Jo Knowles and my workshop (“Writing Camp for Adults”) at the conference went very well. Our campers arrived and were treated to bug juice and s’mores and then we did exercises that have been particularly successful at writing camp. People shared some excellent writing and seemed to get lots of ideas. Many people stopped us afterwards to say how much fun they had. We hope they fill out the evaluations!
Saturday morning Sara Zarr gave a keynote that connected a Frog and Toad book with what it’s like to be a writer. It was excellent. She showed us through the story how it’s good to have a plan but be flexible, and how if things are not going as planned, it doesn’t mean you’re failing. It was a great way to look both at life as a writer and at a character’s life.
At lunchtime, Kate Messner gave a talk about what it was like to speak at the TED talks along with her talk about creating worlds. She has so much faith in kids which came through in every part of her talk. Check out her new website kid-sourcing.com for ideas of how kids can get involved in the world right now.
I attended three workshops. The first was a panel on author/agent relationships and covered the usual questions. I went to that because I’d like to be on a similar panel someday. The next was a panel about quiet novels which I attended because my VC crit group partner, Erin Moulton was on it. She (and the others on the panel) did a great job presenting and answering questions about quiet novels. The workshop “Add Depth and Emotion to Your YA Novel” given by Jo Knowles and Sarah Darer Littman got people exploring and writing about a sensory image or object from their childhood, but turning it into fiction. I got a new scene for my work-in-progress from that workshop. And, finally, I attended Cinda Williams Chima’s workshop on “Building Believable Magical Worlds” where I jotted down lots of questions to answer as I create worlds based in reality.
The best thing about the conference is the chance to spend time with lots of other writers, editors, agents, etc. I loved the meals where I was able to talk to old friends and make new ones. Evenings found people moving from one cluster to another, talking, talking, talking about writing and books. I talked with people on the stairs, in line at registration, in the elevators, everywhere. It was a great weekend!
For two weeks every summer, my teaching partner Rick S. and writing partner Jo Knowles and I run a writing day camp for students in grades 7-12. The camp meets from 9-12 Monday through Friday for 9 days and finishes with a reading for parents and guests on the last day.
I look forward to these two weeks for lots of reasons.
- former students—I’m glad to see them again.
- repeat campers—people I’ve gotten to know through camp. It’s exciting to see their writing grow and change each year.
- fun—spending time with 20+ teens who are excited to write, try all kinds of exercises, and read to each other is exhilarating.
- food—Rick provides a great variety (dill pickles with your morning bagel, anyone?) Writing chat around the food table is always fun to hear.
- writing—We start with a quick prompt, then a longer exercise followed by free writing, and finish up with a reading. I love the surprises—mine and the campers’—of writing just for fun. You never know what you’ll come up with. I’ve had ideas for whole novels born of these moments.
I also love that we get campers from several different school districts and from all different grades—and that they tend to keep in touch with each other through the year. I would have loved a camp like this when I was their age. I would have loved knowing there were other people around who liked to write as much as I did.
This year’s camp runs from July 3-11. Let me know if you want more information!
The Vermont Novel Writing Retreat was terrific! I loved spending the weekend with authors Holly Black and Coe Booth and editor Alvina Ling. They were excellent presenters and fun to be with as well! I enjoyed getting to know the participants. I feel like I have many more friends in the writing community.
I’m always surprised by that, but it always happens. I remember the first conference I ever attended—the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators regional conference about 15 years ago. Somehow, I convinced myself to go. I think I had decided that if I ever really wanted to write, I needed to move forward. I needed to try new things.
I remember walking into the bustling lobby of the hotel where people were getting their conference materials and greeting each other. I didn’t know anyone. But I picked up snippets of conversation around me—snippets of talk about books and writing and authors—and knew I had found my people. I walked through that whole first conference in awe.
I’ve been there every year since. Now when I arrive, I run into people who have become my friends, people I stay connected with throughout the year. It’s a reunion of sorts and a chance to connect in person for writing which is such a solitary activity.
In two weeks the NESCBWI conference happens in Springfield, MA. This year, for the first time, I’m presenting a workshop with my friend and writing partner Jo Knowles. I know there will be first time attendees wandering around the same way I did that first conference long ago.
I can’t wait to meet them!