Sunday, April 21, 2013

Speakeasy Tales: Takeaways From the Writer's Retreat in Paradise

The inaugural Speakeasy Writer's Retreat is history. I realize I risk sounding like a sycophant, but can't keep from raving about the wonderful group of writers and editors (and the venue -- what's not to love about the Stanford Sierra Conference Center near Lake Tahoe?) who made this weekend so wonderful.
Fallen Leaf Lake: The view from my window. ::sigh::

The faculty included editors chosen for their engaging personalities as much as for their impressive expertise in the world of children's publishing. They hung out with the writers attending, encouraging conversation and questions.

I learned a lot in the past few days. For what it's worth, here are some of my takeaways:

*  Even the publishing pros don't agree on exactly what constitutes the dividing line between Middle Grade and Young Adult. But they all agree that the writer shouldn't sweat over making the distinction. The writer's job is to write the best story possible, with the most authentic voice. Market definitions come later.

*  The jury is still out on whether New Adult merits its own genre.

*  Sometimes, showing an editor an unpolished work in rough form is the fastest way to get the most helpful advice.

*  Nothing compares to having an editor ask cogent, informed questions about one of your pet projects, especially when those questions are followed by, "That sounds great! I love those kinds of books." Yay, validation!

*  After forty-odd years on the planet, I am still powerless to exercise any form of self-control when faced with a buffet.

*  Several editors regularly reread favorite books to remind themselves of "what good writing is."

*  No one is more underpaid than authors, except maybe editors, a fact that doesn't keep either party from thoroughly enjoying their work.

*  Publishing is a difficult industry. It's not fair. It's not predictable. Success is often as reliant on luck as it is on talent.
*  Many editors admire writers for their bravery, their stick-to-itive-ness, and their perseverance. At no time during the entire retreat did I hear an editor talk about an author with anything but the greatest respect.

*  It IS possible to survive without cell phone reception.

*  In the same way that those who are married are not necessarily more loveable or loving than those who are single, writers with agents are not necessarily more talented than those who are still unagented. It's just a matter of persevering until a writer finds an agent and an editor who are a good match.

*  Never underestimate the value of taking some time away from your regularly scheduled life to interact with and support people who share your dreams.

A heartfelt thank-you to everyone involved in making this year's retreat a reality. I know I am not the only one who is leaving recharged and re-inspired!

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