Packaging Workshops III --- Sharon Jennings and Lucy M. Falcone

Sharon Jennings: Reluctant to Start Writing? Have I Got a Reader For You!

Sharon's class was so popular that she had to present in the chapel at Victoria College. She explained that the typical reluctant reader is a grade six boy reading at a grade 2.5 level. To grab this group she emphasized:

If your reader would rather be doing anything but sitting with a book in his hands, she said, you owe it to him to make the effort worth his time.

"Pandering" to boys is key, for Jennings. Adult characters must be minimal or absent. Girls can be figures of fun (little sister), sex objects (for teenaged readers) or very secondary characters ("the dumb girls in my class"). Jennings also warned us to avoid literary effects which might be confusing.

Jennings talked about her experiences writing a novel for "reluctant female readers in grade nine." This is, you might imagine, a specialized market. Girls typically read better than boys from about grade four forward. By high school this weakness affects boys' average marks across different subjects.

If you can hook a reluctant reader with a simple, fun book, he will want to read another. If he reads enough simple books, he will be ready for better and more challenging material. For Jennings, better means more literary. One of Jenning's sons went straight from reading the Goosebumps series to C.S. Lewis' The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. For Jennings, this is real success.

I have to agree but I also believe not everyone will or should enjoy literature. What's wrong with reading only for information? Many intelligent, literate people enjoy the newspaper but dislike fiction.

Lucy M. Falcone -- Whodunit? Writing Mysteries for Books and Television

Falcone has an arm-long list of credits in publishing and television, including the childrens' series: Are You Afraid of the Dark? She used visual aides such as the pictures that inspired her stories and a video clip. Falcone packed in a lot of material but kept her tips clear.

The three types of mysteries we looked at were:

Falcone prefers writing fantasy mysteries for children and I can see why. Middle grade kids easily suspend disbelief. They love to read about magic and the unexplained.

I enjoyed Falcone's simple, no-nonsense approach. She broke mystery writing into its essential elements. My mother, a visual artist who attended the conference for the Illustration seminars, went home and started writing. Now that's an effective workshop!

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