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IMG_5688You might recall an earlier post in which I interviewed Nancy Sondel, the Director of the Pacific Coast Children’s Writers Workshop. Her workshop is unlike many writing workshops in that you have an intimate exchange with an editor or agent on not just the first ten to twenty pages of your manuscript, but on your whole novel. It is also the only workshop that offers a teen component where teens have an opportunity to submit their own work and actively comment on your submission. What better opportunity could a writer get than a perspective from the targeted audience?

IMG_5729Last weekend about fifteen of us gathered at Pajaro Dunes located on the sandy white beaches of Santa Cruz county in Watsonville, California.

One-third of us were VCFA alums: Helen Pyne, Christine Dowd, me, Ann Jacobus, and Cathren Page Koehlert.IMG_5753 - Version 2

Another third of us were teens. While they participated in the master class workshops, VCFA alum, Helen Pyne delivered craft lectures and lively exercises aimed at helping them develop their own stories.

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And another third came from as far as Rhode Island and Connecticut and cool companies like Pixar!

The editor/agent team consisted of the dynamic duo:  Regina Griffin, Executive Editor at Egmont USA and Fiona Kenshole of Transatlantic Agency. IMG_5684They were fully engaged in writers’ manuscripts and offered positive constructive feedback to help writers strengthen their manuscripts. It was apparent they both love story and are dedicated to helping writers develop their craft. IMG_5683

Fiona even shared some outline notes on THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX that J.K. Rowling scribbled on a piece of paper, as well as a query letter that Stephen King typed up at the age of fourteen.

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In honor of the 2013 release of LARA’S GIFT where at 2009 PCCWW Erin Clarke, my editor at Knopf first read my manuscript, Nancy Sondel asked me to present, “Once You’re Published, Then What and How Best To Prepare: 11 Tips”.

IMG_5681 - Version 2As part of the faculty of the 11th PCCWW, I was particularly blown away by I WILL NOT WAVER written by teen writer, Maya Tantuwaya. For those of you who know how hard it is to complete a first draft, Maya started her novel when she was eleven and finished it a year later! This is a girl to watch. I have no doubt she will one day get published. She is already that good.

51HzNR6-jAL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Most of us were interested in hearing what the teens cited as their favorite books and why. They were each asked to pick one book they admired. Their selection included:

CHRONCILES OF CRESTOMANCI because of the characters and their world.

51KEr5saI2L._AA220_HOUSE ON MANGO STREET for the vignettes.

51Whg+NyL1L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_THE SHACK for the ideas it weaves into the story.

51u0BgWpLbL._SL220_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA220_IT”S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY because of its most beautifully imperfect character.

51Ar7a4NGmL._SL220_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA220_SHIVER for the characters.

51fF4Ti301L._SL160_SH30_OU01_SX135_THE TAPESTRY for its diverse characters.

418P9UJ6HWL._SL220_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA220_PAPER TOWNS for the characters.

Hmmm … as much as we all focus on plot, the majority of PCCWW teen readers were drawn to character!

IMG_5751And there was plenty of opportunity to walk on the beach, listen to the crash and roar of waves, and enjoy the simplicity of nature. We witnessed whales feeding close to shore and pelicans swooping into the water for breakfast each morning.

Nancy Sondel devotes a good ten months and many sleepless nights to organize this workshop with the help of writers, Carol Foote and Kat Dougherty. No detail is spared! Nancy is also the brain child behind the teen role at PCCWW, a feature that appealed to many of the writers present this year, as well as past years.

IMG_5741If you have a story you’re ready to share, I encourage you to check PCCWW out. You will not be disappointed by the level of feedback you get from your peers, the teens, and the editor/agent team. Some of the writers even earned enthusiastic requests from the editor and/or agent!. It could be YOU next!

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