Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Novel Writing Workshop

Oh my, this past weekend at Vermont College of Fine Arts was a wonderful writing experience and definitely worthwhile.
Wonderfully organized and run by the experienced writers and teachers of writing, Sarah Aronson and Cindy Faughnan.
Ten minutes into the first session on Friday, I knew we were in the hands of master organizers and runner of conferences so I just sat back to enjoy the ride.

Here's the description from the website:
"The Vermont Retreat is limited to 25 serious writers of middle-grade or young adult fiction. Each participant will choose between a critique track or a writing track. Critique track includes informal small critique groups where participants read and critique other members’ work. Critique track participants will receive a one-on-one critique with either Uma Krishnaswami or Emily Lockhart. (Emily Jenkins) The writing track will give participants the stimulation of lectures, chunks of time to use for writing, and the opportunity to network. All participants are welcome to take part in scheduled sessions with the three presenters. Evenings will include a Q&A session and an open mike session."

What fun!
(I was on the critique track because I felt I needed critique help. On the other hand, I didn't need to travel 12 hours by train for a quiet writing weekend, because my local SCBWI offers those weekends much closer and cheaper.)

I paid extra to have the visiting editor, Nancy Mercado from Roaring Brook Press, examine my story. Among other things, she told me that my submitted dog story read like a picturebook. Which could easily be true because I was expanding a picturebook to early chapter book. Editorial Anonymous has told us readers (on her blog) that there's a difference between picture book writing and novel writing and now I have the same advice from another editor. I guess I need to re-write the whole thing, this time keeping an older reader in mind.

The author, Emily Lockhart (YA writer), better known to me as Emily Jenkins (younger middle grade and picturebook writer) helped me find the desire line of the book which was something I had been struggling with. Between the two, and the critique group session, I may figure out where I'm going with this story.

Funny thing -- both the author and some people in the critique group seemed to want my story to be a non-fiction book about rescue dogs, or at least have more information about them -- when what I was trying to do was to tell a 'story' about one dog's experience. Which proves that my tale sparked interest and a desire to know more. Which is what I aim at with all my books.
(I agree with Tanya Lee Stone -- you gotta have passion about your subject.)

For the open mike session, I read the opening of Tony's Fire, a story about the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, which got a good response. I had taken time off from Tony's Fire to write my Halloween and Groundhog books, but it looks like I should go do another revision run through it.

Yes, I certainly would attend for this March Novel Writing Retreat, again.

Weather report:
Lovely Vermont spring weather with show showers on the last day.
Rain on the way home.

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