Last Saturday, July 20th, 2013, CBW-LA had the pleasure of having YA Author Carmen Rodrigues as its workshop facilitator.
Carmen studied creative writing and theater at Florida State University and got her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is the author of Contemporary Young Adult novels NOT ANYTHING and 34 PIECES OF YOU, and is currently working on her next novel CARRY YOU WITH ME, due in the Fall of 2014.
YA Author and CBWLA Speaker Carmen Rodrigues
Carmen wanted the workshop to be more of a conversation and less of a lecture, so she asked each participant to introduce themselves and share a little bit about the kind of writing they’re working on.
With the ice broken, Carmen then proceeded to the presentation portion of the workshop.
In his book ON WRITING, Stephen King describes watching his uncle drag this big toolbox full of tools to repair a window. His uncle took out one screwdriver from among his many tools and proceeded to do his work. Once he was done, he replaced his screwdriver and hauled the big toolbox back to the shed. Stephen then asked his uncle why he needed to bring such a big toolbox when he just need one tool. His uncle replied that he brought his whole toolbox with him because he wanted to make sure he had everything he needed on hand, in case he found something else that needed fixing along the way.
YA Author Carmen Rodrigues at her CBWLA Workshop
Taking her cue from Stephen King, Carmen introduced to us the concept of The Writer’s Toolbox. As writers, we all have our own toolbox. When we start off, our toolboxes are empty, but as we learn more and develop our skills, it becomes filled with our tools.
Along with some of her favorite quotes on writing, Carmen shared the tools that make up her own Writer’s Toolbox:
- Your Readers - Find five readers and apply the rule of three. If you take workshops with more readers than you have fingers, then apply the rule of five.
- The Delete Button - I have written many 65,000 word novels and yet I have never published one.
- The Works of Others - When I’m stumped I read-- not for enjoyment but to steal from someone else’s genius.
- Workshops - Writing happens alone. Revision happens with readers. Where better to find them than at a workshop?
- A Coat of Armor - Writers need to be criticized. They need to be rejected. It’s in this criticism and rejection that you will push forward towards some of your best writing.
And just to inspire us even more, Carmen read from her own book 34 PIECES OF YOU. She also encouraged us to ask her questions that we might have, not just about the writer’s toolbox, but about revision as well. Her answers to all our questions were full of wonderful tips, insights and gems of wisdom.
YA Author Carmen Rodrigues with her CBWLA Revision Workshop Class
Once we were done peppering her with questions, Carmen steered us toward the workshop portion of the day. She gave us several writing prompts, actual creative writing exercises that we could use in our own revision process. She asked us to pick one exercise from the list she had given, and gave us 15 minutes to apply it to our own manuscripts.
Time flew, and soon some participants were sharing what exercise they had chosen and how they had applied it to their own works.
To end her presentation, Carmen gave us a list of books that we should read in order to know how elements of writing such as proper exposition, point of view and narrative voice are done correctly.
As she signed copies of her book, Carmen even made it a point to spend a few minutes with us so we could ask her anything we wanted about writing.
Carmen was a wonderful and inspiring speaker, and we were certainly lucky to have her facilitate our workshop.
YA Author Carmen Rodrigues with the CBWLA Officers (Photo by Kate Conrad)