What a way to end the conference…with a closing keynote by Lisa Yee. She had everyone rolling on the floor when she asked Paul Rodeen to come up on the stage and read a scene from Millicent Min, Girl Genius with her. She had Paul acting out Stanford’s part, complete with peanut butter sandwich, a can of coke and a loud burp.

I didn’t take a lot of notes…this was the very last presentation of the weekend, so I was tired of taking notes, plus Lisa is another one of those speakers who’s just a pleasure to sit back and listen to. You know how you can miss your kids’ childhood by spending it behind the video camera? I think the same applies to conferences…sometimes you can miss the conference experience by getting too caught up in note-taking.

But here’s what I did write down from her closing keynote (at least I THINK this came out of the closing keynote…it’s entirely possible these notes came out of her other presentation…):

There are two kinds of humor:
1) Slapstick, which is a more “public” kind of humor. You don’t need to know the background and you don’t need to know the person to find the situation funny.
2) Poignant, which is humor that’s personal.

To write humor you need to know your audience.

Middle school is when kids turn mean. And their humor turns mean. They’ll make fun of someone else before that person can make fun of them. College humor changes…people in college tend to make fun of people they don’t know personally.

Your character needs a unique way of looking at the world (I think that’s true whether you’re writing humor or something else).

Have a word to describe each character.

Voice is your “fingerprint” as a writer…it’s your way of writing.

Lisa sometimes tests out her titles on kids. She’ll give them several to choose from and ask which they like best. She’ll also ask what they think the book is about (I did this when I read I am Anna Winkler to that sixth grade class last year…trust me, this is a GREAT idea!!!!) I don’t remember what Lisa’s original title for Millicent Min, Girl Genius was…one of her very first titles had child psychologist in the title…Millicent was originally going to be a psychologist (who was a child). And at some point, her last name was Kwan rather than Min, but when Lisa tested out the title on some kids, they thought the book was about an ice skater.

Boys don’t talk about how they feel (any mom who lives with boys can attest to this!). Remember that when you’re writing from a boy’s perspective.

You should be able to take all the humor out of your story and still have a story! (I never thought about this before, but it’s a good point!)

To check the pacing of your story, highlight all the funny scenes. (Another good idea…make sure your funny scenes aren’t all bunched together at the beginning…)

She recommended we watch the Sienfeld DVD…

I THINK she said she got this idea from Dan Greenburg…go into a bookstore and ask for your book, but mangle the title or author’s name (she told a hilarious story of a time she did this….and the clerk knew who she was!)…this will help the clerk remember you and your book.

I think that’s it for my conference notes….(finally!)

The Best of the Conference (according to me), Part 2

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