Writers Talk Shop, Novel, and Pitch Conference
Commentary by conference attendees
A Conversation Between Writer Ryan Lynch and Michael Neff
Ryan has an M.A. in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Rutgers University, where he workshopped with Alice Elliot Dark, author of In The Gloaming and Think of England. He currently serves as an operations manager for a supply chain monitoring organization, the source of inspiration for the novel, A Feast of Songbirds. Ryan has conducted factory audits in China, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and Central America, where he has witnessed firsthand the sweatshop working conditions depicted in the novel.
My workshop leader was straightforward and honest, and forced me think about the basics of my novel. Sometimes, we tend to get a bit esoteric, and focus on lofty themes, symbolism, etc. (which have their place), but if you don't have the basic elements of a great story all of the fantastic prose and high-minded thought won't get past step one.
- Ryan Lynch
MN: First of all, I want to say that I very much admire what you are trying to accomplish with this novel. Why did you start it?
RL: The first-hand experience I have with global manufacturing, specifically in the ongoing efforts to improve workplace conditions for those least empowered to help themselves, placed me in a unique position to address the subject matter. There is a great deal of conflict and drama in the story of a desperate individual forced to accept hardships. Also, I've always found it interesting that so many of us around the world are interdependent upon one another, yet we will never meet one another, or understand the lives that the others lead.
MN: What is the story about?
RL: A contemporary Asian sweatshop within a global manufacturing process is the backdrop where an American factory auditor is forced to make a choice to either turn a blind eye, or put himself at risk to save a peasant girl who is destitute after blowing the whistle against exploitative factory management. The girl is the heart of the story, but it also follows the factory auditor, who is able to rationalize any action that he takes, no matter how self-centered. A third primary character is a military contractor guarding a pipeline in Central Asia. Their stories are strung together by brief vignettes that follow the path of a metal spring through the global supply chain--an object that eventually becomes part of a weapon that plays a role in the resolution of the plot.
MN: Why did you decide to attend the New York Pitch Conference?
RL: I immediately thought it made sense, and wondered why it took so long to put something like it together.
MN: Do you feel A Feast of Songbirds has improved as a result of attending the conference?
RL: I came in expecting to pitch, but also made tangible improvements on the story. The title used to be a mess – totally unappealing. That changed before I completed the conference. In the course of boiling the story down to its most basic elements, I was forced to ask hard questions of myself, and of the novel. I took a hard look at the ending, and made fairly significant changes that definitely improved the story.
MN: What did you find most effective about the pitch sessions?
RL: My workshop leader was straightforward and honest, and forced me think about the basics of my novel. Sometimes, we tend to get a bit esoteric, and focus on lofty themes, symbolism, etc. (which have their place), but if you don't have the basic elements of a great story all of the fantastic prose and high-minded thought won't get past step one.
MN: How would you compare the New York Pitch Conference to other writer conferences?
RL: I felt that I got more out of this conference in a shorter amount of time. It was very to-the-point.
MN: Where does the novel go from here?
RL: I am re-writing one of the characters from third-person into first-person. I have already made the changes to the title and ending that I mentioned previously. An editor at the conference has asked for a first chapter, and that's in his hands as we speak. I'm working frantically to be prepared if he asks for the remainder. If that doesn't work, I've already identified some other presses who will be good candidates.
About the interviewer:
Michael Neff is the creator and director of WebdelSol.Com and the Algonkian Writer Conferences.
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