I feel lucky to be a part of the New England chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, which organizes and offers so many opportunities to rub elbows with other writing professionals. I drove up to beautiful Squam Lake, New Hampshire just after Labor Day to take part in a weekend retreat. Twenty-nine other attendees joined me, as did three mentors: Liz Bicknell, Executive Editorial Director at Candlewick Press; Julie Bliven, Editor at Charlesbridge; and Emily Mitchell, Agent at Wernick & Pratt Agency.
Squam is rustic (think creaky windows rattling in the wind, and a distinct need for headlamps after dark). Instead of refrigerators, cabins offer old-fashioned ice chests! But natural surroundings are my favorite place to settle the mind and fill the writerly bucket. Plus, this lake had loons.
If Squam is on your list for next year, here are a few recommendations:
Bring a flashlight (or headlamp) — it’s VERY dark at night and it’s likely you’ll be walking through the woods to get to back to your cabin.
Bring copies of more than one work in progress — our peer critique group ended up with extra time, and we were all able to squeeze in review of an additional manuscript.
Come prepared with questions for the mentors — your critique, in particular, is a golden opportunity to tap into an amazing “inside” resource. I got to brainstorm with Liz Bicknell (THE Liz Bicknell!) about how we might illustrate my picture book manuscript. I learned how she approaches the editing process. And later, during the mentor Q & A, I asked a similar question of the other mentors and heard how their editing processes differ.
Sometimes I leave a gathering like this with an idea, a list of revision To Dos, or if I’m lucky, a halfway started draft of something new. This time I also carried home with me a feeling that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do. What a gift.
Back to work.