Monday, November 15, 2010

Falling Leaves Writers' Retreat


I just spent a fabulous weekend at the Eastern NYSCBWI’s Falling Leaves Writer’s Retreat at Lake George, NY. 






Five outstanding editors in children’s publishing offered wonderful insight to the industry. All members of our peer critique groups were well suited to each other. My particular group had four published authors in various genres. The other three were well established in the field. We gained valuable insight to our manuscripts from everyone’s area of expertise. 



Of course, we each spent twenty minutes with an individual editor.

My editor critique was with Noa Wheeler of Holt. I’d sent in the first 20 pages of a YA historical fiction manuscript. I’d written it several years ago, and both editors and agents had seen it at other conferences. Still, I knew it needed a large dose of advice. It was completed, but too long and I didn’t know where to start cutting since the character was a real person.

Noa gave me the most excellent advice I could have hoped for. She incorporated my background as a teacher in her suggestion to revise, and suddenly my revision path became clear. I’ll be overhauling that manuscript as soon as I finish my current WIP.

Each editor shared their own perspective in presentations to the group of 35 YA and MG writers. Noa shared a writing exercise using only three words. It was an excellent creative writing technique.

Kendra Levin, a newly promoted editor of Viking, led us on a guided visualization of our manuscript. Then she offered another writing exercise where me had to write about the first time our MC heard her favorite song. Both of these exercises were beneficial to me. What I came up with will easily be incorporated somewhere in my current manuscript.

Most of us struggle when writing our synopsis, but Julie Tibbot, senior editor at Houghton Mifflin /Harcourt taught us how you can use your synopsis as a selling tool as well as a revision technique. We each had to prepare a 250-word synopsis before the workshop. Try it. It opens your eyes.

Wendy Loggia, executive editor with Delacorte Press/Random House shared actual editorial letters on three books, which are coming out this year. Through her eyes and experiences we learned how the editor and writer form their special bond.

And our last editor was Mary Kate Castellani, an associate editor at Walker Books. Her exercise proved invaluable, as we actually had to develop the information sheet for our current novel. This included a handle, which can be likened to a single sentence pitch, a description, or short summary of the novel, pertinent author information, and strong selling points. We also learned how they use this information to compare our work with other like, successful novels.

And of course, between the valuable information, the individual writing time, and the cookies and s’mores at the bonfire, we forged new friends and new goals for ourselves, and our characters. I highly recommend the experience. Next year, it will be for picture book writers.






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