Sunday, October 5, 2014

Laini Taylor Presentation and Writing Workshop

The other day I drove the 45 minutes to the Salt Lake Library in the pouring rain to see one of my recent favorite authors. Laini Taylor is the author of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, the two final books which I read just this summer. These books blow me away. I love the story, the characters, the amazing writing, the rich descriptions and all the crazy emotion. I couldn't wait to see what this author was like and maybe to learn something from her.

My phone made a gif. Cute, huh?

She did not disappoint. I was interested to see that she read whole her presentation, but it didn't SEEM like she was reading it. It was written wonderfully, just as I would expect from her, and so down to earth and funny and real. She gave us the whole background of her writing life, starting with fun little stories she wrote as a kid. She shared some writing excerpts from her sordid French romance she wrote for her best friend during high school. Great stuff!

Then she talked a lot about her experience living in Paris the summer after high school, and how she expected it to be one thing, but it was totally another thing. She wanted to fall in love with a street violinist with an eye patch! (Mik anyone?) And that just didn't happen! She did end up spending the fall there too and had many experiences that lent themselves to what would later become Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Then in college a teacher told her that she had what it takes to be a writer. She HAD it! And what did she do... she stopped writing. For years. She was a graphic designer/artist person instead. But she thought about writing a lot (sound familiar my writing friends?) and thought and thought. And then, one day, nearly 10 or 15 years later, she finally sat down and finished a book. (If you do the math, this actually makes her an "older" author... not one of those late 20s early 30 somethings that everyone seems to be which in turn makes me feel like I'm too old to do this thing.)

Another interesting thing I learned is that she agonizes over every word. She says it sometimes takes her a whole day to write a paragraph. Why does this make me so happy? :) I think that with authors I admire (ie. Mr. Zusak) and their amazing words they come up with, I think that I assume these words just FLOW from them... but it appears that in most cases, they don't. Which means that anyone of us, word genius or not, can maybe learn how. Don't you think? Or we can just get better with practice? Something like that anyway. Somehow, it gives me hope.

I didn't take notes on the presentation so I can't give you all the cool quotes she shared, or anything. But it was awesome and I loved it.

Afterwards I had all my books signed. I would have bought Lips Touch Three Times, but they didn't have that one there to buy. :(

Then, I went to a writing workshop. This ended up being a very small, informal gathering of just a few of us. Laini asked us what we wanted to learn about writing and she just talked and gave advice. It was so fun. I did take notes this time. Here's a few things I came away with:

  • Do lots of FREE WRITING using prompts or certain scenes from your story. This is actually how Daughter of Smoke and Bone came to be.. from a prompt!
  • Do brainstorming.. or write about what you want to write about. And just let your ideas run wild because this is not the real thing... this is just to get the ideas out.
  • Think of all kinds of things that COULD happen, even the most bizarre things. 
  • Swim form buoy to buoy... you might not know all that is coming ahead, but you have markers to get to a certain spot and then go from there.
  • Write that book that can't be ignored.
  • Have your characters sit down and start talking, even if it's not a scene you plan to include in the book. You'll be amazed at what they say and how much you learn from them.
  • The best stuff comes from spontaneity.
  • When revising, make a list and then go through your whole story checking off the items one by one. 
  • Use an idea notebook, Make lists and lists and lists. Huge lists. Make lists of "things that light your mind on fire!" Things that you love, are curious about, find fascinating, etc. Push yourself on these lists. Go further than is easy.
Anyway. It was an awesome day and I'm so glad I made the effort to go despite the rain and etc.

A couple of pictures of the library and gardens.
It's such a cool place! I wish it was closer to me.


  1. Wow, I'm very jealous! Laini is one of my favourite authors too and this sounds like an amazing experience. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I'm not familiar with her work but after reading this, I'm going to look her up and find her books.

  3. I love her idea for making lists. Thanks for the recap of the writing session - I really wanted to go!

    1. Jessica: I loved that idea too. Need to get on it...

  4. I just don't know how people can write like that! How do they get these ideas? Even from a prompt.



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