Two weeks later and I am still thinking about the spotlight session on St. Martin’s Press at RWA’s National Conference in Manhattan.
I had decided to take that particular day and have a little fun. Choose workshops that weren’t necessarily honed in on craft, possibly pop in on a book signing or two and I’m so glad I did. I had no idea what the “spotlights” on the publishing houses were going to be about but one of my favorite authors writes for SMP and so I found a seat and debated whether or not I’d need my notebook. Just to be on the safe side, I dug it out of my overstuffed bag and relaxed into my seat. I scribbled a header on my blank note page and thought that I’d probably be jotting down submission guidelines once things got started. What I found myself voraciously copying down once the ladies of SMP began their presentation was not just information I could easily find on a website somewhere but truly invaluable insight that was only being shared there in that room!
The question the editors posed, “What makes us buy a book?” (The room’s posture collectively became a little straighter, eyes and ears perked up.)
The answer, “An interesting voice.” (An internal erggh, “But what is that?” silently bounced off the walls.)
They then each took a turn at reading the passages from books that hooked them into wanting more and eventually buying. For some it was a relatable character they’d become invested in, for others a great set-up, lush details or an emotionally intense scene. Sometimes the hook leaped out at them right from the first pages while one editor noted that her favorite passage hadn’t revealed itself to her until well into the second chapter. (A sigh of relief from those of us who need a few more pages to get good and meaty.)
It got me thinking about how my favorite passages or moments from the truly unique and memorable books I’ve read are still right there in my mind. Completely unforgettable and also unique to me, the reader, a bit like they are to editors. I’d like to share a few of mine:
“Orange is the second color of the rainbow. It’s bright and sticks out like your husband in a crowd.” From the essay “The Rainbow Means Life” by Alexandria Soto-Flores. This fresh and touching way to describe the color struck me right away and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
The cherry-flavored salad dressing discussion amongst Olivia Cunning’s rock stars on a trip to the grocery store in Backstage Pass. The heat level in this book is the highest I’ve ever gone but what had me cracking up and loving it, what gave it heart for me, are scenes like this one that come out of nowhere and tickle your giggle bone.
Kristan Higgin’s wheelchair bound grandma in Too Good to be True when she compares Meme’s ramming the chair into Grace’s shins to be as “ruthless as Ramses bearing down on the fleeing Hebrew slaves.” I once thanked Kristan for giving us Callahan O’Shea from this wonderful book but I wish I’d have thought to thank her for weaving in passages like this one that make us laugh in spite of the fact that it’s a painful situation we’re really dealing with.
These are only a few examples of what I believe the St. Martin’s Press editors were trying to convey to us that day in their spotlight. That special and unique voice that we all have, just waiting to become a reader’s favorite passage.
Even if you can’t recall the exact words, what are some of your favorite parts of books, the ones that you’ll never forget? Please share.
15 thoughts on “Spotlight on Our Voices”
You are so right! There are some passages that just stand out or scenes where the dynamic between the characters speaks to you. One of my favorites is Kristan Higgans Too Good to Be True when MeMe tells about an Irish maid who stole spoons from her family when she was young. Meme asks if Callahan knows her because he is Irish.
“My mother,” he said instantly. I choked on a laugh.
“She stole seven spoons from us befor my father caught on. Seven.”
“We loved those spoons,” he said. “God, the fun we had with your spoons, Eating, hitting each other on the head, throwing them at the pigs in the kitchen. Happy times.”
I also loved Kristan’s scene in The Next Best Thing when Lucy gets wasted on White Russians at like 10:00am and decides that’s the perfect time to self tan and cut your own hair.
Oh Dana, I loved that part too! Callahan was a great sport through the accusations and I really appreciated how MeMe was borderline villain at times but also made me laugh the most.
I haven’t read about Lucy and her White Russians…yet!
Thank you for sharing!
aaaa . . . the one that comes to mind is the way that Shayne keeps saying “I’m working on it” throughout Jill Shalvis’ “Strong and Sexy”
and – whenever the Black Dagger Brotherhood boys call the women they love “a woman of worth”
and . . . How Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English is inwardly horrified in the most understated way whenever his new stepsister’s come along.
Robin, I am now intrigued….I just googled Shayne and it says he’s a jokester and a pilot…bad boy? I guess I’ll be reading this too very soon! Now I want to know what he’s working on!!! Thank you for sharing.
WARNING: HARRY POTTER SPOILER ALERT!
In honor of HP coming out last weekend, how about: the part in the epilogue where Harry’s son is afraid he will be put into Slytherin house, and Harry responds: “Albus Severus, you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.”
Brings tears to my eyes even as I type this!
Awww..PH…I just saw the movie this weekend and that part really touched my heart too! Thank you so much for sharing!
Something else I had wanted to mention but forgot was that as writers, we don’t necessarily know exactly what our readers are going to connect with when they read our stories. We hope for the connection but can’t really be sure of who will find what entertaining or touching. How could Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love know that while writing their paranormal thriller Blood Trinity that fans like myself would love and really take to heart a line like when Evalle mentions needing a floatie she’s in so far over her head in a conversation with Storm? You really just never know what it’s going to be. I think that part of writing a story and reading them by others is so exciting!
It’s a line from Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” – which I read before I saw the movie, and adored. It’s two words, “Hey, Boo.”
This is a great post. Love it when I am challenged to remember what I adore about books.
Denny, thank you for sharing that. It just goes to show that even two simple words can be what a reader takes away with them forever.
Love your take on things. Love reading about people’s humanity, be they warriors, politicians, celebs, everyday Joes and Janes. Having a senior blond moment right now so nothing specific comes to mind but love the human experience.
Yes, you have always loved biographies and I think it must be due to the intrique you have toward people’s humanity. One of the first biographies I remember you telling me passionately about was Lana Turner. And then the first non-fiction type book I can remember reading myself was “Who Killed Sal Mineo?” Thanks for sharing Mom.
Ok so you know I don’t really read much other than the latest gossip rag or fashion/beauty magazine. I was going to say occasional but who am I kidding, I read this smut voraciously LOL
I do love when I identify with what a character is going thru. Things I relate to.
What honestly grabs me is a good cover or a bio on someone I admire or would like to know more about.
Currently I have Elizabeth Taylor’s biography (whom I completely idolize, thank you Grandma) patiently waiting on my nightstand for me to get a moment to to pick her up, which I SWEAR I will do here soon……
I SO got off topic…… shocking LOL
OK what is with my icon????? WTH is that thing? LOL
Oh and the only line that pops out of my memory is from a Robert Frost poem… don’t know if that counts. YOU know which one I’m thinking of….. “Nature’s first green is gold…..”
…her hardest hue to hold…
Absolutely that counts, along with the covers and bios that catch your attention, and those magazines you love to read.
And I think if you register your name and a pic with gravatar, you won’t have the icon that looks like a brain wearing a bikini bottom anymore!
Love you and thanks so much for stopping by!
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