Last Friday, I drove down the coast with a writing friend to attend this 3-day workshop put on by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. I had four picture books ready to share in critique and a new idea to work on. The two groups I was in were really wonderful, both because of the mentors who led them and because of the other writers who shared their feedback. The atmosphere was warm & friendly, but there was a layer of commitment and professionalism that–at least in my experience–isn’t as pervasive at other conferences. I’m not sure why. It could be the not-low but, for me, absolutely worth it cost. It could be the actual work–you need to be ready to participate in eight hours of critique, and it is strongly recommended that you use open hours to revise or write.
For me, I have been determined that I wouldn’t attend until I was at my own definition of ready–a combination of spending steady and regular hours on my craft this past year, being equipped with several manuscripts, and having a very strong sense that writing picture books is what I should be doing. The workshop more than met my expectations–I walked away with a new understanding and new revision ideas on all my stories. We had four hours to work on projects and, since I don’t revise fast enough to do a quick turn-around, I started drafting a new idea I’d been playing with. And I think it’s a good one. Somehow, the weekend was at once relaxing and energizing, cozy and effective, welcoming and empowering. Five out of five stars.
I’m going back next year. Which means 2019 is going to be busy. I’ll be:
- Revising the four picture books I took down this year.
- Writing and revising four new picture books to take down next year.
- Querying agents with some combination of the above.
Last January, I didn’t choose a word for the year. I remember feeling so deep into the mess the outside world has become–all the hate, selfishness, and cruelty–that it was too hard to think of a positive word, let alone a positive word connected to my own dreams. And yet, as we’ve seen, creativity has become a refuge. So many times, a blech of a person would fill me with fury or grief, and I’d be on the phone to my reps or online to send money. And then–not every time, but enough times–I would remember how delighted all the blechs would be if their words and actions brought me down. And I would pick up a manuscript. The happiness this work has brought me, the absolute joy I feel when I look at stories that did not exist in the world until I wrote them, has been the balance and sanity I needed.
I don’t know yet what my word will be in 2019, but I am pretty sure it’s going to have to do with writing. I’ll be thinking on it.