Just got back from the SCBWI Whispering Pines Writers' Retreat. This is a weekend long retreat I attend every year. I love it. It is small and intimate and rejuvenating (even if I often do need a day or two to recover from lack of sleep due to late night gab fests).
There were two editor mentors and one author: Liz Waniewski from Dial, Lisa Chang from McElderry Books, and Laurie Halse Anderson. And there was an illustrator mentor: Liz Goulet Dubois. My editor mentor was Liz Waniewski. She was lovely and thoughtful and she gave me important feedback on my newly minted chapter book ms. It was a pleasure to get to know her and I also enjoyed hearing what she had to say during her presentation on Saturday morning.
What Laurie Halse Anderson brought to this year's retreat is hard to express in words. Right out of the gate, she was off to a strong run. On Friday night we all gathered for what has come to be known as "First Pages"-- where the writer participants anonymously put a ms first page into a box and then those pages are read by someone else. The mentors comment. if you think it is easy to hear a page of a story you have never heard before, remember detail, and then comment LIVE--it is not. Laurie knocked our socks off with her ability to remember details and give well crafted feedback.
In her presentation on Saturday she was inspiring and generous in her encouragement to a those of us who yearn to become better and more productive as writers. Thanks to what Laurie offered in her talk, I now feel like I have tangible and meaty strategies to make that happen, as long as I can somehow manage to keep the demons of distraction at bay. And Laurie offered some suggestions for dealing with that, too. You can read Laurie's comments about the weekend here, on her blog.
After Saturday night's Q and A session, we all consumed mass quantities of Cosmopolitans, wine and assorted snack foods while we engaged in some great conversations.
On Sunday Lisa Chang offered some thoughts on effective query letters and Liz Goulet Dubois shared her many talents as author, illustrator, toy designer, fabric designer, and house wares creative genius. How can one person wear so many hats and still be the mother of three kids? Talk about multi-tasking.... Check out her website.
Anyway, it was a wonderful weekend, as usual. Go some day, if you can. The setting is peaceful, the food is great, and the abundant positive energy you will soak up is something you can draw from all year long. Here is Liz getting ready to give her talk to all of us.