One Writer’s Journey

June 14, 2016

Voice: The Many Faces of One Piece of Writing

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:24 am
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voice facesWhen a new writer asks about voice, I always feel myself hesitate before I respond.  What does she want to know?  Is the talking about character voice?  Author voice?  The tone of an individual piece of writing?  Because voice is all of this and much, much more.

This past weekend at the Missouri SCBWI Advanced Writers Retreat Taylor Norman of Chronicle Books took us through a session on voice.  The first thing that she did in this session may have been the most important.  She helped us realize just how complicated the voice of a work can be because all of these elements can play a part:

  • The author’s voice.
  • The character’s voice.
  • The narrator’s voice.
  • The voice of the person narrating the audio book.
  • The voice of the librarian reading it aloud.

This is only a fraction of the things on her list which was probably about twenty items long.  Even this abbreviated list can help you see how and why this topic is so complex and so very difficult to discuss.

First things first, fix your voice as the author.  How your writing sounds will depend on a variety of factors.  Where and when did you grow up?  This will influence many of the words and phrases that you use — ice box vs refrigerator, pollywog vs tadpole.  Next comes your level of education and your field.  Even when writing fiction, an astrophysicist with a Ph.D. will write very differently from a philosophy major with a bachelor’s degree.  Other things that factor in include your hobbies because relevant terms will find their way into your vocabulary.

Now what about your character’s voice?  In my current fiction wip, my main character is a 12 year-old girl who is a mechanical marvel.  Her voice is very different from either of her brothers.  The youngest is 9 and adores animals.  The oldest is 21 and a veteren.  Think about how different each of these character’s would speak.

That is their character voice which is influenced by my voice which may, one day, be influenced by the voices of the people reading it aloud. Its almost more than a body can wrap her head around.





June 10, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:23 am
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retreat adviceI am on the road today with my writing buddy Stephanie Bearce.  We are journeying over the river (I think there’s a river) and to the land of wide open fields and windmills to the Missouri SCBWI Advanced Writers Retreat.

That means that my boys have to hold down the fort without me.  Poor boys!  Alas, I don’t really feel sorry for them because I’m looking forward to a great weekend with my fellow writers.

Later gators!


October 19, 2015

Meeting a Deadline

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:17 am
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time-watch-hands-of-a-clock-clock-pointersI have a book due tomorrow.  Yep.  15,000 words.  So what did I do this weekend?  I went on retreat.  I had had it planned before I had the deadline but that’s not the only reason I went.  It was a writing retreat.  Yep, a retreat with fellow writers.  Writers get deadlines.  We were all there to write and we held each other accountable.

The funny thing is that nonwriters often worry about me deadlines more than writers.  I remember attending a Boyscout Court of Honor about two weeks before my first book was due. One of the moms marched up to me and started in.  “If I was you, I’d be at home working if I had a deadline.”

“What do you write?”

“I’m not a writer but…”

“Do you mean your not published or do you really not write?”

“I don’t write but…”

“Don’t worry.  I’ll get it done.”

“I just think…”

“Here, have a cookie.”

Oddly enough, I’ve never had another writer ask me why I’m not holed up.  They smile, they nod, they share strange deadline stories.

“I finished that first book working on the laptop while my husband drove the entire family cross country.”

“I had a file corrupt and had to retype the whole book …”

“Once I wrote all night long…”

It may not sound supportive but they’re like war stories.  This is what I’ve survived.  You’ll get through it too.  And I will.  I’ve met deadlines working in my father-in-laws basement when we lost power.  I stood on top of my son’s fort and conducted an interview when the closest phone tower was out.  My husband has had to send files from work that were too large to send before we had WiFi.

I’ll get it done but it sure was a lot more fun to do it on retreat than standing precariously on top of the fort…

For more on writing retreats, see my post today at the Muffin.



December 21, 2010

Missouri SCBWI Retreat

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:48 am
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Looking for a writing event to get you going in 2011?  Consider the Missouri SCBWI Retreat for Pals Members.

When: March 25 to 27, 2011 at Trout Lodge in Potosi, Missouri.

Speakers: Jennifer Mattson (Andrea Brown Literary Agent) and Lynn Rubright (Creative Writer and Storyteller).

From the brochure:

Authors love to write. We all adore the excitement of a new idea and the thrill of exploring a new character. It’s the agony of editing that we hate.

With the help of agent, Jennifer Mattson and writer, Lynn Rubright you will learn how to face that monster called revision and dig deeper into your creative self.

