It feels good to be known

I was recognized today.

When you are a writer, that’s important. Even when, no especially when, another author knows your name.

I attended a writing workshop at the Northbrook, Illinois public library about crafting YA characters.  The library holds a series of workshops int he fall entitled NorthBrook Writes! These are all open to the public, you do not have to live in Northbrook to attend (good thing, because I don’t live there). I attend as many as I can.  Heck, the one last week actually gifted me with a story idea for, of all things, a YA Historical. I’m already in the thick of research, and that may become this yer’s NaNo novel.

I never know what gems I may pick up at these workshops. And they are all free. Northbrook, like a number of other libraries across the US, are actively looking into ways they can help content creators int heir communities. This workshop brought in YA author Michelle Falkoff. She had audience members introduce themselves. When it was my turn, I said my name and her eyes glazed over for a moment. Then she shouted out, “I know you.”


I have at least one fan, and quickly copped onto the opportunity to talk for a few brief seconds about my next book, Courage. (I promise, I was really brief)  Michelle went on to talk to us about character development, and then led us through an exercise where we picked a character and wrote:

  • What he/she wants
  • What he/she fears
  • A secret they hold

Then we also wrote 10-12 traits about this character.

I used the time to brainstorm about one of my characters from my to-be-written historical.  It’s not the main character, but it is an important secondary character who:

  • Wants to stay alive long enough to grow up and experience real freedom
  • Fears crowds so much he panics easily when too many people are around
  • And doesn’t want anyone to ever find out about the fire he set at a neighbors barn.

Things about him on my list:

  1. He doesn’t talk much, gives single word answers as much as possible.
  2. He walks around with his head bent and shuffles his feet, but not because he is shy.
  3. He’s sixteen, but large for his age.
  4. His family is extremely poor
  5. He never wanted to move with his parents from the farm to live in Chicago, but came because his life was in danger if he remained behind in Mississippi.
  6. He saw his best friend killed by a mob.
  7. He envies his cousin, born and raised in Chicago (my Main Character), for her  for her carefree lifestyle.
  8. He can’t swim.
  9. After spending the first ten years of his life a slave, he’s still not sure how much emancipation will really mean, even in Chicago in 1871

This is the as yet unnamed cousin of my adolescent girl Livia, who has lived her life a free Black in Chicago. It’s the fall of 1871, in Chicago. She’s not happy that her home is crowded with these new relatives from the south. Not happy at all that the summer ha been so hot and dry. And has no idea how unhappy both she and her cousin and the entire city will be on Sunday, October 8, when sparks fly at Mrs. O’Leary’s barn.

Yes, I began my character profile at today’s workshop. As I told attendees, even after three published novels, I almost always get something useful from continuing writing education.

This entry was posted in A writer's life, character, Courage, Novel Writing. Bookmark the permalink.