Tag Archives: Trai Cartwright

New Adult: Defining it in Art and in Life

By Trai Cartwright
Part Three of a Six-Part Monthly Series

If you haven’t already heard, the writing world has a Hot New Thing. It’s called New Adult, and everyone’s after it – but no one can agree on what it is.

I’ve been known to take a poll or two, collecting data until there are enough consistencies to connect the dots, draw a conclusion, feel well-informed. You know, the old-fashioned way to self-educate, before memes explained everything in tell words or less.

So I’ve been polling all the writers, agents, and editors I meet lately and ask them: What is New Adult?

Here are some of the answers I’ve gotten:

  • New Adult, or “NA,” is a relationship-driven story in which said relationship has transformative healing powers.
  • NA is about 18 – 24-year-olds who go to college. Or get their first jobs.
  • NA is any story about a person aged 18-35 who is doing something in the Adult World for the very first time (so marriages, new home ownership, zombie apocalypse, world travel, world travel during a zombie apocalypse…).
  • NA is Chick Lit from 10 years ago.
  • NA is YA with sex.
  • NA is YA, basically, but with a sophisticated writer’s voice. Like, a story about a 16-year-old, but with a voice that isn’t quite literary so only oldsters would read it, but isn’t glib and chatty or texty or slangy like much of YA.
  • It’s rooted in the real world. If you do all of this in scifi or fantasy, don’t call it New Adult Fantasy, just call it Fantasy or Scifi.

Egads. Does the publishing world even know what they’re all so fired up about? I even saw one contest seeking to award a New Adult manuscript but the contest rules didn’t even define what New Adult was to them!

Then it occurred to me that a great place to look for NA models was TV and the movies. Hollywood has been doing New Adult their entire existence, updating as the audience got more diverse, sophisticated, and/or more morally corrupt.

Here’s a five-second list of on-screen New Adult titles:

Johnny Got His Gun

Veronica Mars

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (in the last seasons, it seamlessly transitioned from YA to NA)

Rocky

Norma Rae

Alien

Silkwood

Wall Street

Badlands

Bonnie & Clyde

A billion action movies staring some hot young stud / studette who is at the top of their car racing / parkour / psychic / super- / computer hacking / spying skills.

Any war movie ever

And perhaps the most definitive New Adult movie ever:

Risky Business

Here’s the dots I’m connecting across all mediums:

  • School of any kind may or may not be a part of the main character’s world, but it’s not a key component. Mostly these protagonists need lessons school can’t teach. They often leave their school at the mid-point.
  • They are newly-forged adults in a world that hasn’t laid out a red carpet for them to take their place in it. And our main characters may not want or care about that red carpet (golly, I wonder if this ties in to all the anti-hero stories we’re seeing…?).
  • The main characters are all under 30. Because apparently if you haven’t figured out how to start working the system by then, we cast you out of our society and/or start writing mid-life, book club-bait dramas about you.
  • There absolutely is Scifi and Fantasy with new adult qualities. Tons it, actually. They practically forged the genre. But yes, the publishing world really does just call it Fantasy or Scifi. (Or Horror.)
  • Unlike YA, in which the young person who, no matter how heartily she rebels, still realizes that in the end, she needs a community to survive, and must tamper down that rebellion and take her place in society, New Adult isn’t about finding your place in society. It’s about surviving the reality of being responsible for yourself in a tricky, dangerous, complicated world.

So here’s my conclusion: while it might well include a grab bag of other components from above, in general New Adult fiction is about:

  • Young people facing graphic adult issues. Like sex, violence, domestic issues, disease, addiction, job loss, etc., but it’s not a “rite of passage” to adulthood. It’s just part of their world, and it might be all of that stuff, all at once.

Because sometimes that’s what being an adult is.

Now swim.

I almost feel a responsibility to write New Adult now, to give guidance to our young people graduating high school and trying to get out of their parents’ basement and not completely fall to pieces. It’s a scary world and a lot is expected of them. The least we can do is pass on what we know. And maybe if it’s packaged just right with a shiny new genre title, the young ‘uns won’t mind that it’s an oldster telling them.

