Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My PA SCBWI Pocono retreat round-up

     The PA SCBWI held another Pocono writing retreat last weekend, and I was fortunate to be in attendance.
     Every time a local writing conference is announced I look at the calendar and my budget. But there are a few that shout "don't miss me!" The Pocono is one of those. Held at The Barn in Honesdale, PA owned by Highlights/Boyds Mills Press, the bucolic setting is the perfect place to clear your mind and energize your writing.
     The weekend started early--with peer critique groups at lunchtime on Friday. For me, the physical act of sending off a manuscript jars loose the ideas for revision and it's always helpful to get fresh opinions on my work.
     Friday evening, former Bloomsbury editor Laura Whitaker described what makes a writer desirable to an editor. I highlighted (big letters!) that your title, hook, and pitch letter are your calling card. If these don't shine, your fantastic manuscript may not get read. Publishing is a fast paced world and these folks are too busy to wade through things that don't catch their interest FAST. Think about the title that's going to be the first thing an editor sees in their email subject line!
     The keynote speaker Saturday morning was author/indie publisher Darcy Pattison. Needing to sell 100 books per day (not a misprint!) for a mid 30K salary, she described how she has made indie publishing work for her. At times it sounded as if she never slept, doing all of the writing, editing, art decisions, formatting, marketing, and distribution--whew!--but the reward was the editorial creativity that gives her the ability to make her books connect with the right readers.
     I attended two of author Leslie Helakoski's workshops on Saturday. I practiced wordplay, looking for the rhythm in language and the essence of a picture book's emotional resonance. I dissected successful picture books. I wondered if I really could cut my word counts in half. I was sorry to hear that Big Chickens was no longer in hardcover! Sunday morning, Leslie powered the room with her message of positivity. Isn't it great that we get to do what we do? The rejections fuel and teach us. Aren't they great?!
     Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette took the reins after Sunday morning's keynote, reminding us that we don't have to write hook-driven, voice-driven, plot-driven, theme-driven, character-driven masterpieces. We just need to pick our superpower! Focus on one of those manuscript elements to strengthen the overall book.
     I got feedback on the first page of a draft manuscript. I enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner with the faculty and other writers. Critiques with Laura Whitaker and Heather Flaherty were sprinkled through Saturday, giving me advice to chew on when I got home, tired but ready to write more. Write better. Write with passion.
     The speakers' presentations are their intellectual property so if you want more specific information than this you'll have to come to hear them speak at a conference!
     Maybe I'll see you there next year?!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Chrissa. Perhaps the best part is meeting so many like-minded (crazy!?) writers.