WU Un-Conference Wrap-up, Part 3

If you missed part 1 (HERE) and part 2 (HERE) of our WU Un-Con recap, please click through and catch up. Below is part 3 — the final recap of the WU Un-Con. 

Don Maass, How Good Manuscripts Go Wrong

What welcomes us into a story?

For Don, it’s engagement with the protagonist that matters the most.

This is usually the first way that good manuscripts go wrong.

Think about your protagonist. There are three different kinds:

  1. Everyman or everywoman.

People like you and me. Extraordinary things may happen to them in the course of the story, but their circumstances otherwise are regular.

Work out a way in which the reader can experience this quality of this character on page one.

  1. Genuine Hero or Heroine.

Characters whose live or occupation put them in the way of danger or cause them to do extraordinary things.

Write down one way in which this character is perfectly ordinary, regular and human, just like everybody else. Work out a way in which the reader can see this quality right on page one.

  1. Dark Characters.

Suffering wounded, carrying a burden. Inhuman or unhuman in some way. If your genre begins with “para” you’re probably working with a dark character.

Middles

Need to give the reader ongoing reasons to care for the character, things he experiences all the way through. What is one thing your main character can do that no one else can?

What unique ability does this protagonist have that no one else has?

What’s one benefit of having this ability or gift? What’s one thing it makes possible that others might not get?

This gift also has a cost. What is the cost?

Write down a point in the story when the character’s gift will backfire.

Most manuscripts don’t need less happening, they need more happening. You don’t want the character’s gift failing all over the place, maybe only once, but you want lots happening through the middle of the book to avoid losing steam. Most middles are malnourished. Tension, events, relationships, theme—don’t worry about overpacking your story. What feels overdone to you is probably just about enough to keep the audience going.

What is one thing that happens in the story, one provocative thing, that can cause your character to lose it?

What is the moment when your protagonist can rise above what is happening? When he finds an inner serenity, an inner perspective? When there’s a provocation, a temptation that’s irresistible, but your protagonist turns the other cheek, takes a step back? Decides to be patient. When is your character tested and passes that test? Exceed expectations, be their best selves, be the person that we all would like to be.

All of these are tools to reinforce the connections that readers feel to this protagonist.

Porter Anderson, When to Listen and What to Hear

Things to Ignore in Criticism

The oldest reason to ignore a review: emotional testimonial. “I loved it.” “I threw it across the room.”

What’s even less important in your book review: people instructing the consumer. “Don’t read this book.” “If you don’t read another book this year, read this one.”

Recommendations in Handling Reviews

  1. Scour them for specificity.
  2. Ignore emotional reactions (positive or negative)
  3. Duck “buy” or “don’t buy” messages
  4. Pay as little attention to the symbolic ratings (stars) as possible
  5. Watch for consistent reviewers, readers who turn up to review more than one of your books (they’re good ones to pay attention to)

Remember that a major portion of the review coverage you get today—maybe the majority of it—is not for you. It’s for the customer.

Heather Webb/Catherine McKenzie, Hating on the Draft

Beginnings

It needs to grip you on some visceral, emotional level, or you’re not going to have enough fuel to get through the work of the writing.

The beginning doesn’t need to be perfect to move on.

Get your butt in the chair, set a schedule, set goals. That’s how you get a draft done.

Tip for setting goals: Block off times. If you have to get your story done by writing only 30 minutes a day, whatever it is, put it in your schedule as if it’s an appointment. Set a tough schedule for yourself, and don’t let yourself get around it.

Self-Editing Techniques

Lots of people are in critique groups; you have to figure that out for yourself—do you need a complete draft before you let someone else in?

You also need to learn to look at your own work. Reading aloud can help, or having someone else read it.

Another suggestion is editing your chapters out of order. It’s like a television show—there’s a season arc, but each episode needs a beginning, middle and end. Those are chapters.

Edit in layers. First, mostly for dialogue. Then voice, and then thinking about one issue in the story, one theme, and strengthening it.

Another suggestion is editing your chapters out of order. It’s like a television show—there’s a season arc, but each episode needs a beginning, middle and end. Those are chapters.

Drastic measures: when to hire an outside editor.

Audition the editor. One who’s not good might change your voice; you don’t want that. You need someone who can step into your voice and work within it. Get the smallest package at first, 50 pages or whatever it is, to make sure this person “gets” you.

