Let's start at the very beginning...
I attended SCBWI's L.A. Conference this past August for the second year in a row. At the Golden Kite Awards I had the fortune to sit next to a fellow writer named Anji. She started telling me about this workshop she had heard about in Big Sur that she was really excited about. We exchanged contact cards and parted ways. A month or so later Anji gave me a call.
I had actually forgotten all about the workshop since the start of a school year is always so hectic. If Anji hadn't taken the chance to call me and see if I was still interested I would have missed this amazing opportunity. I registered, sent in my materials and found out I was accepted a couple weeks later. Then I started searching the couch for pennies.
They gave me a boat. I'm used to driving a car that doesn't have much width. This Impala forced me to drive like my grandma going to K-Mart. If you've ever driven along the California coast you know that it twists and turns a bit. So if any of you driving on that road that day remember getting stuck behind a Nervous Nellie in a yacht, I apologize.
|I docked my boat to take a picture|
The coast is gorgeous. I also saw that California Happy Cows do exist. They're hanging out along the 1 eating grass and napping.
The Lodge was easy to find and lived up to the pictures I had seen online. A nice big fire constantly runs in the Lodge's sitting room where you can sit and write in one of the comfy couches. There were so many trees I almost O.D.'d on oxygen, but in a good way. The rooms are set up like cabins and circle the conference center which made it really easy to commute between rooms and panel discussions. There was no wifi access (the horror!) and spotty cell phone reception. Being disconnected is the point. Without distractions, can you be more productive?
After that we got straight to work. My first critique group was with Jennifer Rofé from Andrea Brown and I read my first chapter of my YA WIP. I received AMAZING feedback that basically challenged me to rewrite the whole chapter. I was also so impressed by the writing of the members of my group! Jennifer was spot on with her comments and I knew that by heeding her suggestions I strengthened my first chapter.
|One of many trails|
There was a panel after dinner that responded to random first pages that Andrea Brown pulled from the submissions. It was a great inside look for us to see how agents and editors view the first page and what catches their attention.
Saturday was busy. Right after breakfast was our second critique group. Again there were great writers and a wonderful faculty leader. Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane books led our group and gave us all insightful feedback. I was able to share one of my later chapters and get comments. I walked away feeling good about the direction of my story.
I then had the opportunity to sit down with author Elissa Haden Guest and work on my query letter for fifteen minutes. She was lovely and helped me figure out what essentials must be in the query.
After dinner we heard a panel of editors tell us how they acquire manuscripts. Another valuable look inside the industry.
On Sunday I had the luck of sitting at the same breakfast table as Andrea Brown and Jennifer Mattson, the latter being based in Chicago. After our bellies were full we met with our second critique groups again and I was able to share another chapter from later in my WIP. I picked a part that was crucial to the story and was able to get feedback on whether or not it was effective. The workshop closed out with an Agent panel where they took questions and handed out business cards.
I had a flight out of Monterey around dinnertime so I relaxed at the lodge with other writers until I had to leave. By this time the coast was taken over by a storm. Now I was driving up the coast in my massive rental car while streams of rainwater cascaded down the highway. I went from Nervous Nellie to OMG-PANIC Nellie. I made it to Monterey with gray hairs.
|Sweet home Chicago|
As I sit here looking out at the swirling snow, I find myself missing the beauty of Big Sur. The bottom line of this massive post is that this is a workshop worth your money if you are ready for in depth critiques of your work. They hold it in twice a year, the next one being in March. Check it out here. If you have any questions I didn't cover about the experience feel free to ask!