garners flattering comments, it hasn't found a brave publisher yet. This fact pushed me into taking the current novel into thriller territory. It, too, started out as mainstream fiction. The switch was dictated by the market but, to my amazement, the book fell most happily into the thriller mode with only minor adjustments and big shot of added suspense. So far I'm having a lot of fun with it.

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