Even when you’re traditionally published and have an editor, you still might sometimes hire an outside editor before submitting.

How do I “Know” I have a Good Product to Begin With?

Reading all the time, comparing your work, is important. It gives you a sense of what will sell. You know what you want to write, now you have to figure out how you can make it fit into the marketplace… spend an hour in your section at a bookstore, see how they set up the first chapters, look at the types of titles, the covers, the types of stories. Who publishes what. Envisioning your product in the marketplace is important, and especially now, since the market is flooded.

Don Maass,  21st Century Fiction

picture by Melanie Conklin

 

In the 21st Century, literary and commercial intents are converging. Novels that combine great story and beautiful writing can become top best sellers (in trade paperback) for one to two years or longer. (By contrast, hardcover thrillers hit the list for only a few weeks.) Commercial storytellers have techniques to benefit literary writers, and literary writers have tools useful to commercial types.

To grow this way, literary writers must stop thinking of “plot” as a four-letter word and embrace strong story events. Conversely, commercial storytellers must stop thinking of “beautiful writing” as useless pretty imagery and recognize that it is actually a collection of many things that any writer can do without blushing.

It starts with writing personally, which in turn leads to methods of constructing protagonists’ inner journeys: their arc of change and transformation. These can be built in many ways. Creating step-by-step inner conflict is one. Another is to build in secrets, shame and a need for healing. (This requires deep backstory work.)

An inner journey can be customized, too, out of long-term reversals; say, a difficult climactic task, a firm conviction about the world or self, and so on. Set up your protagonist, test his articles of faith, then reverse (or refine) them. The trick is not to make it a simple moment of realization at the novel’s end, but rather an ongoing, novel-length struggle.

Strong events can be made by identifying the main (outwardly visible) problem and making it worse, worse, worse…and finally so bad that your protagonist actually fails. Authors of character-driven stories can pause at any point of inner awareness or turning and externalize it. Put duct tape over your protagonist’s mouth, shut off the interior monologue feed, and make your protagonist visibly show us what’s going on inside.

Beautiful writing is not only pretty imagery but also associative devices such as parallels, reversals, and symbols that suggest and amplify the story’s meaning. Detailing a story’s social classes and era also gives stories larger significance.

Every author starts in a box built of expectations. To the extent you stay in that box, your story’s impact will be low, because what we read will be what we expect to read. Break out of the box and your stories can have greater impact and maybe do it all. All you need are the right tools.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the recap!

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About Jeannine Walls Thibodeau

Jeannine Walls Thibodeau can't remember a time in her life when she didn't want to be a writer. She was dismayed at the age of five that a four-year-old had already claimed the title of youngest author. She graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, and has had her work appear in a creative writing textbook and several small journals. She's currently at work on her first novel that she's determined to complete by March 2014.

WU Un-Conference Wrap-up, Part 2

If you missed yesterday’s introduction to our WU Un-Con recap, please click HERE and catch up. Then come back!

Story and Plot
with Don Maass, Lisa Cron, and Brunonia Barry

Drawing by Melanie Conklin

Don: In the world of writing, we tend to feel that story is plot. They’re two different things.

Lisa: Story is how what happens affects someone in pursuit of a difficult goal and how they change as a result. The “how what happens” part is the plot. The story is about how it affects the protagonist. Everything in the plot gets its meaning and emotional weight in terms of its impact on the protagonist. Story is internal, not external.

Don: It doesn’t matter what the plot is. (His “radical” statement.)

What matters is that there’s a sense of meaning, a sense of import and emotional connection to the reader. The events of the book connect with what’s happening inside the character.

Lisa: You can’t write forward and get to know the character as you write. You don’t know how they will react to things. But if you do the character work first, it comes into the story.

Don: One way to look at plot is cause and effect. Consequences.

Don: Put a line at the beginning on the scene that states the need in the scene, the inner drive. When the scene is done, when it’s infused, go back and delete that line. You shouldn’t need it anymore.

Brunonia: I always tell the story from all different points of view to find what the story will become. What does the character want, and what’s keeping them from getting it? What do they fear more than anything? That has to be everywhere. It’s a reminder at the beginning of each chapter.

