Dec 4, 2017

Big Sur Writing Workshop

I spent this past weekend at the Big Sur Writing workshop, sponsored by the Henry Miller library and the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. We met at Big Sur Lodge in Big Sur, Calif.

After three years spent retrenching and concentrating on craft, I'd hoped this workshop - with its emphasis on small critique groups headed up by an editor, agent or author - would be worth the effort. Before registering, I spent some time online trying to find reviews online and found a few. But they were all several years old so I'm writing this post as a review for those of you considering signing up in the future.

The short answer: if you have a completed MS and write any form of kid lit, go for it.

Here's why:

My goals were simple: to get feedback on the latest draft of my MS and to connect with new beta readers. The workshop's schedule included two critique groups that met twice. There were four of us in my first group - led by ABLA agent Jennifer Laughran - and five of us in the second, led by ABLA executive agent, Laura Rennert.  (There were more than a dozen staff, and a total of 72 writers. Each group had 4-5 writers which guaranteed 20-30 minutes per writer for feedback. Writers were grouped by what they wrote - PB, MG, YA - and the writing sample submitted at registration.)

Both were very helpful. The calibre of writing in each group was great. This wasn't a workshop made up of newbie writers - most were capable and knew the fundamentals of craft. Everyone in my group got precise feedback and suggestion on how to make their story better. At the second meeting, several chose to present their revised chapter. There were all YA writers in both my groups, although I heard that MG and PB made up some mixed groups.

In between group meetings, there was time to revise, as well as agent and editor panels, and a presentation on structure by one of the coaches. Big Sur Lodge provided amazing meals, and the setting - in the redwoods just beyond gorgeous Big Sur coastal stretches - was gorgeous. I took a hike Saturday afternoon to the beach to digest feedback and plan my next revision. We stayed in cabins - my roomie was a talented illustrator from Brazil - and got to know other attendees during cocktail hours and meals.

As an introvert, it was so fun to go to a gathering and know everyone there wants to talk about the same things I did. There was such variety in what people were writing, and we totally steamed up the dining room windows at the lodge each evening with all our talking. We were each other's "people" and it definitely showed.

I came away from the workshop with the names of several people who want to swap pages, several revision goals, as well as an idea of whom I'd like to submit to at ABLA when the time comes. All the agents there were accessible, friendly and very willing to dive into critiques. And it was enjoyable to get to know them - beyond their work personas - at meals.

Nov 20, 2014

Happy to be here

Lately, I've been house hunting.

This is our tenth year living here and we're thinking we'd like a bit more privacy. We live in a subdivision now, with great views, lots of neighborhood kids, big yards, and a good location. ZERO privacy, tho. And with some gigantic houses being built on the bluff above us, we anticipate even more people staring at our backyard.

So I've been trolling the Internet, hoping for the perfect place, location and price. Needless to say, I haven't found it.  Let me clarify. *clears throat*  I haven't found a place I'm willing to afford. The houses are too expensive, too far away, too small, too big, too ugly, etc., etc., etc. The more I look, the more I realize how fortunate I am.

And this brings me to my writerly point (which you knew was coming). Full disclosure here: I've been on submission a total of five times. FIVE. This last time came really close, but still...I didn't sign. When it became clear my beloved sub was getting trunked, I wondered whether it was worth continuing this frustrating little hobby of mine. Pretty much everyone I started out blogging with over the past 3-4 years has sold or self-pubbed - either way, their work is out there and they're building their brand, engaging readers and going on with the business of being an Author.

Yet here I sat, typing away like a demented hermit who talks to herself continually and laughs at her own jokes while crickets chirp in the background. My wheels are spinning, spinning, but I'm going nowhere.

And then I read this awesome post by Robin LaFevers. It changed my perspective entirely. And I started looking around at all those Authors - who have as many, if not more, challenges than I have in this writing life - and realized how fortunate I am.

Don't get me wrong. One of my goals is to sign a pub contract but it's just ONE of my goals. As the years have passed, that goal has gotten farther and farther down the list. Every time I walk into the library, I see all those shelves of books written so hopefully years or decades ago and I realize that even if I get a deal, my book will sit there, too. Gathering dust. No amount of angst I feel now will change its ultimate fate.

