The Great and Powerful Oz . . . Has Spoken

I arrived at the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop after a long drive up Highway 1. At San Simeon I’d queued up Tosca and for the next two hours enjoyed the brilliant voice of Leontyne Price singing one of Puccini’s best. She is my favorite Tosca, and the one I grew up listening to. So, driving up Highway 1 with the arias filling the car was a magical experience. It brought my mother back. I was filled with thankfulness that she’d brought us to Big Sur when I was a child, and for the year we lived there.

The Big Sur Lodge had a long line waiting to check in when I arrived. Because it took them so long to process us, I spent the next hour running to catch up, but at last I did and settled in to the workshop experience.

At the heart of the CWW is revision, and taking our manuscripts up a level. We met with two separate critique groups comprising one faculty member (agent, editor, or author) and four other authors. It was small and intimate and we each had time to read what we’d brought with us and then to return the next day with revisions or new material. We were also given the opportunity to have a fifteen-minute private session with a faculty member to go over something else.

My fifteen minutes were spent with an editor who critiqued my query and went out of her way to read it later once I’d revised it and make an additional suggestion.

The critique groups were also incredibly helpful. The prologue I’d written so lovingly is now gone. As I read it to the group I could see it wasn’t working. That sent me into a tailspin that lasted until the next day when I realized I didn’t need it.

I started off my other group with Chapter 4 because it had a big emotional moment, and discovered that without Chapter 1 they pretty much hated my heroine and her emotional moment didn’t work at all. But after reading the earlier chapter the next day, they understood. Fabulous feedback indeed.

Thank you Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane Books. Thank you Jamie Weiss Chilton of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Thank you Sara Zarr. And thank you Andrea Brown and Magnus Toren.

I recommend this workshop to anyone writing children’s literature who is serious about their writing.


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