It was a perfect southern spring weekend in Chapel Hill North Carolina with moderate temperatures and flowers abloom as twenty six writers met for a weekend of writing, talking about writing and hearing about writing. SCBWI Carolinas returned to the Aqueduct Conference Center May 2 for a weekend writing retreat with Jill Santopolo, Executive Editor, Philomel.
With registration, participants chose a genre track and using that information were assigned to small study groups. These Peer to Peer Study Groups had multiple pre-retreat assignments. Prior to the retreat the study groups exchanged manuscripts and were given the SCBWI Critique Notes and Talking Points document to aid in completing the critiques.
A group discussion on What’s Your Hook? took place to get participants in the mood for a weekend of everything writing. Later, in the first of four meetings scheduled for the weekend, group members exchanged peer-critique manuscripts, which took some groups well into the wee hours of the night.
Saturday began with breakfast and Peer-to-Peer study groups discussion of the Theme of the story submitted for critique, using the information in Nancy Lamb’s book THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO CRAFTING STORIES FOR CHILDREN. Jill presented a discussion of Plot. She has the ability to break down complicated writing issues into clear and salient points that a writer should work to achieve. Complete with writing exercises, each participant came away with a new set of writing tools.
After lunch, a second Peer-to-Peer study group session focused on Elevator Pitch. Study Group members critiqued each other’s pitch, honing the essence of the manuscripts in a way that is credible, concise and compelling. And Jill provided an entertaining presentation on character, including an old drama coach exercise, In The Hot Seat!
Sunday morning began with Peer-to-Peer Study groups discussion on Query Letters. Combining the theme and the elevator pitch, group members critiqued query letters on the manuscript submitted. And Jill gave the third of her presentations on Voice. For many participants it was striking in it’s simplicity and yet gave each a clear understanding of what made VOICE so powerful.
We hope to continue the tradition of Spring Retreats in Eastern North Carolina, knowing that this is a valuable program for so many of our members.
Stay tuned for our next program: TO TELL A TALE, the 22nd Annual SCBWI Fall Conference, September 19-21, 2014. Registration opens late May, 2014.