Thursday, January 28, 2016

From Beth Revis: Awesome Writing Workshop Retreat

Dear ones!  This is a fabulous opportunity (and I adore Beth Revis).  I can tell you from personal experience that Beth is FABULOUS and really knows her stuff.  Read on!  Read on!


Hi guys! Beth Revis here. I'm a long time MSFV reader--in fact, I was a reader far before I was published, and entering one of the critique contests here helped me to revise the book that became Across the Universe, my debut novel and the story that changed everything. I'm now the author of five published novels and three nonfiction books on writing, publishing, and marketing. Today, I'm talking with Cristin Terrill, author of All Our Yesterdays and the founder of the Wordsmith Writers Workshops, to tell you about the program. Make sure you read all the way to the bottom, because we have a special discount code just for MSFV readers!


BETH: Before I was published, I attended every workshop, conference, and critique session I could. I tackled them with the same rigor as an MFA student, filling up notebooks with scribbles, digesting every critique with cold analysis, studying pamphlets and books with much more dedication than I did with textbooks when I got my degree. About a week or so after my first book was published, I attended a writer's retreat. Initially I was shaking. I was such a newbie, and the ladies on the retreat all seemed to be more knowledgable, more experienced, more everything. Despite my intimidation, what I found was that the writing community is a close-knit group that cares about each other's success. There was solid writing time, but what was even more important was the discussion. I remember, very distinctly, wishing that I had had something like this before I was published--a writing retreat with people who'd been there and done it before--along with all those conferences and workshops I'd done.

CRISTIN: Luckily, that’s exactly what I had. About four months before I got my agent, I attended a workshop/retreat for aspiring young adult authors in Yorkshire, and it was a major turning point for me. Along with twelve other writers who I grew immensely close with over the course of the week, I got to spend time learning from famed historical YA author Celia Rees and one of my personal favorites Patrick Ness (who has continued to be supportive of me and my career to this day despite how I accidentally stalked him on that train that one time). Giving myself that time to focus on my writing and to surround myself with other people who had the same aspirations and struggles I did was one of the best things I ever did for myself or for my career. With Wordsmith I wanted to recreate the best aspects of that experience by mixing the social and productive benefits of a retreat with the learning, networking, and critique you get from a conference or workshop. Beth was an ideal partner, because she’s extraordinarily savvy about storytelling and the industry and can diagnose the problem hanging up a manuscript almost instantly AND she’s a ton of fun to hang out with and makes everyone around her feel at ease. Together I think we’ve created a long weekend that’s a finely-calibrated mixture of critique time with published authors and each other, lessons and insider secrets from authors and agents, and plenty of quiet time for writing, brainstorming, talking through a problem, or just blowing off some steam. With killer comfort food served all day!

Read more about the workshop program here

BETH: OH MY GOSH THE FOOD. That was such a huge thing for me. I've been on retreats where the attendees take different chores and do the cooking, cleaning, etc. And that can be fun, but it also takes away from the focus. I find myself this way at home...four o'clock rolls around and I start thinking, "What's for dinner? Do I have all the ingredients? When should I put the dinosaur chicken nuggets in the oven to time them perfectly with the tater tots?" But with the Wordsmith retreats, that's just not a concern. Four o'clock rolls around and I start smelling delicious things, but I keep working and then when I'm done, there's delicious food put in front of me. WIN WIN WIN.

See a sample menu here 

But aside from the food, haha, I think my favorite part of the Wordsmith Workshops is the critique sessions. I've done paid critiques before, usually at conferences. And they're helpful, but they're also short. Typically, paid critique sessions at conventions are for 5-10 pages of a manuscript, which is obviously a small amount. And the ones you pay for online tend to be longer--but lack the in-person back and forth. Our critiques are a longer sample; we really get an idea of what the book actually is and can be. We read prior to the workshop, and then make notes for the attendees to take home. But the really great part is the private sessions where we individually discuss the work with the author. That back-and-forth discussion was invaluable. In some cases, we replotted the whole novel, right there at the table. In others, we helped refine the rough edges and got it query-ready. I'm just so inspired by how those sessions went!

CRISTIN: I loved the critique sessions, too, and the fact that we were all together for five days meant that we had the chance to follow up on the critiques and keep working with writers on the issues we’d identified. A couple of writers made major changes to their books after their critiques and we were able to work with them throughout the long weekend coming up with and refining new ideas so that they left with a solid plan for how to rewrite. It was so much more satisfying and useful to the writers than the usual kind of professional critique, which is basically a hit-and-run where they tell you what’s wrong and then leave you to figure out how to fix it on your own. Likewise, we dedicated the teaching portion of one of our days to writing and workshopping queries, which is a skill that pays endless dividends when you master it, even after you have an agent. I love knowing that when writers leave us, they each take with them a killer query letter that will catch agents’ eyes in addition to the more intangible rewards of the retreat. At our spring retreat, we’re making a new addition to our offerings that I’m really excited about, which is a visit by NYT-bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout. She’s going to come hang out and write with us one day, which will give all of us (Beth and myself included!) the chance to pick her brain about how she manages to write so many books and what she’s learned from being a successful hybrid author. In addition to being incredibly knowledgable, Jennifer is also one of the friendliest, most generous, and fun authors I know, and I'm looking forward to kicking her ass at ping-pong!

Read more about the authors here

BETH: Hah! While you're ping-pong-ing (best word ever), I'll be in the corner, working on my new manuscript. Because while we have such a packed program--critique sessions, one-on-ones, workshops, tasty meals--we also built in plenty of time to just quietly write (or sneak off for games)...which is good for me, because it looks like I'll be facing another deadline there! I hope I channel some of our past participants, who got 5k words in a single day! Talking about the Wordsmith Workshop Retreats really fills me with such eagerness--I can't wait for spring to get here! Writing can be such a solitary endeavor, but it's programs like this that remind me how great the writing community can be.

Sign up for this spring's workshop retreat here  

We'd both like to thank MSFV for hosting us today, and we hope to see some of you at a Wordsmith Workshop Writing Retreat!  The next program is March 30 - April 3, and will be located in Warrenton, VA. Fees are all inclusive--one programming fee covers all food and lodging, all workshops, and two critique sessions by both Cristin and Beth, as well as some extra goodies that we have planned just for you guys. To thank MSFV for hosting us, we have two discount codes to offer to you, her readers! You can choose between using code snowday to get a 20% off discount on a double room, or you can use code msfv-rocks! to get a 10% off discount on a bunk room. Both codes are valid while supplies last. Space is very limited, so sign up today!

1 comment:

  1. What an exciting opportunity and generous offer. THANK YOU, Beth! I'm a west-coaster, or I'd sign up today. Even so, I'm looking into the cost of travel, because this is clearly an amazing chance for writers to grow in their craft. I poked around on the website but didn't stumble across the number of attendees. From the picture, I'm guessing about a dozen? That would be great to know. Also, any plans to come west? Thanks again for the offer to the MSFV community!