Having described the development of Jan Coates’s A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk in a previous post, I want to give a plug to three other writers whose work has benefited from participation in the seaside workshop/retreat that Peter Carver and I offer each summer.
Anna Kerz brought the manuscript for The Mealworm Diaries to Nova Scotia in 2006. After workshopping it with the group and a one-on-one feedback session with me, the book (Anna’s first; she now has 3) was published by Orca Books in 2009.
Caroline Pignat brought a manuscript to PJ (the first time she came) that became a series of novels eventually published by Red Deer Press.
The first time at PJ I worked on Greener Grass. My one-on-one was with you and you gave me great direction with the main character. Most of the exciting stuff was happening to her older sister Moira. After your insight, I got rid of Moira and made it happen to Kit. Another great help was our discussion on how to write about difficult subjects like famine, death, disease when writing for kids, or any audience for that matter. I’d read your Marie Claire books and your insight on that really helped me see that it’s about the character, and if we care about the character we can see them go through all kinds of trials as long as there’s a ray of hope. You also showed me that we don’t need to sugar coat the facts for young readers… Both you and Peter helped me to see that the idea might be larger than one novel.
The second time I went I brought [another project] for group critiques. It’s a free verse YA that had two versions (one with a 9 year-old mc and one with a teen-angsty 17 year-old mc) and the group gave me insight into which age worked best. My writing time and one-on-one with Peter was used for Wild Geese (book#2) and I’ve just finished Timber Wolf (book#3) due out this fall.
Caroline will be speaking about writing historical fiction at CANSCAIP’s Packaging Your Imagination conference in November.
Erin Thomas has had books published since participating in the workshop/retreat, but not yet what she worked on there. She has, however, been awarded an Ontario Works in Progress grant to continue work on the manuscript she entertained us with last summer. (The segment she submitted with her application came almost directly out of PJ, she says.)
Here’s what else Erin (another repeat participant) has to say about her experience:
The stuff I learned at PJ (each time) helped me with the manuscripts I wrote after that. I haven’t gone back to work on ‘DN’ in years, but sometimes when I’m setting a scene, I hear a little Kathy-voice in my head reminding me to put things in the right order for the point of view.
And I still swear that someday I’m getting “what doesn’t add subtracts” tattooed across my knuckles so I can look at it while typing. Except that I don’t have enough knuckles. They’d have to share letters, and that might look funny.
Some of the things that Peter told me about dialogue and character and so on for ‘TISS’ were in my head when I was drafting the thing I wrote next (a juvenile historical), and I think that because of that, the draft came out better. In a lot of ways, it feels closer to being done than ‘TISS’ does, even though I haven’t done as many drafts of it yet. Maybe you guys are helping me make my drafts more efficient! (And wouldn’t that be lovely.)
The workshopping doesn’t help only the book that a participant brings to the retreat. It helps all the books that come after that one, too… It remains one of the best experiences of my writing career.
Do you have a manuscript in need of a fresh eye to read it and some quiet time to work on it? There’s still time to apply for this year’s workshop/retreat (but you only have till April 30!)