I’m not real big into writing conferences. I tend to skip over pages about conferences in writing magazines, and my mind sort of
shuts off when I read advice about how to pitch at conferences, or how they are a good way to “get your foot in the door.” I think, but can’t my writing speak for itself? And, I can’t afford the travel + the time off work, and the only way to get better at writing is to write anyway, right?
But when the SCBWI brought Cheryl Klein, executive editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, to the city I now live in, and on a weekend, nixing the cost of travel and of taking off work, I figured I would have been crazy not to go. And I was right.
It was an intense weekend, so much so that I’m still a little tired and going back to work feels almost like a “break.” An intense week of “story mapping” led up to the workshop, and I used my middle-grade novel Ever This Day as my project. I spent about a year and a half sending the story out to agents and gathered a folder full of rejections, then put it aside to work on publishing and promoting Rumpled. I looked forward to the chance to see it with “fresh eyes” when I did the story map, but when I was working alone it was still pretty easy for me to fool myself that I could leave things the way they were.
Ms. Klein’s workshop shook that assumption up, and it’s a good thing.
I felt as if I had hit a wall with that particular piece; I know I care about it perhaps more deeply than anything else I’ve ever written — it’s the novel closest to my own experiences — but I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t really “see” it anymore. I still believed in it, but I had received so many rejections that I was starting to feel it behooved me to take another close look. Cheryl’s workshop finally opened my eyes to some of the things that are left to work on, and I’m excited to return to the novel and bring it into closer alignment with what I dream it can be.
Cheryl will accept one manuscript for review from each person who takes one of her courses, and that alone is worth its weight in goal, and certainly the cost of admission. So, this is what my writing schedule looks like for the next few months:
- Finish the second draft of my Rapunzel retelling
- Pound out another NaNoWriMo novel and then
- Return to Ever This Day for another round of intensive revisions
Although Cheryl is an editor for children’s books, her workshop will benefit anyone who writes fiction. Definitely go if you get the chance — if you read YA and Middle-grade books, you get the added benefit of being starstruck to hear how some of your favorite books have come to be. And you’ll feel inspired to see that editors, if Cheryl is any representation, at the “big 5” publishing houses are still just as passionate about books as you are.