You will spend a full weekend analyzing and revising your toughest project. At the beginning of the retreat, Jennifer Mattson will meet one-on-one with you to suggest revisions that will make your manuscript stronger. You will be given time to work on those changes and will meet again in a private session with Jennifer to review your work.

In addition to one-on-one sessions with Jennifer, you will be involved in workshop sessions designed to hone your writing craft and refresh your creative spirit. Lynn will lead creative sessions that will get ideas flowing and help you help you re-vision yourself as a writer. Jennifer will provide instruction on developing story arc and how to select a point of view for your manuscript.

You will also have the opportunity to work on additional projects in a peer critique groups and have time to network with fellow writers.

The retreat will be held at the lovely Trout Lodge YMCA in Potosi, Missouri.  This peaceful setting, beside a lake with tree-covered hills, is a wonderful inspiration for writing. All rooms have two double beds and their own bathroom. All meals and lodging are included in the cost of the retreat. Private rooms are not available for this retreat.

This retreat is limited to members of SCBWI who are on the PAL (published and listed) list.  To keep the retreat intimate, there will be only 16 participants. Please register early to reserve your spot. Registrations will be accepted on a first-come first-serve basis.

Staff Bios

Jennifer Mattson: Jennifer comes to Andrea Brown Literary Agency after nearly five years of reviewing children’s literature as part of the Books for Youth staff of Booklist magazine. That adds up to close readings of around 1,000 books, lending Jennifer a wide-angle view of the tastes of individual houses.

Prior to Booklist, Jennifer was an Associate Editor at Dutton Children’s Books, where she acquired and edited titles that included CHICO, by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; and The Heroic Adventures of Hercules Amsterdam, by Melissa Glenn Haber. (She also enjoyed an amusing turn on the other side of the desk as a coauthor of The Official Easy-Bake Cookbook).

In the picture-book arena, Jennifer is interested in authors and author-illustrators who bring a distinctive, well-developed point of view to their work. For the older set, she is drawn to richly imagined fantasies that depart from old-hat heroic quests (alternate realities, magical realism, and steam-punk are all styles/premises to have recently caught her notice). She has a special interest in dystopian fiction for middle graders.

Lynn Rubright: Lynn is an internationally acclaimed storytelling artist, author and master educator. She is Professor Emeritus at Webster University where her graduate course, Story Telling Across the Curriculum has met with overwhelming response for over 30 years.

She is the recipient of the National Storytelling Network’s 2007 Oracle Award for Lifetime Achievement and a Regional Emmy for her work as producer on the documentary, Oh Freedom, After While. She is also the author of two award winning books; Beyond the Beanstalk, and Mama’s Window.

Registration: As a part of this retreat you will be asked to submit the first 15 pages of your novel or a full picture book manuscript. Information about submissions will be given to you with the e-mail confirmation of your registration.

Registration Form:

_______ Yes! I am a PAL* member of SCBWI (and yes, we do check!)

Name: __________________________________________________________

Address: __________________________________________________________

E-mail: _____________________________

Phone: ________________________________

________ enclosed is my check for $335.00 Cost of the retreat is $335.00.
This includes all sessions, overnight accommodations, and all meals.

Check payable to:
Missouri SCBWI

Mail check and form to:
Stephanie Bearce, 18 Quiet Brook Ct. St. Charles, MO 63303

You will receive e-mail confirmation of your registration and instructions for submitting your manuscript.

*PAL membership of the SCBWI means published and listed. To register yourself on PAL simply login to SCBWI and update your profile information. Only people on the PAL list will be accepted for participation in this retreat.

Questions? Contact

Tentative Schedule:


3:00 – Check In

4:00 – 4:30 Welcome, introductions etc. Ice Breaker Activities
4:30 – 5:30 Begin first round Critiques with Jennifer Mattson
4:30 – 5:30 Writing Get Acquainted Activity – Stephanie Bearce

6:00 – 7:00 Supper

7:15 – 9:00 Finish first Round Critiques with Jennifer
7:15 – 9:00 Mining You Memories Workshop – Lynn Rubright

9:00 – 10:30 Social Time


8:00- 9:00 Breakfast

9:00 – 10:30 Workshop – Jennifer Matteson
10:30-10:45 Break
10:45 – 12:00 Enhanced Creativity Workshop – Lynn Rubright

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch

1:00 – 4:00 Writing and Revision Time

4:00 – 5:30 Workshop – Jennifer Mattson

6:00 – 7:00 Supper

7:30 – 9:00 Meet with Peer Critique Groups
7:30 – 9:00 Second round revision critiques with Jennifer Mattson

9:00 – 10:30 Social Time


8:00- 9:00 Breakfast

9:00 – 10:45 Workshop Session – Stephanie Bearce

9:00 – 10:45 Second round revision critiques with Jennifer Mattson

10:45 – 11:00 Break

11:00 – 12:00 Burning Questions and Closing – Jennifer and Lynn

12:00 Lunch – Dismiss Retreat

April 29, 2010

What I Learned on Retreat with Randi Rivers

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:32 am
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First of all — if you ever have the opportunity to attend a retreat led by Randi Rivers of Charlesbridge, do it!   It will be time and money well spent.

