I’m in the throes of planning a writer’s retreat with several more on deck. Those of you who follow my blog probably know that I am a literary agent at Holloway Literary. So it makes sense that I would create an event for writers. However, someone who knows me personally, knows how super busy and oftentimes over extended I am wondered why in the heck I would add more to my plate. So, I thought I’d blog about my response.
First and foremost, I wanted to create a retreat that would benefit writers on many different levels, and I wanted it to be the kind of retreat I would want to attend if I was an aspiring writer looking for an agent. As a literary agent, I see firsthand the confusion many writers have about how to write a proper query and what should go in the first chapter.
Which is why our first retreat spends an entire day on literary agents. I may be a bit biased, but I think an agent is key to a writer’s success, not to mention career longevity. Of course, there are self-publishing superstars, but they are the exception to the rule. Agents do much more than just broker deals with publishers, they are the writer’s advocate, the editor before the editor, a friend, a sounding board and someone who can help manage the writer’s overall career in a publishing world where imprints merge, editors are downsized and trends in fiction are changing.
I want every writer who attends our retreats to have a deep understanding of the role agents play in their careers, how to get an agent and then what to expect once a contract is signed. Again, there is much confusion about what to expect after you have representation. Most writers do not understand publishing timelines, how long it takes to read and edit manuscripts or generally, just how long everything can take, even after a writer’s manuscript has been acquired.
For this reason, our first retreat will have the following workshops:
- A Crash Course On Literary Agents – Sarah E. Younger, Nancy Yost Literary
- The Agent & Author Relationship – Sarah E. Younger, Nancy Yost Literary
- Queries 101 – Melissa Jeglinski, The Knight Agency
- The Formidable 15 (Creating A First Chapter Agents & Editors Will Love) – Michelle Johnson, Inklings Literary
These types of workshops are essential, I believe and will comprise something of a core curriculum for all workshops we create going forward.
Writers who attend our retreats will also receive critiques from agents and editors. The query is so important. It is everything! And once you get the hang of writing them, you’re good. But if you don’t understand how to pitch your work, you’re sunk. Besides having a viable manuscript, your query is the most important tool to getting an agent.
So each of our retreats will feature sessions in which writers will be placed in small groups with a literary agent or editor and receive detailed feedback on how to improve their query and the first 15 pages of their manuscript, which oftentimes will go along with your query.
Once you have your literary agent, it’s time to start thinking about editors. Which editor is the best one for your story, which imprint would provide the best home for you career-wise? And it all starts with understanding the role of the editor, what they want and why they want it. It can be a big mystery for new writers, which is why it is so important to have an agent assist you in navigating the murky waters of Editor-ville.
But whether you are represented by a literary agent or self-published, you need insight into the editor mindset, which can be wholly different from the writer who does not immediately consider marketing and sales concerns, or even current publishing trends when they are writing.
At our retreats, a substantial amount of time will focus on the editor. In our upcoming retreat, we’ve scheduled the following workshops:
- The Seven Things Editors Care About The Most – Rachel Burkot, Harlequin
- The First 50 Pages – Anna Michels, Sourcebooks
Again, we consider these types of workshops foundational to the writer’s education and will usually always be included in our retreats. Besides the first 15 pages, the execution of the overall first 50 pages of your manuscript are key to piquing both your literary agent and editors attention.
Not to say that even if your query and first 50 pages are perfection on parchment, you will obtain that elusive agent and editor… you might not. But then again, you may. I can safely say, however, on your journey to become a published author, if your query and first 15 pages are poorly written, you will never get past that particular gate.
Next on the schedule of our retreats will be workshops – the fun stuff! The types of craft workshops we offer will vary depending on the focus of the retreat but will often include current topics and special interests in the featured genres and generally whatever the presenting author or editor considers his or her strength.
Sometimes our retreats will feature a Creative Writing MFA to discuss novel structure but not always, depending on the targeted writing level for that retreat. Our first retreat Babes On The Beach 2015 , an inaugural event will feature several workshops that focus on basic story elements, like plotting and character development.
Our workshop schedule includes: Bestselling Romantic Suspense author, Nina Bruhns’ How To Plot a Bestseller Before You Start Writing and How to Be A Proper “Pantser” by Bestselling Regency Romance author, Jennifer McQuiston; and character development with MIRA author, Kimberly Belle’s Turning Points and Character Arc in Women’s Fiction.
My goal with all of our retreats, and going forward there will be about five a year, is to offer solid information that is truly beneficial to the aspiring writer.
Aside from helping writers, my next reason is not so selfless. I love to travel! And what better way is there for me to combine my love for travel and writing, then to have writer’s retreats in the places I love? All of the retreats we have will be in some of my favorite places: wine country, the beach… the mountains. And oftentimes, they will include some of my favorite pastimes: wine, food, history and wellness. I’m really excited! Each retreat will be slightly different. Some may feature visits to wineries, yummy restaurants or historical sites while others will focus on relaxing and learning new ways to enhance your creativity.
Mind, Body and Spirit
Like Babes On The Beach for instance. I love Women’s Fiction and Romance and wanted to create a fun, relaxing and rejuvenating retreat with time for writers to write and lots of social interaction, almost like a Zumba party but with writing! But I also wanted to introduce the concept of vibrational health and energy healing to some folks that need it the most.
I enjoy visiting websites like Mind Body Green that write about the importance of the mind, body and spirit connection. It’s an ancient idea that is new to some and old to others. Creatives – writers in particular are generally more intuitive, more empathic then others. As such, they are highly sensitive and prone to challenges that can weaken their alignment with their own creativity. Practices like Yoga, EFT, listening to brain wave entrainment and energy healing, like Reiki can enhance writer’s creativity, remove writer’s blocks and generally create happy, healthier people.
I just want to spread some good vibrations to some of my favorite people – writers! But of course, not everyone will love Yoga, not everyone will want to learn about Reiki and there will always be the option not to attend complimentary yoga class or workshops like Babes On The Beach’s Reiki and Writing by Alice Osborn or Yoga For Writers by Jen McConnel. You can always walk the beautiful, peaceful grounds of The Trinity Center or relax on the beach. The selection of The Trinity Center and it’s oceanfront location was purposeful.
I find the beach to be relaxing and I’m hoping the writers attending Babes On The Beach 2015 do too.