"Story and plot are not the same. Plot is only the aramature on which your story hangs."

Patricia Anthony

Writing instructor, Southern Methodist University

A Special Report

The 15th Annual Craft of Writing Conference

The 15th Annual Craft of Writing Conference drew nearly 200 people to the Dallas area in late September. Sponsored by Southern Methodist University and the Greater Dallas Writers' Association, the event took place in the Omni Richardson Hotel and featured 31 speakers.

Among agents who spoke were:Donald Maass, New York agent; Jim Hornfischer, Austin branch office head of The Literary Group International; Evan Fogelman, Dallas/Manhattan-based literary agent; Deborah Adams Herman, literary agent with the Jeff Herman Literary Agency, New York/Ohio.

Editors included: Michael Kandel, author and editor of science fiction for Harcourt Brace; Eva Moore, senior editor, Scholastic, Inc.; Authorlink! Editor-in-chief, Doris Booth; Judy Alter, director of Texas Christian University Press; Billy Bob Hill, small press publisher and English teacher at Eastfield College; Kathryn Lang, senior editor, SMU Press; Fran Vick, director and co-founder of the University of North Texas Press.

Also presenting were Deborah Crombie, author of five books; Robert Flynn, award-winning novelist in residence at Trinity University and author of five novels; Barbara Wedgwood, director, SMU Fiction Writing Program, and Howard Swindle, an award-winning journalist and author, and finalist for this year's Edgar Award.

Others were Karen Leabo, athor of 23 contemporary romance novels for Silhouette Books and Bantam Lovesept; Susan Malone, award-winning author of fiction and non fiction books; C.Dean Anderson, author of 13 novels; Nina Romberg (aka Jane Archer), author of seventeen novels; Deborah Crombie, author of five books; Donna Gimarc (aka Elisabeth Fairchild), Regency romance writer; John Wood, articles editor of Modern Maturity magazine; Laura Castoro (aka Laura Parker) author of 30 books; Constance Bovier, freelance writer; Karen Ross,M>D., DallasCounty Medical Examiers Office; Renee Wittersaetter, editor and writer of comics; Mona Sizer (aka Deana James and Rachel Davis), author, lecturer and teacher; Jan Upton Seale, author; Pat Anthony, acclaimed new science fiction writer; Stephen Katz, author of four screeenplays and 17 TV series; John Darrouzet, collaborator on four feature film treatments; Maryann Miller, journalist; Pamela Stone, freelance writer; and Pam Rennder, writing coach.

Highlights From The Sessions

How To Plot Your Novel Patricia Anthony
Writing instructor, Southern Methodist University

"Story and plot are not the same," explained Patricia Anthony, writing instructor at SMU, sitting in for Dee Stewart (aka Joan Darlling), who authored 23 hitorical romance and mystery novels, but was unable to attend due to a death in the family.

"Story is the magical moment when you ask, 'Why?' When you begin to weave the story. Story is the explosive moment in which your character says, ' I can do this, and figure out what it means.'"

Story is as chaotic as real life, she said. Thus it needs a point, such as good versus evil. Plot is the armature on which the story hangs. A writer should begin in the middle of the story, with a conflict or a problem. A series of conflcits leads to a crisis and then a resolution.

"Plot is a deliberately arranged story with a point. A story does not have to be life threatening, but the protagonist should feel with great passion and intensity, that it is a life or dealth matter.

In literary fiction, the plot is not as evident as in commercial fiction. But theme and resolution must always come together in a epiphany." Dialogue: Telling Talk That Sounds Real

Laura Castoro (aka Laura Parker)

Author of 30 books in print or contracted

The purpose of dialogue, according to Laura Castoro, is three-fold. It either: reveals something defines something or advances the story "Dialogue should reveal, admit, or acuse. It must have a purpose and every exchange must count, " said Ms. Castoro.

She encouraged writers to read their work out loud, to listen to the rhythm and sound of the dialogue. "We should identify characters by what they say. Different socio-economic groups have different patterns of speech. And men talk less than women." Discussion Session with Editors and Agents

Donald Maass, Donald Maass Literary Agency, New York Eva Moore, Senior Editor, Scholastic, Inc. Jim Hornfisher, head of Austin office, The Literary Group Interantional Evan Fogelman, Fogelman Literary Agency Renee Witterstaetter, editor and writer for comics John Wood, articles editor, Modern Maturity Michael Kandel, science/fiction editor, Harcourt Brace

Writers learned of specific interests from editors and agents in this panel discussion. For exmple, Scholastic Senior Editor Eva Moore specializes in picture books,and fiction and non-fiction for pre schoolers and young adults. Evan Fogelman, a licensed attorney, is interested in fiction and non fiction, and film/tv scripts. He specializes in romance novels, and holds the 1996 Romance Writers of America Publishing Industry Award.

Debora Herman is looking for humor, business, management and sales materails, while Jim Hornfischer wants fiction with "a strong voice." Among Donald Maass's current interests are mysteries, memoirs and stories with a gay/lesbian, latino or native American themes. Michael Kandel currently seeks first-time science fiction/horror novels. In answer to a question about how to improve one's chances of getting published, Evan Fogelman advised, "Editors may come and go. Your best chance of getting published is to find a good agent and stay with him or her."

Copyright, Authorlink 1997