This was actually my second retreat with Randi.  The first time, she discussed characterization in the picture book and how to write narrative nonfiction.  This time, she discussed the all important revision letter and how to revise.

When she asks for revision, one of the things that she most often asks writers to alter is their organization, especially in nonfiction.  So it is probably no great surprise that when I met with her, she asked me to reconsider the organization and format of my manuscript.  I had never tried to write anything like this before and I prepared this piece for the retreat just so that I could see what I would need to change to sell this kind of manuscript.  The answer?  Quite a bit.  I need to re-research the piece and pretty well start from scratch.

Randi also suggested that we not take her comments and just run with them.  She wanted us to look behind them and see what larger issues she was trying to address.  Don’t use her fix, but come up with our own fix that would work within the manuscript we wanted to create.

In addition to organizational issues, I didn’t have quite enough material.   Randi suggested two different ways to reorganize and I played around with the one that felt most natural given what had inspired me to write the manuscript.  Then I dummied it and realized there still wasn’t enough material.  What if I added another section?  I went back to Randi with my new plan.  We noodled and chatted and realized that with my addition, a different section now felt out of place.  If I removed that section, things would again be too short but I’d have room to expand other areas into a more high concept approach.


What initially inspired me may not even make it into the final manuscript but I can’t say that I mind.  I love the new idea and can keep the other material for another project.  After all, how can you complain about a new organization that is much stronger?

–SueBE (who is off to work on the research)

January 4, 2010

Missouri SCBWI Event: Retreat with Alexandra Penfold

Missouri SCBWI


Writer’s Boot Camp:

We Want YOU



Simon and Schuster

Asst Editor

Kate Angelella


Picture Book Author

Jeanie Ransom

July 9 -11, 2010

Hermann, Missouri

Do you wonder if there are secrets to getting published?
Do you wish you could get an editor to look at your work?
Do you want to learn tips from an experienced author?
If so – Writer’s Boot Camp is for YOU!
You will spend the whole weekend working on your writing projects and receive a one-on-one manuscript critique with editor, Alexandra Penfold. She will critique either one picture book manuscript, or the first ten pages of your novel. All manuscripts must be submitted by May 30th.
You will learn writing and marketing tips from author, Jeanie Ransom, and participate in small-group critique forums.
This weekend is designed to hone your writing skills and advance your career.
The goal of this retreat is to help you on the road to becoming a published author.


3:00 – Check-in begins
5:00 – Opening remarks and introductions
6:00 – Supper
7:30 – 9:00 Session 1 – Alexandra Penfold
9:00 – 10:00 social time
8:00 – Breakfast
9:00 – 10:30 Critiques with Alexandra,
Meetings with small critique groups
10:30 – 10:45 Break
10:45 -12:00 Session 2- Jeanie Ransom,
Finish critiques with Randi Rivers
12:00 – 2:00 Lunch on your own
2:00 – 3:30 Session 3-Alexandra Penfold
4:00 – 6:00 Writing time
6:00- 7:00 Supper
7:30 – 9:30 small group critiques
9:00- Breakfast
10:00 – 11:30- Session 4 – Burning
questions with Alexandra and Jeanie
12:00 Wrap up and Good-bye
The writer’s weekend will be held in scenic Hermann, Missouri, at the Mansion Birk. This historic home was built in 1886 and has the perfect
atmosphere for creative writing. In your spare time, you can explore Hermann’s charming antique shops and sample the wares at the wineries.
Or you can relax in the shade of the Victorian veranda with the beverage of your choice.
To keep the retreat intimate, the number of participants is limited to 16.  Participating in this retreat means sharing a room and a bed with another
guest. Many participants like to find another writing friend and share a room. We are sorry, but there are no private rooms available for this
retreat. All rooms offer queen or king-size beds and the rooms are all no-smoking rooms. The rooms do require the ability to climb stairs.
Visit Mansion Birk at the website:
Kate Angelella is an Assistant Editor with Aladdin / Simon & Schuster, New York, NY. Kate specializes in commercial Middle Grade and tween fiction.  Among the titles Kate has edited are: the upcoming Canterwood Crest series by Jessica Burkhart, The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon,The School for Cool by P.G. Kain, and more forthcoming tween titles by Lauren Barnholdt. Kate loves angst-y girl characters, fresh takes on the chick lit genre with strong commercial hooks, as well as novels with any type of magic or paranormal element.
Jeanie Ransom has published five picture books with three different publishers and there are more on the way. She has been involved in writing
and publishing since she sold her first magazine article at the age of 17. Jeanie specializes in humorous picture books and books with a caring message. Her titles include: What Really Happened to Humpty? What Do Parents Do? and Grandma U.
Registration Form:
Name _____________________________
Address ___________________________
E-mail ____________________________
Phone ____________________________
Cost of retreat
________ Member SCBWI $335
________ Non- SCBWI $365
Make checks payable to:
Mail to: Stephanie Bearce
18 Quiet Brook Ct.
St. Charles, MO 63303
You will receive an e-mail confirmation of your reservation. After you have registered you will receive instructions on submitting your manuscript.
Registrations will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis.

