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Inciting Emotional Events

Whoohoo! I had such an amazing time at the Southampton Children's Literature Conference this past weekend. Many of the conference participants were students at Stonybrook Southampton, and it was such a pleasure to meet them and hang out with fellow writers. Plus, the weather was absolutely perfect and I'm kicking myself for not having taken more photos!

I finally got to meet and study with the fabulous Gayle Forman, whose If I Stay made me cry buckets and buckets when I read it years ago. Gayle gave us a couple exercises to prepare before arriving at the workshop, and one of them was to talk about an inciting emotional event in your life.

I had one prepared, but when it came my turn to talk about it, I completely changed it to a different one! I don't know what got into me, but I started talking about how difficult it'd been for me to start out as a female composer. I still remember on my first day of music theory class, my professor told me and the other girl, "If you want to succeed as female composers, marry rich!"

That "advice" has always stayed with me. I know he meant well, so I'm not rankled, but I self-consciously chose to present my struggles as a girl (not because 90% of us in the workshop were female), but because my work in progress very much deals with this subject -- it's about a young woman who has to break the glass ceiling in her own time and way after an Inciting Emotional Event (IEE).

To my relief, Gayle understood where I was coming from, and I really appreciated how she got under the dirt of everyone's stories and related them to the pieces we brought to share. Digging deeper into our characters' emotions was definitely the theme of the week, which was perfect since it's something I've been thinking about a lot for my protagonist. Sometimes we writers work so hard to get something onto the page, to make it sound and look beautiful, that we ignore the raw emotions that should feed the words. No more writing like this!!

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