Saturday, January 22, 2011

Writers' Circle

Bonnie Shimko reads a humorous passage from one of her books.

No podium or stage. An informal event, people sitting in an intimate circle, including the guest speakers.

Local authors Bonnie Shimko and Kate Messner were the featured speakers for "A Novel Evening For Literacy," held Thursday evening at the Koffee Kat cafe. Sponsored by the Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County, the writers read selections from their respective works and then there was Q&A, an opportunity for audience members to learn more about each writer.

Both Bonnie and Kate have something else in common besides writing for young readers: teaching. Kate educates young minds at a city school while Bonnie is retired from the profession. This means that each writer has a different approach to writing. While Bonnie has more free time -- her children are grown and have moved away -- Kate has to deal with a fixed schedule, her job and her family. She sets aside two hours every evening to write after her children have gone to bed.

Kate mentioned that with her first book she needed some advice and had heard about Bonnie, a published author of a young adult novel ("Letters in the Attic"). When she phoned, Kate explained she didn't know what she was doing. Bonnie replied that she also didn't know what she was doing, either. Joking aside, Bonnie helped Kate navigate through the process of mainstream publishing.

During the Q&A one person asked about dealing with an editor, whether the writer had to agree with everything an editor wanted. While Kate's experience with her editors was positive, Bonnie said that after she enjoyed a good relationship with her first editor but the second one was problematic. It got to the point where she told her agent she wanted to quit the project. But the book was completed with another editor. Both authors agreed that an editor was an important factor in getting a manuscript ready for publication.

The question of fan mail came up. Both Bonnie and Kate received enthusiastic letters from their readers. Kate mentioned that one boy wrote to her saying that he was sorry, he didn't like one of her books ("The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z") because it didn't have enough action. He added that because he didn't like her book didn't necessarily mean it was bad. Kate said that she hung the letter on the wall and looks at it whenever she receives a rejection letter from an editor. And she noted that her next book would have lots of action.

Author Kate Messner holds a chart she is using to track characters in one of her projects. It's a tool to keep track of what each character knows during the story's timeline.

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For more info:

Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County:

Bonnie Shimko:

Kate Messner:

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