This past July I flew out to Georgia drove 2+ hours (we got a little lost along the way) to attend a picture book writing retreat that was truly WOW on so many levels. Let me count the ways for you.
1) Awesome car buddies on the ride-up.
I have known Pam Courtney on-line through the Perfect Picture Friday series since 2012. She is a riot and so funny. Kathy Halsey is so sweet and full of stories. And finally being able to meet Miranda Paul who I was in a critique group with back in 2012. Awesome. By the way if she ever tells you she is shy and introverted don’t believe her. ;-) The girl can talk and she is a WEALTH of knowledge on everything kidlit.
2) Enota Mountain Retreat
Beautiful, peaceful surroundings once you get use to the bugs. Thanks to Sarah Davis Maynard there were morning exercises everyday. One morning we did the waterfall hike.
3) Party House Gals
This had to have been one of my favorite highlights of the retreat. Two floors full of dorm sized rooms. Seriously, I felt like I was back in college, which is a great thing. Talking in the hallways at all hours, spontaneous critique exchanges, playing Head’s Up, imbibing wine … just loads of fun! I finally got to meet people I had only known on-line over the past few years. Having Jackie and Karen two of my on-line critique group members there was icing on the cake.
Our fearless leader, Kristen, had an amazing line-up of speakers. Something for writers at every level. On the craft side, I loved Dianna Aston’s Evocative Language and Jodell Sadler’s sneak peak into her Pacing Picture Books to WOW class. (you too can take this awesome class just click on the link) I have no idea what a Master class entails but I am guessing it would be something like this. I also loved the interactive discussions that happened during Ariel Richardson’s talk on diversity in books.
Here are some nuggets of information from the week:
- Character + Plot – Unnecessary Words + Mishaps x Rule of Threes = $$
- Picture Books are about one true thing – making a promise and fulfilling it
- Study Screenwriting
- You cannot illustrate the word ‘WAS’
- When writing pretend there is a little kid on the edge of your desk. The idea here is to keep your audience in mind at all times. (I have Rex from Toy Story sitting on the edge of my desk)
- Make a pitch sheet. A 1-2 sentence description for each of your stories. If you can’t summarize your story into a pitch, then it might be a sign that you don’t know what your story is really about.
- Bookstores want the hook to come across in the title & cover. (guess I better re-work my bland titles)
5) Round Table Critiques
I loved my fellow “Seniors”. After 4 days of being with the same group we knew what every one was bringing to the table. I was the one who kept asking about the picture book “promise”. Cathy was the queen of humor while Charlotte was the queen of candy stories. I do love the Dots story. Nisha was a bundle of energy. And Debbie, well I am still impressed with your revision of Franklin.
6) Just getting to know everyone!!
I loved that all the faculty were so open and willing to answer question/chat/share a meal. There was no pressure it was really easy to get to know them. This is something that you just can’t do at a regular conference where you are lucky if you even get two minutes of an agent or editor’s time.
It really felt like we were all just one big family helping each other out.
7) As you can see the WOW retreat was really WOW on so many levels. If you are interested in WOW Retreat 2015 I would recommend reserving your spot now, as there are only a couple of spots left.
On a more personal note, I had been planning to use my 5 professional critiques at WOW to help me gauge whether I should start subbing to agents. Well that is not going to happen. See the sixth unplanned, last minute critique changed my plans. I am very happy to call the amazing, smart, caring, all-around nice gal Jodell Sadler my AGENT!!
Since it takes a community to raise a writer I’d like to thank a whole bunch of people:
- Kristen, Rusty, Jackie, and anyone else behind the scenes for putting this awesome retreat together
- My WOW6 and Critters with Goals on-line critique groups members and fellow writers Margaret, Emily, Susan, and Alayne who helped me get my stories in shape for WOW.
- To all the wonderful teachers and writer’s groups I have participated in Susanna’s MPBM, Mira’s PB Course, 12 x 12, and PiBoIdMo.
- And most importantly to my husband and kids, without their support none of this would be possible.