March 20, 2009

Pick the Right Event

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:25 am
Tags: , , ,

thinkI hope you’ve enjoyed reading just a little bit about what I learned at the retreat.  I learned much, much more.  In fact, Cheryl Klein gave us so much information that it will take me weeks to absorb it all.   If I had been a new writer, a retreat of this kind would have been too much.  That is why I’d like to encourage you to look at the type of event before you sign up. 

  • Conferences tend to be large and offer a variety of sessions that may or may not be focused around a particular topic.   Probably the best choice for new writers but they can also be good for intermediate writers.
  • Workshops give you the chance for “hands on” learning.  You’ll probably be doing writing exercises.   Good for intermediate writers looking to hone skills.
  • Retreats, whether large or small, offer a chance for several days of intense work.  They usually include one-on-one time with the editor, evaluations meant to help you improve your work.  Expect to be told what you’re doing wrong although a good critiquer includes what you’re doing right so that you have something to build on.  Best for the advanced writer.  
  • Agent or Editor Days are generally designed to expose you to several agents or editors in one day.  Best for intermediate to advanced writers who have several highly polished manuscripts to market.

Pick the event that best fits where you are.  It will make for a better experience.


March 17, 2009

Event Expectations

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:05 am
Tags: , ,

surpriseWhen I go to a writing event, I try not to decide ahead of time just what it is that I’ll learn.  The reason? I don’t always switch gears easily and simply being open seems to help. 

Imagine my surprise at the retreat this weekend when I went in for my one-on-one time with Editor Cheryl Klein and she immediately started asking me questions about my submission.  Huh?  What?  Which way did they go?  I didn’t expect questions. 

I thought she would tell me what she thought.  I’m sure that for a moment I looked gob smacked, but I recovered and answered her questions.   After getting my thoughts on the matter, she gave me feedback on plot and character and the set up of my fantasy world.  By asking me questions, she helped me see the things I had considered (character motivation) and those I had neglected (subplot, anyone?).  I’ve got several things to work on but will devote some more time to digesting her comments before rewriting.

I knew her comments would help me on the fantasy I submitted for evaluation, but didn’t expect the help she gave me on the picture book I also brought.  The picture book was for small group critique sessions with my fellow writers.  Cheryl didn’t read it, but the points she made about plot in other sessions highlighted the problems with this manuscript.  I knew something was wrong, but not what.  Now I know, and I have the tools to add the depth I need (more on that Wednesday). 

My advice to you?  When you sign up for an event, show up with pen and paper and an open mind.  You will come away with the tools you need to improve your writing.


March 16, 2009

Missouri SCBWI Writers Retreat

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:40 am
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flowerThank you to the great people who pulled together the Missouri SCBWI Writers Retreat in Hermann, Missouri.   Lynnea and Stephanie did a fantastic job!

As did our editor.  Cheryl Klein is a true inspiration.  Several of the seeds she planted have already sprouted.  Based on her talks, I now know how to improve several manuscripts.  If you get a chance to hear Cheryl speak, go for it.  You’ll be glad you did.

Thank you to the writers who gave me feedback on my work. 

Thanks also go out to my husband for keepin things going at home.  I even came home to fresh paint on my bathroom ceiling!

Tuesday, I’ll post some specifics.   About the retreat.  The ceiling is basic white.


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