Any books you’ve read that you think of as New Adult? Any components or definitions you’ve heard for New Adult?

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Trai Cartwright HeadshotTrai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.

Making the Long and Winding Road to Publication a Little Shorter with RMFW

by Mark Stevens, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers President

As she accepted the Writer of the Year plaque at Colorado Gold, Linda Joffe Hull talked about living and writing for a decade in the “purgatory of almost” before finding a publisher for one of her books.

As she will tell you, it was a long and winding road.

But Linda credits a certain organization (its initials are Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) for the final break-through. As she talked about the two books she has launched in the last 12 months, she talked about the relationships she developed by taking an active role in the group.

Our group.

Yeah, yeah, yeah—for the last few weeks it’s been all Colorado Gold this and Colorado Gold that. (See paragraph #1 above.) It was three days of good times for us fiction nerds.

But RMFW is so much more than Colorado Gold and, I dare say, the tremendous variety of other events on the calendar offer an even better chance to develop relationships and make new friends who might have that one key introduction to an agent, an editor, a publisher. The conference can be, you know, intimidating. Fun, sure, but pressure too.

I’m not saying the conference isn’t cool, but now it’s another 12 months away (Sept. 5—7, 2014).

In the meantime, there are plenty of other chances to dive in and make friends—and develop your network—in a more casual setting. (And, in some cases, free.)

Check it out:

  • Later this month, a free two-hour workshop titled “Diving In: Character and Motivation” by Courtney Koschel. Location: Arvada Public Library, downtown Arvada. Date and time: Saturday, Oct. 26 at 1p.m. Courtney is the senior acquisitions editor for Month9Books. Senior. Acquisitions. Editor. Enough said.
  • Also this month, the experienced Trai Cartwight is offering a dirt-cheap online course called “Building a Better Book” that will help you demystify the process of novel building. It’s all about asking—and answering—key structural questions at the heart of every well-executed novel. Trai has roots in Hollywood, among other places. Get to know Trai and it’s one degree of separation between you and Stephen Spielberg. Or something like that.
  • Next month, there’s a free two-hour workshop titled “World Building: Don’t Let the Dream Collapse.” Location and times are still being finalized, but the program will be given by Colleen Oakes, author of the best-selling Elly in Bloom.
  • Also online soon, Sharon Mignerey (a true RMFW legend—she helped start our group about 30 years ago) is running a dialog workshop called “Let Your Characters Do the Talking.”
  • Also next month, over at our Grand Junction home away from home, best-selling author and RMFW stalwart Jeanne Stein is leading a day-long workshop titled “A Publishing Primer.” The first 20 people who register have the chance to pitch to Angie Hoddapp with Nelson Literary Agency and/or receive a two-page critique and 10-minute meeting with Warren Hammond, author of the KOP science fiction series. (Warren also won the Colorado Book Award this year!)

Cool programs, great opportunities to improve your craft and, maybe give you a chance to get to know other writers, develop connections and work your way out of the “purgatory of almost.”
All the details are available at www.rmfw.org. You probably knew that.

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2013conference66Mark Stevens is the President of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the author of the Western hunting guide Allison Coil mysteries Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan.

You can learn more about Mark and his novels at his website. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Are You Serious?

By Trai Cartwright
Part Two of a Six-Part Monthly Series

Am I misguided or perhaps a tad, a bit, a dollop delusional, or are the forces behind the world of storytelling building like a Gangnam-style viral video? Have you felt it too?

I’m convinced this groundswell of creativity has been coming on for the last year or so: more and more folks, both in film and in fiction, have been taken over by the urge not just to write, but to be amazing at it, and to be serious about it. And, as if vindicating these impulses, more and more avenues to publishing and to audiences are arriving by the digibyte-load.

