|Sonya Sones, Author and Faculty Member at the upcoming SCBWI Summer Conference|
Sonya Sones has written four YA novels in verse, which have received many honors, including a Christopher Award, the Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry, the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize nomination. She’ll be the first one to tell you that in 2010 her novel in verse, What My Mother Doesn’t Know, made the ALA’s list of the “Top 100 Most Challenged Books of the Decade.” Sonya’s latest book, the Los Angeles Times bestseller The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, is her first novel in verse for grownups—a coming of middle-age story about learning to grow old disgracefully. She is this close to finishing her fifth YA novel in verse.
I'm very excited to have been able to chat with Sonya about the upcoming SCBWI Summer Conference here in Los Angeles...
Lee: There's lots of focus on breaking through at the SCBWI Summer Conference, especially for writers who have yet to be published. What do you see as the benefits of attending for authors who are already published?
Sonya: Come for the inspiration, and the fun! Come for the chance to see old friends and to meet new ones! And even if you are published, there’s always more to learn about writing and about illustrating and about marketing all of the above.
Lee: Your Monday Writers Intensive session is called "Should Your Tomes Be Written in Poems: Crafting the Novel in Verse" - The description is really enticing:
"Thinking about writing a novel in verse? In the middle of writing one already? This session will be jam-packed with info, tips, and secrets about using poetry to tell your stories."
Even the assignment sounds cool:
"Bring the first page of something you're working on and we'll pick some from a hat to discuss. After three days of soaking up inspiration at the conference, your creative juices will be flowing like lava, so we'll spend some of our time together writing poems."
Can you share a teaser tip or secret with us now?
Sonya: Okay, here’s a secret: Whenever you can, use similes to get to the heart of your character’s feelings. For example, instead of having your character say, “I am so happy right now,” show us that your character is happy, by using a simile: “I feel like a jar all filled up with a thousand fireflies.” Instead of having your character say, “I was so scared,” show us with a simile: “My heart fluttered in my throat like a trapped bird.” The amazing thing about this is that it allows your readers to feel the feelings your characters are having, right along with them—which makes them relate in a very deep way to what your characters are going through!
Lee: That’s a good secret! *scribbling madly in my journal* You'll be a special guest for the LGBTQ Q&A session on Friday night that I'm moderating, and I want to ask - With so much of the industry geared towards success being reaching the largest possible audience, there's a perception that "majority" characters are maybe "safer" to focus on. As an author, how do you get past that to include LGBTQ and other minority characters?
Sonya: If an LGBTQ character or other minority character wants me to tell their story, then I do. I never think about how that will affect my success. To heck with “safer!”
Lee: Love that! Any advice to share with conference attendees?
Sonya: Push the envelope. Go to some breakout sessions about genres you haven’t tried. Maybe you’ll have an epiphany! Spend as little time as possible in your hotel room.
Lee: For the Saturday Night Hippie Hop Gala… Tie dye or Fringe?
Sonya: Definitely tie dye. I never even did fringe when fringe was happening!
Lee: Thanks, Sonya!
To have a chance to learn from and be inspired by Sonya and the rest of the publishers, editors, agents, art directors, illustrators and authors who are part of the amazing conference faculty, you can still register here!