Do What Scares You: Big Sur, Part Two

If I wasn’t scared enough, they opened the workshop up by telling us that this was essentially “writing bootcamp” and that “some people cry.”

But let me tell you, it. was. wonderful.

I loved pretty much every minute of it.  This was the schedule:

Friday, March 1:
1:00—2:00: Check in to hotel—Embassy Suites Hotel, Monterey/Seaside
2:10: Welcome, orientation
3:30—5:30: Critique Group 1 Loved this critique group, which was led by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.  She was beautiful and gracious, a great leader, and so wise in her direction and critique.  At the end of this session, I knew two things: 1) I was excited to revise chapter one and 2) I absolutely ADORED Lara.
5:45: Cocktail Hour in hotel lobby During this time I hung out with a great group of YA and children’s book writers, along with Lara Perkins and Ariel Richardson, a marvelous and kind-hearted editor from Chronicle.  We talked about our favorite books and query letters, told stories, and laughed a lot.  It was delightful!
6:45: Dinner and presentation by Magnus Torén about Big Sur and Henry Miller Library plus a song or two.  I ate dinner with Jen Rofe, a literary agent from ABLA (also wonderful!), who asked about my book and encouraged me to query her.  

Instead of going to bed, my workshop roomie and I had a “pajamas and revision party” that evening.  I was THRILLED and EAGER to dive into my story!

Saturday, March 2:
7:30—8:30: Breakfast at hotel
8:45—10:45: Critique Group 2 This time I met with Alyson Heller, an editor from Aladdin Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), who– once again– was awesome (Notice a trend?  The faculty was INCREDIBLE!).  My critique group encouraged me to start my story a little further into my chapter.  I wasn’t so sure about it, but … stay tuned.
11:00—Noon: Query and Pitch with a panel of Editors and Agents.  This was with Ariel, and it was so awesome to have an editor look over my query letter– and like it!  It was interesting to hear the differences between what an agent is looking for and what an editor is.  Plus, Ariel is just the kind of person that you want to be best friends with.  I love her!!
Noon: Pick up box lunch in lobby
Revising time in afternoon TIME TO WORK.  I busted my butt this afternoon and pulled together my revisions of chapters one and two, so that I was ready to return to my critique groups.
3:30—5:30: Return to Critique Group 1 They all agreed it was a great revision and pointed out some gaps in the writing.  Again, I couldn’t wait to return to it to start mending!
5:45—6:45: Cocktail Hour at hotel Great conversation with some new writer friends about books and projects!
6:45: Dinner Ate with Jennifer Laughran of ABLA (so funny!) and some incredible writers, all discussing our various projects and asking questions.  (That was one of the best parts of this whole weekend … asking TONS of questions of the experts!)
8:30: Evening Program with Editors: What publishers are looking for  Loved this!  So much helpful instruction for debut authors.

Sunday, March 2:
7:00—8:30: Breakfast at hotel
8:45—10:45: Return to Critique Group 2 … I hadn’t been sure about starting my chapter at a later place than where it has (for pretty much the last 14 months!!), but once I revised, I actually got really excited about it, and when I read the revision to this critique group, they were all REALLY pumped about the changes and even made additional suggestions.  AGAIN, I left excited to revise!
11:00—Noon: Agents Panel  So, so, so helpful!  It was so awesome to just get to pick the brains of literary agents and hear what they wanted us to know.  I am so excited to follow up with ABLA and query there (hopefully in the next year!).
Noon: Check out and farewell

One thing that really surprised me was how few people there are part of a writing/critique group.  I know I felt especially grateful for mine!!!  Both Alyson Heller and Lara Perkins thanked me separately for my excellent critiquing skills, and I told them that I was a part of a monthly critique group, and they said it showed.  I am so grateful to Judy Hougen and my writing group girls for everything they have taught me that positioned me well for this workshop!  I felt knowledgeable about craft, criticism, and the industry … and yet I still learned a lot more!

Networking was the very best part of this weekend.  I loved rubbing shoulders with agents, editors, and authors, all in the children’s and YA genres.  They were so down to earth and friendly, so fun and personable.  I could tell they genuinely cared about my manuscript and wished the very best for me.  I really want to go back to this workshop someday … and bring along some YA writer friends!

It was also great to meet new friends who are in the same shoes as I am … working away at our dreams, writing like maniacs, reading books like they’re oxygen.  It was a special weekend, and I had an absolute BLAST.  In fact, as I write this, I am sitting at my gate in the tiny Monterey airport with three of my new workshop friends (my roommate and another set of roommates).  We all took a taxi to the airport together and are all flying into Phoenix (which is the final destination only for Kristin); then I’ll head to Minneapolis, Melissa to Dallas, and Kim to Chicago.  A man in the terminal is playing his guitar and singing Jason Mraz and other things, and it’s all so tiny and intimate and funny that I can’t help but think how nervous I was only two days ago, and how today I’m waiting to catch a plane with my new friends, how I am on my way to a much more polished manuscript, and how I now know and deeply respect game-changers in the industry I love.

Do what scares me?  I am so glad I did!


Do What Scares You: Big Sur, Part One

Experts seem to agree: we grow by doing things that scare us.  I believe this!

It’s why I tackled cognitive-behavioral therapy, why I seek out public speaking opportunities, why I ask for criticism on the things that I write.  Those things all scare(d) me, but I knew I had so much to gain by facing them.  Self-confidence, networking opportunities, friendships, new & improved drafts, stronger character.  In the case of CBT, I gained back my life.

I am not ashamed of being frightened by things … but I force myself to do those things anyway.

As you are reading this, I am probably on a plane to Monterey, California, or perhaps I’ve already arrived for the Big Sur Writing Workshop.  Let’s be honest.  I’m quite terrified.

1) I am not good with airports.  Silly, I know, but I use them infrequently enough that they always make me nervous.  I try to always fly direct so that I don’t have to deal with the pain of connecting flights, but on this trip, it was unavoidable.  I’ll be connecting in Phoenix on the way there … and back.

2) I am not only asking for criticism on my novel but giving myself limited time to respond to it.  At the writing workshop I’m attending this weekend, I’ll get feedback and then have to turn around immediately and revise.  And repeat.  Generally, I like 24-36 hours to process a critique, get over it, and dive back into a new draft.  This entire conference is only about 48 hours, so there is the pressure to act and act now.

3) I will be interacting with literary agents, editors, and authors, all within the children’s and young adult genre.  I want to shine, not only in my writing, but in my personality and presence.  I love networking, but it can be exhausting to always be “on.”  In addition, I am just nervous in general about interacting with people who know so much about the field I’ve chosen.

But I’m doing it.  I have wanted to go to this workshop for the last nine months, and I am finally making it happen.  If you pray, would you pray for me?

I simply want to write impeccably, charm everyone, enjoy myself, and come away with a better manuscript.  Is that too much to ask of one weekend? 😉