Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Big Sur Writing Workshop

Marisa was right. Big Sur was wonderful. As a last year attendee, Marisa encouraged me to take the plunge; spend the money, take off work and indulge in 3 days of writing pleasure.
Writing aside, it felt good leaving home to indulge in a little creative thought. Lately, Greenwood Girls has taken a backseat to pumpkin pies, golf tournaments and red wine, so thinking about sentence structure, POV, and realistic dialog was a welcomed change.
The weekend got off to great start with a critique session geared towards our first 5-6 pages of our manuscript. I was totally impressed with the quality of writing from my other group members. Maybe even intimidated. But I pushed on and read my pages. They were received well with lots of comments for improvements. It's quite a thrill when someone hears your story cold and can sum up what's wrong/missing/needs tweaking in just a few minutes. I listened and hoped I could remember the suggestions. Our group leader, Laura Rennert, gave us homework with the expectation to revise come Sunday.
(Photo left: Maggie franticaly helps me proofread...Lynn, Eve, Jenny and me on Sunday)
The next day was intense.
First a morning session with Author Ellen Hopkins. Again, fabo writers in my group. Wanted to read their whole manuscripts, not just a few pages. Felt quite cheated! I focused on a special section of my manuscript this time. One that included gymnastic terms and action. My goal was to see how well the reader followed the lingo. I also asked for help. I have been having problems lately with telling not showing. I know...gasp!!!
After writing for three years, I too, can't believe this pesky problem still has a way of appearing in my manuscript. But boy, I was in the right group. The Queens of Showing, Jenny and Carolyn each gave great examples to help me on my way.
Shortly after, I had a private 20 minute session with author Debra Garfinkle. We discussed the first twenty pages of my novel (she pre-read). Her insight was quite valuable. We discussed the characters age and let it be said now, that Dree is fourteen not twelve.
Later, I met with Julie Strauss-Gabel, the amazing editor from Dutton. She gave me lots to think about including the question as to why were there only three sports at Greenwood Academy. My answer because the outfits were really pretty didn't cut it, so we (the group) talked about the possibility of adding more. Juliet, ex-boarding school gal from England, had plenty of suggestions. My head was swimming with the creative possibilities. Field hockey players mingling with tiny gymnasts?? Hmmm.
That ended our Saturday critique session and not a moment too soon. My head was spinning.
Maggie and I decided to go on a walk through the beautiful redwood groves. It helped clear our minds and focus on the task at hand: rewriting for tomorrow's revision session.
On Sunday, the group that met on Friday met again to critique our revision of our first 5 pages. We all did a great job and after taking a group shot, vowed to keep in touch.
(Bottom photo: me, Julie, Juliet, Nikki and Barbara)


  1. Patty,

    GREAT post! Thanks so much for giving me a feel for the weekend. It sounds amazing. More than three sports, huh? WOW. That's a mind-blower. I LOVE Julie Strauss Gabel, she edited John Green's books...Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines...so you sure got a top-notch critique. Very impressive.

    Really appreciate the sum-up on your blog. And GREAT PICS:)

  2. ooo...that post was from me...Laura:):)

  3. I knew it was you, Miss Laura! You need to attend this workshop next year...so inspiring and hands-on.
    I might even go with you!

  4. Can't believe that a week has gone by already. The workshop was a great experience. I've been up early and writing/rewriting most days--bet you've been busy, too.


  5. I'm going to the 2008 workshop and am curious about the follow up. Did the agents and editors leave with complete manuscripts? They seem to bill the workshop as a great potential to take the next step in publishing? What was your experience? Did you get follow up leads? Thanks for the posts.

  6. Hey Tim,
    Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you made the decision to go to the workshop. The reason why the editors and agents are there is to give you helpful feedback on your submission(s). You will get a one-on-one with someone (agent, author, etc) who will critique the 20 page sub that you submitted for attendance consideration.
    Plan to do much rewriting!
    As for making contacts...the workshop is perfect for that personal level of networking but I doubt that any editor or agent will take your manuscript home. They might, however, call you, or ask you to send them more stuff if they are interested.
    Most editors and agents will give you the opportunity to submit to them according to their standard submission guidelines. This in itself is a gift, as many editors are not open to unsolicted manuscripts.
    Go with your best work and have fun!


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