Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Best Retreat Ever

Sarah Ketchersid, Tim Travaglini and Jen Rofé
Two weeks ago, right before we moved, I was fortunate enough to attend the Los Angeles Working Writer's Retreat. If you ever have the chance, two words of advice: DO IT.

I'd considered going in the past, but always ended up going to the SCBWI summer conference instead. This year I decided to skip the conference and try out the retreat. I'm so glad I did. Two things set this event apart from others I've attended. First, you get a lot of one hour blocks to write and revise. Two, you get to interact with agents and editors in an informal, intimate setting.

The retreat is limited to 40 writers and you have to sign up early because the spaces fill fast. They have a big waiting list every year. Participants are split into groups of four. These are the people you'll be attending critique sessions with for the weekend. (I was lucky enough to have the fabulous Lee Wind in my group. I can't wait to read him in print!!) Each group makes its way through the agents, editors and authors on faculty. This year's faculty included Jen Rofé from Andrea Brown, Sarah Ketchersid from Candlewick, Tim Travaglini who has edited projects like Michael Spradlin's YOUNGEST TEMPLAR trilogy and Laini Taylor's DREAMDARK books, and the writing team of Judy Enderle and Stephanie Gordon who have written more than fifty books together.

The critique sessions are not for the faint of heart. While nobody is out to attack the writers, they are there to ask tough questions. Jen Rofé pointed out several weaknesses in the opening pages of my WIP and wouldn't let me off the hook when I tried to explain my way out of it. Was it tough? Yes. Was it worthwhile? Absolutely. I ended up slashing three pages and starting the story in a completely different way. When she heard the new opening two days later she told me it was a great revision. Music to my ears :)

First Page panel: Jill Corcoran, Sarah, Jamie Weiss Chilton & Jen
That's the beauty of this retreat. You have time to write and revise after the critique sessions AND you're able to get more feedback on the changes you've made, to see if you're going in the right direction. At Sunday morning's First Page session, agents Jill Corcoran and Jamie Weiss Chilton joined the panel and let us know whether or not they'd be interested in reading more of our stories. I thought I'd be terrified being the first one to get up and read my page aloud. But after the karaoke party the night before...

Sarah sings Abba
Tim and Jen rock out to Weezer
...well, let's just say belting out Journey in front of everyone was a lot more nerve-wracking for me than reading the first page of my story! Somehow, losing our inhibitions through music made everything easier. How else would we have known that Sarah Ketchersid has a soft spot for Abba? Or that Jen Rofé and Tim Travaglini sound good on Weezer? My critique partner Lori and I sang AC/DC's "Back in Black" with Tim and we all jumped in when "Love Shack" came on at midnight. Yeah, it was that kind of night.

So next year, it'll be a tough decision: summer conference or writing retreat? Maybe I'll sell my novel, get a big enough advance and be able to attend both. *ahem* Did I say that out loud? Yeah, well, a girl can dream...

Thanks to organizers Lee Wind, Sarah Laurenson and everybody at SCBWI-LA who worked hard to make this event possible.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Technical Difficulties

So, scheduling a drawing for the day I moved into a new house was probably not my brightest moment. Especially since we still don't have phone or internet service at the new house. Right now I'm sitting in front of a coffee house that closed hours ago, taking advantage of the free wireless access. Yeah, I'm that desperate for the internet :P

I should probably announce the winner before the cops show up to haul me away for loitering, so, without any further adieu, the winner of my ARC of LEGEND is:

Yay, Kathryn! Email me with your snail mail address and I'll get this book out to you (relatively) soon!

I'll be back in two weeks after we've settled into the new house since, theoretically, my internet service should be working by then. Based on past experiences with Verizon, I'm crossing my fingers but not holding out much hope...

Have a good weekend!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Win a copy of LEGEND

Some might say the dystopian craze is waning. But then a book like LEGEND hits the market, and all those predictions go right down the drain. If you enjoy dystopian YA, you're going to want to read this book. Lucky for you, I've got an advance copy to give away. Woo-hoo!!

Here's the description from author Marie Lu's website:  

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

And the book trailer:

This is the first book in a series, but the ending is still satisfying, no obnoxious cliffhanger here. I was impressed with the taut prose, the well developed characters and the heart-pounding action. It's no wonder this book has already been optioned for a movie!

The novel doesn't come out until November, but you can win my advance copy just by leaving a comment. Followers get an extra entry. Get your comments in by midnight on Tuesday, September 13. One lucky winner will be announced next Wednesday.
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