Hey, how was that writer's retreat, you might ask? I'm not posting tell-all pictures of round table discussions or people belting out Queen's "We are the champions," although that did happen (and I'm sure photos will surface...). Lyrics custom-made for writers, right? Karaoke night rocked. Agent Abigail Samoun put the cool into "Mack the Knife," and former stand-up comedian Karen Soliday sizzled Patsy Cline's "Walking After Midnight." What a night.
My phone camera came out, though, in reflective moments, which happened, too. Like this morning walk around a duck pond with a few other early risers.
dabbling ducks jockey,
spreading frothy trails across
the olive-green pond
This weekend event was held by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators on the grounds of a religious retreat, which had the perfect blend of quiet areas and up-to-date facilities. Our four-person critique groups moderated by agents and editors were intensive and inspiring. Most of us did revising between sessions, coming out with stronger work before we went home.
Letting my mind wander in the non-intense moments was restorative:
spider huge as an acorn
against the pale sky
A grotto Mary
prays for eternity
in her rock cave
The early-morning clouds shifted from pale pink and gold to white-against-blue quilts. On the eastern horizon one stark white thunderhead fist-pumped.
So what's the take-away? I'm still processing, but some immediate thoughts:
Inspiration: It's hard to beat pros discussing your work with you, giving insight into what they think will make it better. Great advice was given by author/agent Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency, Abigail Samoun, who was a children's book editor for ten years and now is an agent at Red Fox Literary and from Judy Enderle and Stephanie Gordon of Writers Ink. Heather Alexander, assistant editor at Dial Books for Young Readers, gave such substantive suggestions to each person that it was the buzz of the conference. Agent Jennifer Rofe of Andrea Brown Literary Agency came only for the final first-pages readings, so her comments came as one who hadn't heard earlier and longer versions.
Notes on writing and revising:
Learn to love revision. It's a time to explore.--Abigail
Look at every sentence and ask if it's developing the plot, the character, the world. If not, change it. --Heather
Fun: People had a good time despite the terror of reading their work in front of strangers and the horror of finding out how much work they still have to do if they hope to sell that work. Yeah, baby, no one said this is easy, so take a deep breath and try to enjoy the ride.
Deep breathing: Speaking of. The event included several stretch moments with Lynette Townsend, a certified Jazzercise instructor, who helped get the kinks out, not only for conference time but with tips for everyday desk work.
Organization: This almost deserves its own post. Every thing from check-in to meeting spots to meals was spot-on. I've rarely attended anything that ran so smoothly and was so well-planned in advance. Besides pre-event emails of our schedules and on-site print-outs, our name-tag holders included a little slip of paper with our individual schedule on it, so we'd never be clueless on where to be next. Just wow. On top of that, the organizers are all volunteer. I don't know everyone who helped out but here are some super-deserved shout-outs: Sarah Laurenson, Lee Wind, Nutschell Windsor, Marilyn Morton.
Would I go again? In a heartbeat.