Don: If you have an idea of what needs to happen scene by scene, you can figure out how to connect that up and make it count for the internal and external journeys.

Lisa: A problem is that sometimes writers will write things in general. Nobody ever does things in general. We do them in specific situations. But the language for talking about emotions tends to be general. Make the experiences in the novel as specific as possible, and readers will plug their own emotions and specific experiences into it. Make them general, and no one will connect.

Don: Simple technique for getting story promise in and emotional connection: What is the true start of your story? Not when the inciting incident happens, but when your main character knows with certainty that things are changing. Something is changing and it’s not going to change back to where it was.

Don: The true ending moment of the story is when your protagonist knows with certainty that they’ve walked into a new world. Everything is different now, and we’ll never go back to where we were.

Therese Walsh, Velveteen Characters

Both successes and failures are full of value. There is no wasted experience.

It’s not *all* about the planning.

If you’re writing characters you don’t care about, stop.

Cast fear aside. It can inhibit Real.

What is your character afraid of? How can you make that a wild card in your story to make that character less predictable, more complex, surprising both your readers and even the character?

Characters held too close may never evolve, but they may become Real when you set them free.

Don’t presume to understand your characters fully at first imagining.

Backstory is everything. It’s about understanding where our characters come from, what has made them into the people they are when we begin the story, and it’s about knowing who they need to become by the end of the journey.

These people ARE the reason you write, aren’t they? Your desperation to tell their story well — your dedication to that end — is what will make them Real.

Drawing by Melanie Conklin

John Vorhaus, Squeezing Out the Stupid

You have the right to self-edit. You have the artistic right to take compete control of every aspect of your work. You have the choice to treat a novel as a work of art, as opposed to a work of writing.

Squeezing out the stupid starts with the determination to make the best piece of art we can—in terms of the work, not the ego.

So how do you know when it’s done? The question isn’t “Have I told the best possible version of the story.” It’s “Have I told a version of the story that works?”

A pivot in storytelling is a new piece of information that triggers a change in emotional state.

Something that’s happening or an emotional reaction to what’s happened: If it’s not one of those two things, it deserves close scrutiny.

Give the reader the minimal amount of information to describe the picture he’s seeing in his own head.

Self-awareness will allow you to bring clarity to your writing problems, and will help you get out of the mess. Need to think about value judgments—where the work is. Not whether the work is good or bad.

Meg Rosoff, Where Story Comes From

Out of the seven billion+ human beings on this planet, there is no other you. You are unique. The people you meet, the paths you take, the obstacles you overcome, the decisions you make–they all combine to make an individual that is uniquely you. Therefore, it only makes sense that what’s in your head is unique, too. And there is a Wilderness in there.

That Wilderness is your unconscious. Think of it that way. All the interactions you’ve ever experienced in your life are stored there, whether you realize it or not, and tapping into them is like discovering new medicinal plants in the Amazon Rainforest. These dormant thoughts, as with healing balms, will improve the condition–any diseased state–of your writing and make it resonate.

So how do we do that?

  • Quiet yourself. Get comfortable with being alone. There is motion (and emotion) in stillness. Do not berate yourself if this is difficult at first; it takes practice to be quiet, alone, and to simply be still.
  • Hold your nerve. Sometimes you have to wait (and possibly go through draft after draft after draft) for the story to reveal itself. It will reveal itself. Again, practice stillness when blocked.
  • Practice “Throughness,” too. Follow your thoughts through to harvest your Wilderness. Throughness allows for flow of energy. Throughness is supple and elastic; it is being connected and unblocked. [See session notes for Meg’s “Throughness,” HERE.]

  • Follow the story; do not lead the story. Leading the story is not connecting to your unconscious, but instead, is permitting the conscious mind to take over.
  • We do not see things as they are,we see things as we are. Our perceptions of the events in the world are formed from our various lifetime experiences. No two people view the same happening in the same, exact way. Remember: Uniqueness.
  • Stop yourself and assess the situation.Question why you’re thinking what you’re thinking. What beliefs formed this train of thought? How does it play into your story? Are you leading or following?

And last,

  • Pay attention to your dreams.Your dreams are the pathways through the Wilderness. They are fantastical, nonsensical, and inexplicable at times, but take heed. Look to the right. Note it. Look to the left. Note it. In the seemingly jumbled array, your conscious mind will begin to make sense of it all. The quality of your unconscious mind and the ability to channel it to your conscious mind will show in your writing.