Why do you suppose that is? I know when I worked in Hollywood (pre- and post-Internet/cell phones/Blackberries/Smart phones, etc. etc. etc.), business stopped in August. Had to take our month-long vaca’s from living in paradise, don’tcha know. And from mid-December to mid-March everyone was at or thinking about the Holidays, the Sundance Film Festival, the Oscars, Cannes, so no go then either.

These were the times writers wrote in earnest, knowing that the minute the executives and the producers came back, they’d look around and say, “Whoops! Guess I haven’t developed any material for a while, and without material, there’s no product to sell, and without product selling, I don’t get to travel the world on Disney’s dime anymore.”

And the floodgates for submissions would open wide.

Oh, how I loved September and April.

In the publishing world, August suffers from the same absenteeism because, really, have you tried to live in NYC during that month? Even the AC has AC. And that love of month-long vacations infected a whole nation of agents and editors. (I’m not as familiar with this world — is there another time to avoid trying to pitch because everyone’s on vacation?)

So while our erstwhile moneymen and gatekeepers and greenlighters are fanning themselves in spectacular locales (at least, that’s what I wish for them), writers of every ilk are hunkering down.

This is especially seen in the fiction world right now, right this minute. Fall is the time of year we give ourselves a stringent self-evaluation:

How much have we accomplished this past year?
Did it meet our standards and goals?
Do we have anything close to being ready to sell?
What’s it going to take to get it there?
Just how seriously we’re going to take ourselves for the next twelve months?

Why this brutal going-over now, when everyone else is watching their tans fade and their kids head off to school?

It’s Writers Conference season!

This magical time happens twice a year, Fall and Spring, and it’s serious stuff. Who among us can’t wait to spend our hard-earned money to take classes, network with writers and agents, be inspired by the new author panels and key notes, pitch the future editor or agent of our books? Or are we going to wait for Spring?

The power of a good writer’s conference can’t be disputed. There are endless stories of writers who were blocked going home charged up to write, writers who did indeed find agents (I’m one of them!) that lead to book sales, writers who learned just the right skill when they needed it, and the business acumen to act on it, writers who remembered who they were, just by being immersed in the stew of their people.

We are your tribe. No one else quite understands you the way we do. And we love you.

Needless to say, I love writers and I love conferences. I teach at several a year, and am always thrilled by the success stories I hear, the vibrant life of the classroom, the prosciutto-stuffed chicken breasts. I love seeing old friends, both presenters and attendees, making new ones, and sitting in on classes so I can keep that learning-part of my writer brain alive.

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Colorado Gold Conference is one of my all-time favorites. Most of you already know it’s coming right up, and I’ll be there once again to present. My master class on Friday morning is for the particularly brave and sadistic: “The Only Character Class You’ll Every Need.” (I’m a big believer in hyperbole and then trying to deliver on my outrageous declarations.)

And on Sunday, I’ll be teaching a high-level perspective class called “I. You. Them.” This is not just a rehash of your high school English lessons—this is a potent discussion about how story is shaped by POV, and vice versa.

If you haven’t been to a conference, maybe it’s time to go. If you’re going again, I look forward to seeing you there. Regardless, ‘tis the season to ask yourself: how serious am I? How serious am I gonna be?

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Trai Cartwright HeadshotTrai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.

Colorado Gold Conference Master Class: The Only Character Class You’ll Ever Need

We’ll be featuring information about the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference and the Friday morning master classes throughout the month.

The Only Character Class You’ll Ever Need
Instructor: Trai Cartwright
Friday, September 20, 8:00-11:50 Platte River

From your hero to your villain to your comedic relief, characters are what every story is all about. Learn the key questions to ask yourself when you start creating the people that populate your fiction, how to build them in a dynamic, dramatic way, and of course, what to do with them once you’ve got them. We’ll discuss arcs, motivation, and why you never ever give your character what they want. Then we’ll move from a conceptual perspective to a craft one by breaking down 10 techniques for making our characters come to life.

This master class hits on all levels: from understanding how to build a protagonist (and a villain), to knowing how to assign roles for the secondary characters, and then of course looking at how a character’s story drives the plot (I firmly believe it’s not the other way around), and then even exploring motivation with some Shakespearean actor-ly input. Finally, I show them ten fiction-writing techniques, 5 overt and 5 subtexual, for taking all those those thoughts and ideas and executing them on the page in a high-level craft-intensive way.

