Wednesday, March 14, 2012

You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to

BTW I took this picture on aperture setting, as the Frog 
summed it up, I took a picture instead of just pressing 
a button.
Due to my SCBWItis*, I didn't mention in advance that I was going to an event last Saturday. It was a workshop with Andrea Brown agent Mary Kole entitled: High Concept Ambitions. I'm not going to tell you too much about the content of the workshop because if you don't know it by now, Mary is about to release a book about writing for children and we got a sneak preview of a chapter. Yes, the one on concept. So what I will say is, Mary is a fun lively speaker and despite jet lag wants her writers to understand what she's talking about. If you get a chance to attend one of her sessions or webinars, do, you won't be disappointed. 


I also got a chance to have a one to one with Mary. One to one's are always great because however fabulous your crit group is (and mine is truly fantabulous) you and they get close to the work. So when I came back in on Saturday as the Frog passed me on the way out (to go watch Rugby), he asked me how it went and I replied: "Oh, I've got a bit of work to do." It's taking time, but the Frog is slowly getting to realise that a WIP is never finished (well I guess until it gets slapped between two covers and then you really have to let it go). 


Anyway, if I haven't bibbled on about this before, or you've missed it, here it comes again. Yes, I'm going to talk about cultural differences once again. Because during the course of the morning it struck me a couple of times. Firstly, at one point Mary mentioned that she's always reading tweets about a certain TV show that agents would love writers to turn into a book. I had never heard of the TV show (or Netflicks), but the first thing I did on Sunday morning was look up the show. The premise is all American, I couldn't even begin to get to my head round something like it because a) in the UK we don't play American football and b) whole towns aren't united around school teams the way they are in the states. So that's my bestseller up the creek, hey. Secondly, as Mary pulled out my 'not more than ten pages' the instructions had been VERY VERY clear, I blushed then blinked then the light bulb went on. In France and the UK we use A4, in the States they use Letter and my 10 pages (my partial and synopsis) had gone to 12! Duh! Yes, it was facepalm time, because let's face it, it's not very difficult to change a page size on word is it? Facepalm moment number three was my spelling. I'd used UK. Despite being very very familiar with US spelling and making sure every Monday that when there is a difference students are given both options, did I think to connect that to my own writing? No. Look, I'll 'fess up now, as I did to Mary, I'm not considering submitting to the US, but if YOU are and you're not from the US, look how many potholes I fell into and that was before she even got into my story. The final thing Mary pointed out was the voice. It was a very important point because my main is meant to appeal to girls and be cool and amazing, so if she is sounding like an old fuddy duddy that needs to change toot sweet. But her brother is old fashioned and a little at odds with the changing world and I went to great trouble to make his voice 'wrong' for this time. And it wasn't an issue with the British agent in December, but it was with Mary. 


So, basically if, like me, you don't live in the UK or the US or Australia (basically not an English speaking country) and you're wondering where to submit: 
1) Make sure you get the page size right for the country you are submitting to;
2) get the spelling right, and;
3) go for the country where your voice is right, because all the countries I mentioned speak English, but it isn't the same English. 


*def: I mention I'm going to a SCBWI event and get struck down by some disease ending in 'itis'. 

3 comments:

Sue Hyams said...

These things had never occurred to me but now you point them out, they seem blindingly obvious! Thanks for the heads up!

Michele Helene said...

Ah well, you live and learn hey. I certainly am ;)

Dad Who Writes (Gabriel) said...

It's interesting, isn't it? The US market is so incredibly insular about things like that - I know that sounds critical but it's hard to find neutral word meaning 'finds difficulty accepting cultural points of view outside of their own'. Which is weird when you consider how many different cultures actually co-exist in the US. You'd think it would be the exact oppoiste.

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