Stories come from life - they are not life. There's no plateau of "success" in Author-Land, partly because success is defined so many ways.

Any day that I make a positive difference in my students' lives, or create a memory with my kids, or complete a difficult task or share a quiet moment with my husband, or take a nice long hike in the mountains, is a success. Any day I manage to type more than 100 words that are somewhat cohesive..and then get edited out still a success because I got to do what I (still, hopelessly) love.

I'm in the valley of my writing journey. The view isn't that great and the hiking is sometimes lonely. Which means there's nobody around to please but me.  The narcissist in me delights in the fact I am the most important person in this valley (unlike every other part of my life.)

 So I'm dawdling along the path, throwing off my pack and napping in the sun... in no hurry, just happy to be here, in this house I've made mine.

Jan 2, 2014

Happy 2014 and WIP news

Happy New Year! It's the year I've been counting down to since 1996 - and one I never thought would really arrive - and here we are. The year my oldest graduates from high school. *blinks rapidly* How did I get so old?

Anyway, in between teaching, hockey, volleyball, Battle of the Books, more hockey, house cleaning, shopping, and general life stuff, I managed to finish a draft of a WIP that's totally out of my comfort zone. It's a fantasy with dystopian elements...and a lot of fun. One thing I've noticed about YA lately is there's very little sense of humor involved. Everyone takes themselves so seriously.

Which I get is a teen thing but c'mon. If there's one time in life when you need a sense of humor, it's when you're a teenager.

Anyway, I'm almost to the point where I need a reader. I realize probably nobody is left reading these posts out there but if there is someone who has some time to be a first reader, please message me. The blurb is under 'WIPs in my life' if you're interested.

 I'm open to swapping pages and I do hereby swear to be less like this:

And more like this:

when I'm critiquing. (This is actually my one-and-only New Years' resolution, in response to the many critters who never speak to me again after receiving my crits.)

Have a great winter/spring!

Aug 5, 2013

What I Did This Summer

Tomorrow I go back to the classroom. I can't believe summer is over but here in Alaska, August is generally when the clouds roll in and the temperature drops. We haven't had termination dust yet but it's only a matter of time.

My summer highlights:

Got a new wood floor in our house

Turned a nice shade of brown and peeled a few times

Grew a bodalicious garden that is keeping me hopping picking, preserving, weeding and freezing

Watched my youngest child grow two inches

Replaced our deck 

Visited several colleges with oldest child and began to feel panic over Last Year At Home

Found an agent for my YA mystery

Read this awesome ARC: Red Rising by Pierce Brown, which comes out in Feb. and is MIND BLOWINGLY AMAZING

Wrote a semester's worth of curriculum for this fall

Began a revision for my YA sports contemporary

Visited six states in the Lower 48, plus a Canadian province, and nearly melted in Washington DC

Lolled on the beach

Lolled on the couch reading everything I could get my hands on. (I won't reveal how many books I is embarrassing.)

And now, it's back into the fray!! I can't wait to meet my students, to invest in their lives and watch them grow, and meet all the challenges this next school year holds.

What are your summer highlights? Have you read anything great lately? 

Aug 1, 2013

Friday funnies - Aug. 2

It's August already!! Where did this summer go? I have to go back to school in less than a week. *sob*

Found this one captioned: Authors awaiting replies from
the publishing industry (actually, it said agents but I think it applies across the board.)


When Chuck Norris is your teacher:

Last words...


Simon's Cat has reached 2 million subscribers. And this was the one that started it all: 

Have a great week!

Jul 25, 2013

Friday funnies - July 26

Filed under cutest thing this week:
A tree frog uses leaf as an umbrella (© Penkdix Palme/Newsteam/

source: Penkdix Palme/Newstream/SWNS

Cats v. dogs

Cat vs. Dogs
source: lolcats;

And this, because one of my kids is addicted to Angry Birds:


And finally, Kay & Peele's take on those reality chef programs:

Have a great weekend!