Don Maass, Microtension

If you are compulsively reading every word of a novel, even one of a genre you don’t like written in a style you loathe, it is because the author is creating a constant mild apprehension in you that forces you to read every next thing on every page. It’s a line-by-line micro-tension that is different from plot conflict and scene goals. It works like this:

In dialogue: Tension arises in the mind of the reader when there is tension between characters.

In action: Tension is provoked in the reader not because of the action itself but because what is felt inside the POV character, especially when that inner state is fresh and surprising.

In exposition (internal monologue): Tension arises when emotions are in conflict and ideas are at war. Rehashing worries that are already obvious and inherent in the situation, though, doesn’t work. What’s going on inside must be unexpected.

With micro-tension you can break any rule. You can make anything on the page work. It’s the secret that explains how some writers “get away” with stuff you don’t and why best sellers sell big when very similar novelists do not.

Don Maass, Secondary Characters

Middles sag. Tightening is only part of it.

What does he want? How does she see the main problem differently from the protagonist? When does this SC most love, and later least understand, your protagonist? What gift or self-sacrifice can this SC make? What is the worst way and time for this SC to betray your protagonist? What secret history do they share? How does each see the other differently at the end?

Most middles need more: more events, more substance, more to chew on. Secondary characters can generate a lot of those events and substance. Give them agency, which is to say their own needs and wants, time to act, and room to change.

Helpful questions for a secondary character (SC): What does he want? How does she see the main problem differently from the protagonist? When does this SC most love, and later least understand, your protagonist? What gift or self-sacrifice can this SC make? What is the worst way and time for this SC to betray your protagonist? What secret history do they share? How does each see the other differently at the end? Work backward to make the starting point of their relationship an article of faith. (It’s going to change!)

Come back tomorrow for Part 3 of our WU Un-Con Recap!

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About Jeannine Walls Thibodeau

Jeannine Walls Thibodeau can't remember a time in her life when she didn't want to be a writer. She was dismayed at the age of five that a four-year-old had already claimed the title of youngest author. She graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, and has had her work appear in a creative writing textbook and several small journals. She's currently at work on her first novel that she's determined to complete by March 2014.

WU Un-Conference Wrap-up, Part 1

Therese here to introduce you to Jeannine Walls Thibodeau. Jeannine has been working behind the scenes for WU for quite some time, helping out as a part of our guest-post team. She generously agreed to help recap the WU Un-Conference, utilizing notes from several sources, so that everyone in the WU audience might benefit from our gathering in Salem. Not an easy job, believe me. Today through Wednesday, you’ll see condensed takeaways–some jewels we think you’ll be able to use to make your writing better now.

We want to thank author Melanie Conklin for letting us republish some of her beautiful note-taking art within our recaps. Melanie’s debut MG novel, Counting Thyme, will be published by Putnam in 2016. (You can view more of Melanie’s art, and stay abreast of her writing news, on her Twitter feed.) Thank you, Melanie!

Take it away, Jeannine!

It’s difficult to succinctly say exactly what the Un-Conference was to all of us who attended. But the consensus seems to revolve around the following: It was inspirational. It was motivational. It was a transformative experience. About ninety writers traveled from all over the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe (England and Spain) to attend, most of whom hadn’t met in real life.

But what exactly made the Un-Conference like no other? Was it the focus on the craft of writing, rather than fevered pitch sessions? Was it the way workshops required reflection and sharing? Was it because of the location—Salem, MA, formerly known for witch trials, and the early morning walks exploring the city? Was it the shared meals, whether in character or being our very own selves? Was it the realization that no one’s gut clenches? Was it throwing so many introverts in a group with some gregarious extraverts? Was it the permission to let the demons out on our characters? Was it the bedtime stories when we were able to hear our friends read their own stories? Was it writing in the tavern with our new besties? Was it exploring cemeteries at night? Was it those late-night poker games full of hilarity? Was it sitting in the lobby wrapped in blankets, drinking and laughing? Was it the sharing and love we experienced because of the loss of two of our own, Lisa Threadgill and Bob Stewart?

Yes. It was.  It was all that.

