The Kernels of Knowledge from the 2018 Tucson Book Festival

The 2018 Tucson Book Festival in Arizona was the most inspiring, motivating, and useful event I’ve gone to in the last year. I attended 8 events over the course of 2 days and I didn’t want to go home. I met Nikki Drayden, Bell Hooks, Kristen Simmons, and a lot of other talented, successful, and friendly authors. Like the nerd I am, I took notes at every single event so I could take their secrets and techniques and become a successful author myself……and share them with the world. I condensed my notes into kernels of what I took away from each of the events and what could actually be put into action. Enjoy!

Writing in the Voice of the Other

  • Does the “other” ever find their voice?
  • Misperceptions are a part of life
  • Use Oxford dictionary to set a work in a particular time period by only using words from a certain time range

Creating Fantastic Characters

  • How to Create a Character
    • Explore by writing
    • Determine what they want and their overarching personality traits before writing
    • Keep a character sketch file of character ideas to draw from
  • Creating a Distinct Voice
    • Use the character’s background and word choice
    • Listen to real-life conversations for inspiration
    • Determine what’s important to them
    • Keep in mind that everyone looks at things differently and so should your characters
    • Are they going with or against their culture?
  • Creating Character Traits
    • Recommended Book: The New Astrology
    • Internet searches
    • Give them a birthday
    • Can you describe them without talking about where they are from and what their job is?
    • Use Meyers-Briggs
  • Getting to Know your Characters
    • Take a class in wat your character does
  • Creating Bad Guys
    • Need a good vision but poor execution
    • They are good and honorable about little things
    • What’s lovable about them? What endears the reader to them?
    • You need to sympathize with them
  • Non-Human Characters
    • They embody humanity better when place next to humans
    • What does being a god mean when you are born as one? You vs Divine Destiny
    • Robots with the same wants as humans but different execution…thus dissidence
  • Names
    • Determine common names in your world to repeat in background characters

Is the Future Dystopian?

  • It’s not about the disaster but the aftermath
  • Dystopian vs the human condition
  • What if X becomes the dominant trend?
  • Accidental futures
  • Stupid futures- easy solution to a problem but either a poor direction is taken or no action is taken
  • Perfect world that’s hell for the people living in it
  • Recommended Movie: Night of the Living Dead
  • Difficult world with characters trying to get by
  • When decisions are or are not made, options are narrowed
  • How rational are the actors making the decisions?
  • Who survives a dystopia?
  • Find a solution to a big problem and another problem secretly emerges
  • Planning for the dystopian future
  • Some helps another person while putting themselves at risk
  • Dystopias are not surprises, we build them everyday
  • True economic collapse
  • Something to lose breeds extreme views, desperation, and dehumanization
  • Books that Inspired the authors:
    • Feed by M.T. Anderson
    • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
    • Parable of the Sower & Parable of the Talents & Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler

Writing Short Stories

  • Habits or Techniques
    • Redemption or a moment of clarity set in stark relief
    • Research, write, move-on
    • Novels: Once you write your first draft, select all, delete…. then start again
  • Themes, Images, and Ideas
    • Track down experts in the fields you’re writing about
    • A weird incident or moment of crisis to which there is no resolution; a decision is made but there is no aftermath
  • Miscellaneous
    • We should not be making easy decisions in art
    • Short stories help you get your name known

Creating Multilayered Plots

  • Time
    • Use a calendar to visualize events
  • POV
    • No central character but a collective voice or narrative
    • Don’t identify whose pov it is but let the reader figure it out
    • Everyone gets a solo, then steps back
    • Multiple dominant voices and some minor ones
  • Genre
    • How do characters experience their lives? Sometimes different characters experience life in different genres
    • Don’t start with genre, start with a story

Writing Home

  • What if we perceived and practiced home everywhere?
  • A hunger for home
  • Where is the safe place?
  • Building home within catastrophe and epidemic
  • A contemplative life
  • Black people claiming beauty- we’re told we’re all that is ugly; home as freedom from hate and giving beauty, art, and life
  • Forgiveness allows for the formation of community
  • Home as an interior place
  • One’s own writing as a place of home
  • Longing for the end of domination
  • The gift of being an outsider
    • They can’t be sold to
  • A good book is an exercise in imagination and transformation
  • Home ¹ safe; why do we need to be safe? Why don’t we live in risk?
  • Emotional well-being
  • Who is it that society puts forth for us to look at?

Science Fiction and Society

  • Extrapolation on real world issues in an alternative world
  • The monster isn’t always a monster but represents something
  • Explore your character’s possibilities
  • Let your characters live and lead the way
  • Religion is group think
  • Ideology vs religion
  • Shadow jobs by telling them you’re writing a book and ask for free lessons
  • Google images
  • Bad guys who don’t think they are bad

Writing: It’s a Craft

  • Write down ideas as they come; they are probably connected
  • Sometimes you’re too tired to hear the muse but they are still there
  • Drafts
    • Let the first draft be shitty. Don’t edit or critique yourself. Don’t let anyone see it. this is some of the best material.
    • Be a gentle observer. Don’t judge your first draft. Look for the good stuff out of it.
  • Fear
    • Fears and fantasies are distractions from writing
    • If you fear it, it is probably your best writing. Grab onto it!
  • Time Management
    • As adults we give away our time and there needs to be certain times that are solely ours
    • Set boundaries- turn off social media, turn off phone, and it’s okay to say “no” to people
    • Show up for yourself
  • Craft
    • Take 2-3 writing classes a year
    • Go to presentations, panels, conferences, etc.
    • Don’t read to avoid writing
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