Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Advancing to Retreat

This weekend I'm heading down to Colorado Springs for the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) summer retreat, held at the Franciscan Retreat Center. There is nothing more delicious than the thought of a weekend spent in seclusion at a peaceful meditative place, a weekend designed to send the registrants away rested, restored, rejuvenated, and inspired with new insights about how to grow as writers.

Unfortunately, I'm the facilitator/leader of the retreat. I'm the one who has to find a way to restore and rejuvenate my fellow attendees. I'm the one who has to come up with the new insights about how we can all grow as writers.

When I agreed to take on this assignment, several months ago, I had visions of spending most of the summer preparing the FOUR talks I will be giving. I made up titles for the talks, titles like "Sturdy Structure and Peppy Pacing: A How-to Guide" and "Finding the Funny Bone: Humor in Middle-Grade and YA Fiction." I was all excited about actually figuring out how to create sturdy structure and peppy pacing in a book, and how exactly to develop a story's comic potential. Wouldn't it be satisfying finally to KNOW these things?

But of course, my summer didn't turn out that way. I had that house-salvaging project. I had my week teaching in Utah. I had those conferences in Roanoke and NYC. And I also had to write up detailed comments for the dozen manuscripts for which I'm giving one-on-one critiques at the retreat: the people who are receiving these critiques are paying significant money for them, so the critiques had better be wonderful.

So now there are two days left before the retreat, and I'm sitting here thinking: sturdy structure, peppy pacing, developing characterization, enhancing humor, "Manuscript Makeovers: 20 tips for revision." What ARE 20 good tips for revision?

It's really not as bad as it sounds, as I do have drafts of various former talks that can be dragged out and spiffed up a bit. And I've been known to have amazing revelations at the very last minute, indeed, on the spot. And I do have thirty years of experience that I'm drawing on. And . . . .

But I still wish I knew more about sturdy structure and peppy pacing, for example, exactly how to make it happen, and how to tell somebody else how to make it happen.

I now have two days to figure it out.

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