I'm feeling pretty positive about this new year. Good things are afoot, starting this weekend with my second Writer's in Paradise conference at Eckerd College. The campus is nestled at the southern tip of Pinellas County, surrounded by beautiful, gulf waters. My best friend from high school is attending from New Mexico and we hope to channel some energy from our past. Novelist, David Yoo is leading the young adult workshops which will take up my mornings for the next eight days. During lunch breaks, my friend (who is doing the nonfiction track) and I plan to find a sunny spot near the water, picnic and compare notes. In the afternoons, we'll attend presentations by the illustrious: Dennis Lehanne, Ann Patchett, Andre Dubus and more. I can't wait!
In the fall, I was thrilled to be accepted into a fantatsic, critique group of middle grade and young adult novelists. At first, I fretted over the drive and time commitment. The group is based in the county south of mine with two members living in the county south of that. They alternate meetings between the two counties, one every other week. Critique days, I'm on the road for almost three hours. Add that to four hours of critique and the day is almost gone. But after two meetings, I knew the time and drive were justified by the rewards. These talented authors have encouraged my efforts and offered superior, critical feedback. On top of that, I get to read and learn from their stellar chapters! I'm still pinching myself. For the last three years, I've hoped to find a group of this caliber and had almost given up. When I did find it, I worried about fitting in. I'm the least experienced writer by far. They not only make me feel welcome but have graciously shown respect for my feedback and work.
Three of my new critique partners are attending the SCBWI conference in Miami this weekend. I'm looking forward to hearing about their experience and sharing my notes from Eckerd at our next meeting. If you aren't a member of a critique group, the new year is a good time to look for one. Writers need support and agents and editors will thank you for work screened by your peers. If you've been searching for a group and haven't found the right fit, don't give up! Keep perfecting your craft and gather where other writers gather. Speaking of gathering, January is a good time to check out the year's writers' conferences and workshops. Our skills are never too sharp and they're great places to network. Many critique groups started from conference friendships.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. And creatures, always creatures. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
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