So, now that I’ve recovered from camping up in Big Sur…the Workshop I attended was presented by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and it was a workshop, not a conference/convention. Including staff, we totaled 110; there was roughly 1 pro for every 5 attendees, not a bad ratio.
The weekend was for writers of picture books, chap books, middle grade books, and YA. It was not cheap – at $720 for two half-days and one full day, not cheap at all – but probably the most valuable weekend I’ve spent.
Unless you paid the single supplement, you were issued a roommate and I got lucky with Karen Akins. She’s a sweet Arkansas girl who writes both picture books and YA time travel books. We really hit it off and the second night, I kept her up way late chatting. But the roommate thing was fabulous!
The main thrust of the weekend were crit groups, two separate ones. We were to come prepared, with copies of our work, which I did. We read aloud, received feedback from the group plus the group leader (I got lucky and had two agents as group leaders), and had a chance to rewrite before taking it back to the group a second time. Two crit groups, four crit sessions total. Invaluable. Not to mention, a one on one for ten minutes with an industry professional…that alone totally made my trip.
Some may think they’re beyond it – not needing strangers to crit their work – but I welcome every opportunity to learn, especially from people who aren’t invested in me and could care less how well I do. The feedback I got has been the most valuable on this book so far. Lots of changes need to be made, but that’s okay – it gives me somewhere to take this book so I’m thrilled.
Surprisingly, the groups meshed quickly. Our leaders were firm, fair, and spot on when targeting trouble spots. All the staff were approachable – they wanted us to talk to them, to ask them questions, and considering these were agents and editors for the most part, it was a wonderful sense of camaraderie that they fostered, made possible by the intimate nature of the group.
If you write for the YA market or younger, if you’re stalled and don’t know which way to go, if you’ve got that book that just isn’t exciting interest and you don’t know why – do yourself a favor. Save your money and go to the Big Sur Writer’s workshop. They hold it twice a year – the first weekend in December, and the first weekend in March – and at $720, all-inclusive (lodgings, meals, workshop fee), it’s totally worth the price.