Here’s a peek at individual sessions, with special thanks to Erin Thomas, Mike Swift, Don Maass, Brunonia Barry, Brin Jackson, Therese Walsh, Jennifer Roundell, and Jan O’Hara for their notes. This post would not be possible without all of you!

Lisa Cron, Wired for Story, Parts I and II 

Part I

What is a story? What are we talking about? Story is how. What happens is the plot, the surface of the story. It is not what the story’s about. Story affects someone, namely, the protagonist, the person whose skin the reader is in. The plot gets its meaning based on how it’s affecting the protagonist in pursuit of their difficult goal (or quest, story question).

All story is change, and all change is hard—good as well as bad. How the protagonist changes as a result of the change in the story: this is the important part. You need to know a lot about your protagonist before you can even begin to write.

All protagonists come with two preexisting conditions: something they really want, and something they need to overcome in order to get it.

Five Steps/Layers to Dig Through before Writing, Revising.

What If: There needs to be a clear problem that the character is going to have to deal with, ideally in a certain timeframe.

Who: Everything in the what-if gets its emotional weight from how it affects the protagonist. Your “who” starts to transform the “what if.”

Why: Why does the “what if” matter to the protagonist?  This comes back to the preexisting conditions, which need to be firmly cemented before this point.

Worldview: How did the protagonist come to be the person they are, in terms of what’s changing, when they step onto the page on the first page? If you want to force your character to see with new eyes, how can you do that if you don’t know how they were seeing things on the first page?

When: The place/time the story starts is where the character doesn’t have a choice except to act. Do you ever hear the first tick of a ticking clock? Not usually. You notice after it’s been going for a while. By the time you smell the smoke, the fire’s been burning for some time.

Part II

You need to know the very specific details of this thing that is holding your character back. “The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.”

A seminal scene, or something like it, needs to be in the novel. It’s not enough for the author to know it. Sometimes there can be parts of it that are just for the author. It’s not enough to be general with it. It’s about knowing in full detail the specific moments when the “lens” that your character uses was shaped, when they were changed. Because that will define how the character makes sense of the events of the novel. Most of the backstory will come into the book because it’s what the character will be thinking about as he makes decisions in the novel.

It doesn’t matter what happens—what matters is how it affects the protagonist and what meaning they’re reading into it. We can’t know that without a sense of what they’ve been through and where they came from.

Meg Rosoff, Throughness

Think of your brain as a colander. A million things happen to you every single day of your life, and 99.99999999% of them you’ll never think of again. They go through the holes in your colander. But every once in a while, throughout a lifetime, something sticks.

If we could each empty our heads out onto the table, nobody’s “pile” would be the same as anyone else’s. The stuff that’s in our heads, the stuff that stuck, is the most important thing about us—not just as writers, but as people.

As a writer, you spend a lot of time in your unconscious mind, and that’s dark. That’s where the dark things live.

drawing by Melanie Conklin

 

Meg decided to take up riding horses—around 50 years old. Started into jumping. Switched to dressage. Dressage is old. “Dressage” means schooling.

The language that goes with dressage involves two words that get used a lot. One is “connection,” one is “thoroughness.” Meg kept being told she needed to be more “through.” She looked it up on the American Dressage Association site, and learned that it is “the supple elastic unblocked connected state that permits an unrestricted flow of energy from rider to horse and from horse back to rider.”

Meg’s insight: What if we think of the rider as the conscious mind and the horse as the unconscious mind?

The quality of your unconscious mind will inform your writing and will be the most important thing about your writing.

Brunonia Barry, Method Writing—and Eating

Method Writing (and Eating) with Brunonia Barry at the Witch's Brew Cafe
Method Writing (and Eating) with Brunonia Barry at the Witch’s Brew Cafe–photography credit Mike Swift

Our job as writers is to make our characters come alive for our readers, but first they have to come alive for us.  A technique she uses is method writing, much like method acting.

She uses a two-step process for character development. First she writes extensive biographies for all of her characters, then, once she knows them a bit, she uses this exercise to embody them, walking around and behaving as they might for days at a time, even ordering the foods they might like in restaurants, basically doing everything she can think of to “become” them and discover their personal perspectives.

The purpose? To find your character’s deep authentic voice.

