Today we have a guest post from YA writer Sofia Embid. She attended the Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop and is sharing her thoughts on the experience with you. The workshop is full this year, but you can check out the workshop's website for information about future workshops.
First, meet Sofia!
Sofia is an NYU grad, a former reality TV story producer and a pajama enthusiast. She’s lived all over, from LA to NYC, Madrid to Dublin, but she currently spends her time in Albuquerque, NM, hiding from the desert sun in her writer cave. When she’s not scribbling stories, you can find her hanging out on film sets or searching the great Southwest for story fodder. For bookish fangirling and cute animal pics, follow her on twitter and Instagram at @SofiaEmbid.
Hi, guys! I’m here today to talk about the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop and what to expect for any of you that are considering attending.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop is a three day event that takes place every December and March in Big Sur, California. The workshop is run by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and it is aimed exclusively at kid lit writers, from picture books to YA. I had the pleasure) of attending last December and it is an experience I would highly recommend to anyone looking to move forward in the world of children’s publishing.
1. Expect intimate workshops with all-star faculty
The focal point of the Big Sur experience are the workshops, which are small -- just five or six people total -- including your group leader, who is either an agent, editor or author. My critique groups were run by Laura Rennert and Neal Shusterman and I felt like I’d won the workshop lottery. Getting insight on my pages from both a stellar agent and a NYT best-selling author was amazing and the notes I got were invaluable to my revision. The small group size means you get a lot of personalized attention and having faculty members from different areas of the publishing world allows varied and enlightening perspectives on your work.
2. Expect to work
Each workshop group meets twice, so prepare to take all the great advice you get during the first session and knock out a new version for your group to look at next time. This does cut into socializing and sleep but the critique is one of the most valuable aspects of this workshop, so I recommend squeezing in as much revision as you can.
3. Expect to focus on craft
Unlike some conferences, the focus of Big Sur is on craft, not pitching completed work. After the conference, the agents expect you to go home and revise, incorporating what you learned over the weekend, before querying. The great thing about this is it takes some of the pressure away from being “on” and allows you to be a sponge. If you go in expecting to learn and improve as a writer, you will walk away from this workshop with knowledge that will help you throughout your career.
4. Expect to spend every moment learning
The critique groups aren’t the only learning opportunities. Each day there is a faculty panel – one for agents, one for editors and one for authors. They spend this time talking candidly about the publishing process and there is a huge amount of information to be gleaned from these professionals, so bring a notebook! Also, there is usually time at the end for questions, so think ahead and know what you want to ask beforehand.
5. Expect to make the most of meal time
The workshop includes all meals, which are prepared by the lovely chefs at the Big Sur Lodge. Aside from being delicious, the meals are a great opportunity to interact with agents, editors and your fellow writers. The atmosphere is laid-back and people are genuinely interested in learning about each other. I wouldn’t take this as an opportunity to pitch your work, but rather to interact with people you admire on a personal level.
6. Expect to make writer friends
And it’s these relationships you build that could end up being the most beneficial take-away from Big Sur. One of my critique groups really hit it off and we’ve stayed in touch since the workshop, continually reading each other’s work and cheerleading through every milestone. They are a fantastically talented group of women and connecting with them was worth the price tag alone. Socializing can be intimidating for some of us more introverted writers, but everyone at the workshop has at least one thing in common: a love for kid lit. Talk to your fellow attendees about their projects and you may end up finding critique partners who will help you for years to come.
7. Expect to fall in love with the place
The workshop takes place at Big Sur Lodge, which is located in the heart of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, surrounded by towering redwoods and right on the edge of spectacular cliffs that sweep into the Pacific. If you’re feeling stuck on your revisions, a walk through the forest in the crisp winter air should clear your head. If you get too cold, just head back to your cabin and light a fire in your personal fireplace. The location is incredibly conducive to writing and you’ll leave feeling rejuvenated and full of fresh ideas.
Before I signed up for the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop, I was a little intimidated by the idea of showing my work to such talented people, but I’m so glad I decided to take the plunge. The lessons I learned and people I met there will help me throughout my career and I can’t recommend the experience enough.
This December’s workshop is already sold out but keep an eye out for the one in March! If you have any questions, ask away in the comments. I’m always happy to talk about Big Sur.
We'd love to hear from you: Jump in the comments with questions for Sofia, or tell us about your writing workshop experience!