Trai Cartwright HeadshotTrai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. More information is available at Trai’s Craftwrite website.

The registration link for the Colorado Gold Conference, scheduled for September 20-22, 2013, is http://www.rmfw.org/conference/ The deadline to register is September 15th. The cost of each workshop is $50 add-on to the regular conference fee.

Additional information on the conference schedule, hotel accommodations, and presenters is available in the brochure at: http://www.rmfw.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-Colorado-Gold-Brochure-07.17.13.pdf. If you have additional questions, please contact Susan Brooks, Conference Chair, conference@rmfw.org

Why Should Authors Care About Screenwriting?

By Trai Cartwright

This is part one of Trai’s six-part monthly series.

Why in the world would a fiction writer care about screenwriting? Turns out, films are a prime educational resource for novelists, and whether you’re a fictioner or a filmite, our communal and cultural understanding of our craft is drawn from both realms of storytelling.

My background is in both realms of world building, the 50-foot high visual and the black-and-white textual. I love them both and work and play in both. However, thought I’d approach this blog as a map of my adventures as a new screenwriting resource in Denver. And what’s more appropriate than introducing myself in the story structure way?

Act 1 – Meet our main character: a teenaged refugee of Fort Collins, passionate about theater and novel writing. I went on to graduate from a highly esteemed but overpriced film school with a new passion: screenwriting! Destined to be in the world of storytelling, I embarked for Los Angeles.

Trigger Incident – Landing a job with an old school Hollywood moviemaking pro! I was mentored by an Academy Award-winning mensch who taught me the ways of the Force: how to use kindness and enthusiasm to get the best out of writers. He optioned one of my own screenplays, let me develop the scripts our company was interested in, and made me believe in myself. On to Act 2! Lots of practice, lots of dead ends, produced a few movies, worked for some major studios, always learning, learning, learning…

False Resolution – The head of CAA, the biggest talent agency in the world, loves one of my scripts! He’s going to “send it out,” and when he sends something out, careers start. It’s my big break!

Oh wait. He was just forced out by the young guns nipping at his heels. My script has been “burned.” He’s out; so am I.

Things turn dark. LA begins to implode. The writers strike, coupled with the burst of their freakishly out-sized housing bubble and the downward-spiraling economy—it all equals no jobs for writers. Or anyone else. No work to be found in the industry I love.

It’s the end of Act 2 and my lowest point…or the beginning of something amazing?

Act 3 – A move to Colorado, my home state, results in levels of professional growth and community-building I’ve never experienced. As a teacher of both screenwriting and fiction writing, I get to connect with hundreds of writers, teach in a myriad of classrooms, edit dozens of manuscripts. I’m having an amazing time, and really developing my skills on all levels. Don’t tell anyone in LA that working outside of Hollywood rocks this hard. They might get wise and get out, too!

Which brings us to The Sequel:

Act 1 – Making the big move to Denver, a storied land where many wildly accomplished and talented writers live and learn and publish. I’ve just finished a screenplay that’ll fly back over the mountains shortly and bang some drums, and I’m nearly done with my first YA book. Could I be more excited to land in the Mile High City at this crucial juncture in my own writing life?

I could, because Denver is also home to a Top 25 Film School, where I’ll be teaching future filmmakers how to get their voices heard. Connecting to the amazing film resources here is important, so I’m meeting folks from the Denver Film Society and the Denver Screenwriters.

But I’m still fiercely in love with Fiction, so I’m also looking for ways to connect to more novelists. How lucky are we that grounding this community is the amazing Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. What fun you all have, what joy you bring to the study of our craft! I’ve already had some terrific experiences with you all and can’t wait to continue. I’ll see you at the conference in September, for sure. Come find this old Hollywood hack so we can continue this conversation about our love of story.

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Trai Cartwright HeadshotTrai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.