The definition: Identifying emotionally with a character and assuming the character’s personality in the process.

For the sake of this session, she asked participants to choose a character they’re currently working on and to fill out a simple chart to remind themselves of that character’s traits; this chart included traits such as physical description, likes/hates, vices and quirks. Then she asked them to become that character for the duration of lunch.

Biggest fear?

What does the character want?

What’s keeping him or her from getting it?

(Note: These questions are the most important. Pay particular attention to them.)

John Vorhaus, If You Must Fail, Fail Big

If failure ‘doesn’t count,’ then what you’re doing doesn’t matter. So do things that matter, but reframe the failure side of things.

If you don’t like terms, change the terms: redefine failure so it becomes success. “I have succeeded in failing big!” Because of our fear of failure, we fail to dare. In order to dare, we must kill (or at least manage) our fear of failure.

Examine each problem and break it down into smaller problems:

A great story will create anxiety about something that’s important to your reader. When you run in fear from other people’s reactions, you are not communicating the human condition, but protecting yourself. The purpose of storytelling is to improve the human condition. In fact, the writer’s highest calling is to explain the human condition to other humans for the purpose of the betterment of all.

Fear of other people’s reactions. A great story will create anxiety about something that’s important to your reader. When you run in fear from other people’s reactions, you are not communicating the human condition, but protecting yourself. The purpose of storytelling is to improve the human condition. In fact, the writer’s highest calling is to explain the human condition to other humans for the purpose of the betterment of all.  (Treat this statement as a useful fiction, if it helps.) Instead of product, focus on growth: we can always grow in our craft.

Fear of people saying, “What you’re selling isn’t worth buying.” Selling our work has a tremendous emotional burden, but we have to get over it. There’s a part of your job you don’t like? Guess what? Everyone has a part of their job they don’t like.

Fear of bad writing days. Bring full self-awareness to your process: deepen your understanding for yourself. You can always succeed at that.

Liz Michalski/Brunonia Barry, Setting as Character

A few tips to keep in mind when creating setting:

  • Use all of your senses to create a realistic portrait.
  • Remember that the physical landscape can be very powerful because it is not easily under your protagonist’s control (i.e., the weather) and in terms of landscape, can go years without changing.
  • Create a setting so strong and unique it becomes a character in its own right, the only place your story could be told. Allow it to grow and change with time, so that it evolves along with your protagonist.
  • Write a full biography of place, to help develop that sense of place in the book. Part of this biography is research, part is the pictures you choose to take—no two people will write about the same place the same way.
  • Changes in a setting (how it’s changing in the period of the book) can underscore what’s going on with the characters. Objective correlative.

Meg Rosoff, Voice

We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are. Voice is about what you have to say that no one else can say.

Turning points in life are one of the most important things to look it in finding who you are, finding your voice.

Meg ran this workshop as a series of questions, which she called “Boot Camp Exercises for the Brain.” There were approximately 40 questions she fired off. Here are a few to get you thinking:

(Don’t think too hard. There are no right or wrong answers. Write quickly—Meg went through these pretty fast, so there wasn’t a lot of time to second-guess in between.)

Somebody you would like to erase from your life.

You find $1000 in a paper bag on the way home. The note inside says it’s yours—there’s no need for you to take it to the police or try to find the original owner. What do you do with it?

If you found out you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do tonight?

What year (any year, past, present or future) would you like to visit? Why?

What moment would you like to go back in time and change?

What stands in your way?

Ray Rhamey, First Pages

Key story elements that a writer can use to create a compelling narrative are:

  • Story questions
  • Tension (in the reader)
  • Voice
  • Clarity
  • Scene setting
  • Character

If you would like to have a PDF copy of the First-page Checklist, click here for a downloadable copy.

A First-page Checklist

  • It begins with connecting the reader with the protagonist
  • Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
  • What happens moves the story forward.
  • What happens raises a story question—what happens next? or why did that happen?

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of our WU Un-Con Recap!

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About Jeannine Walls Thibodeau

Jeannine Walls Thibodeau can't remember a time in her life when she didn't want to be a writer. She was dismayed at the age of five that a four-year-old had already claimed the title of youngest author. She graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, and has had her work appear in a creative writing textbook and several small journals. She's currently at work on her first novel that she's determined to complete by March 2014.