|Sarah Ketchersid, Tim Travaglini and Jen Rofé|
Two weeks ago, right before we moved, I was fortunate enough to attend the Los Angeles Working Writer’s Retreat. If you ever have the chance, two words of advice: DO IT.
I’d considered going in the past, but always ended up going to the SCBWI summer conference instead. This year I decided to skip the conference and try out the retreat. I’m so glad I did. Two things set this event apart from others I’ve attended. First, you get a lot of one hour blocks to write and revise. Two, you get to interact with agents and editors in an informal, intimate setting.
The retreat is limited to 40 writers and you have to sign up early because the spaces fill fast. They have a big waiting list every year. Participants are split into groups of four. These are the people you’ll be attending critique sessions with for the weekend. (I was lucky enough to have the fabulous Lee Wind in my group. I can’t wait to read him in print!!) Each group makes its way through the agents, editors and authors on faculty. This year’s faculty included Jen Rofé from Andrea Brown, Sarah Ketchersid from Candlewick, Tim Travaglini who has edited projects like Michael Spradlin‘s YOUNGEST TEMPLAR trilogy and Laini Taylor’s DREAMDARK books, and the writing team of Judy Enderle and Stephanie Gordon who have written more than fifty books together.
The critique sessions are not for the faint of heart. While nobody is out to attack the writers, they are there to ask tough questions. Jen Rofé pointed out several weaknesses in the opening pages of my WIP and wouldn’t let me off the hook when I tried to explain my way out of it. Was it tough? Yes. Was it worthwhile? Absolutely. I ended up slashing three pages and starting the story in a completely different way. When she heard the new opening two days later she told me it was a great revision. Music to my ears 🙂
|First Page panel: Jill Corcoran, Sarah, Jamie Weiss Chilton & Jen|
That’s the beauty of this retreat. You have time to write and revise after the critique sessions AND you’re able to get more feedback on the changes you’ve made, to see if you’re going in the right direction. At Sunday morning’s First Page session, agents Jill Corcoran and Jamie Weiss Chilton joined the panel and let us know whether or not they’d be interested in reading more of our stories. I thought I’d be terrified being the first one to get up and read my page aloud. But after the karaoke party the night before…
|Sarah sings Abba|
|Tim and Jen rock out to Weezer|
…well, let’s just say belting out Journey in front of everyone was a lot more nerve-wracking for me than reading the first page of my story! Somehow, losing our inhibitions through music made everything easier. How else would we have known that Sarah Ketchersid has a soft spot for Abba? Or that Jen Rofé and Tim Travaglini sound good on Weezer? My critique partner Lori and I sang AC/DC’s “Back in Black” with Tim and we all jumped in when “Love Shack” came on at midnight. Yeah, it was that kind of night.
So next year, it’ll be a tough decision: summer conference or writing retreat? Maybe I’ll sell my novel, get a big enough advance and be able to attend both. *ahem* Did I say that out loud? Yeah, well, a girl can dream…
Thanks to organizers Lee Wind, Sarah Laurenson and everybody at SCBWI-LA who worked hard to make this event possible.