Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Something in common with Yoda

Written by Patti
Meet Patti Lee Gauch, editor and author and teacher extraordinaire, who will be one of two faculty members at SCBWI Western Washington's annual Weekend on the Water retreat this fall. Your humble blogger has had the pleasure of working with her rather extensively and can never shake the idea that Patti has a great deal in common with Yoda, from her calm authority, compassion, and wisdom to her Jedi control of The Force when it comes to writing and editing.

Written by Patti
We asked Patti to give us some insight on what's bringing her back to the Northwest and what you might hope to learn from her if you're so lucky as to be among retreat participants. (Retreat applications are being accepted now; don't delay.)

What has helped lure you to the Pacific Northwest and our weekend retreat for a second time?
What has lured me back to the Northwest, quite frankly, is its quality of writers. I have always regarded a conference that is after growing its authors and artists as the best kind of conference. Too many conferences are quick and light and on to the next conference. The program at your conference lets writers see and hear new ideas — then to use them, with professionals looking over their shoulders.  I like that. And I like looking over their shoulders!

Edited by Patti
Edited by Patti
Since I will be talking about writing novels, participants might like to know that my biggest novel client was Redwall's Brian Jacques, who many people think was the forerunner of J.K Rowling,  though I worked with Frindle's Andrew Clements, Newbery Honor winner Janet Lisle, popular New Zealand writer Joy Cowley, and so on. Of course, I love the work that I have done — and do —  with Chautauqua and Highlights Foundation workshoppers, among them many having published.

Our event theme this year is "going deeper." What does going deeper into writing or a story mean to you?
I find that most writers, even published ones like Rick Riordan, work on a single level, call it the storytelling level. Getting the narrative down. Making it exciting. But, while both writers are immensely successful, writers like John Green do more than that. His characters come to life. They have a history that may not even make it into the book,  but that inform it. That drives the narrative. These writers know how to enlist their characters in the storytelling, so the voice becomes true and powerful. They know about going "far enough." Maybe of all the questions I would ask a writer, published and not published, is: Do you go far enough?  Does each scene resonate with your passion for the story and the character and the moment to bring it to life? Do you know what going "far enough" means? Isn't that that the only way to bring the reader — and editor — to the heart of your story?

At a conference like your Weekend on the Water retreat, I like to bring a mandate with me: for each writer to come to a new place in their writing, to begin to see their story in a new way, and to know — maybe suddenly — the way to get to the heart of it.

What's the most memorable thing you've ever done in or with water?
Patti and her husband Ron, on the water
I have lived on the Great Lakes most of my life, so my stories may be more dramatic than some.  Having had the adventures on the lakes that I did, it seems to be the adventures I remember.... My father had a small 30 foot cruiser when I was a teen, and, because he had learned to navigate with a compass, he went across great stretches of water by direct reckoning. He took chances, too, though he didn't always mean to. Once in crossing over from Lake Huron to Georgian Bay, we ran into a fierce storm...
Editor's cliffhanger: Patti protested that the story she had in mind was too long, but if you go to the retreat see if you can get a Great Lakes boating story or two out of her.

Read more about Patti, her books, and her teaching abilities at her own website, the Penguin website, and in this 2010 interview by our own Martha Brockenbrough.

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