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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Is It Time to Invest in a Workshop?

Retreats or Conferences
 Just How do You Want to Spend Your Money?
by Kitty Griffin

One of my writing buddies, Dave, is getting ready to head to New Jersey for the NJ SCBWI June conference. He's excited because he's got a good manuscript and he's been paired with someone he wanted to meet.

The NJ conference lets you pick who you get to send your manuscript pages to. That's pretty special. I've been to other SCBWI conferences where you don't know who you have until you get there. 

Knowing in advance gives Dave the chance to do a little research on the person so he can go in prepared. That's terrific for both sides. 

So, as we roll into summer, there are lots of workshops and conferences available to children's book writers. How do you chose? Most of us don't have a gazillion dollars to spend, so it's important to find out what is going to help you get the most bang for your buck. 

For writers, I think it's very important to find a conference that leaves you so fired-up you're anxious to get to your story. Not only that, you've got some fresh ideas on what your story needs.

Beginning writers can't go wrong with SCBWI conferences. It's a great place to find out what's expected of you. For those writers just starting out, trust me, a day-long conference can be exhausting. If you've never read your work out in front of strangers, it can also be intimidating. But SCBWI has been helping beginners for a long time. They know what they're doing.

Those of us a bit further along need to find conferences like the New Jersey conference where there is a dedicated track for nearly published and published writers. (I must confess here, I've been on faculty for the NJ conference). 

I really love week-long conferences. I love being among all types of writers and immersing myself in words and characters. 

One of my absolute favorites is the Appalachian Writer's Workshop held at the Hindman Settlement School which is located at the Forks of Troublesome Creek.
I mean, just the name, Troublesome Creek, if that doesn't lure you in I don't know what would. 
(Again, this is a conference where I've been on faculty).

When I first went to Hindman I remember feeling accepted as a writer, and what joy that was. There was no separation of published and not yet published. We were all writers. George Ella Lyon taught the Children's Writing class and every day was an experience where we laughed, and yes, sometimes cried.

The Bridge Crossing Troublesome Creek 

I also took classes in poetry and non-fiction, screenwriting and grown-up fiction. It gave me a chance to try on different types of writing.

The Cabin at the Settlement School
This summer, the featured speaker is Barbara Kingsolver. Oh, how I wish I were going!

Music is important all week long

It's a long, busy week, but you'll come away refreshed and renewed. I have to caution though, the living style is not the Ritz. It's more like comfortable Girl Scout Camp. But you do have the option to stay at the Quiltmaker Inn for a bit more money.

For more information go to 
and follow the link to the Writers' Workshop. 

Another weeklong program I've been to is one held at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. This is another program that offers a variety of workshops including writing for children and young adults. You stay in the dorms. I chose this program because I paid the extra money and got credit towards my MFA. It was well worth it.

Whether you go for a day or a week, invest your money carefully. Some workshops, like the ones at the Highlights Foundation, are quite expensive, but if you come away with what you need to sell your book, isn't it worth it? 

If you aren't willing to invest in yourself as a writer, well, why should an editor invest in your book?

Does anyone else have a conference recommendation?


  1. I am very much looking forward to attending the New Jersey conference, and I'll report some of my experiences when I return.
    Another favorite conference of mine is the weekend writing retreat hosted by WPA SCBWI in Bethany, West Virginia.
    Perhaps sometime soon I'll have to check out the other conferences you mentioned.

  2. I was blessed to get a scholarship to a Highlights Foundation workshop that I will be going to in June. I am very excited about the "possibilities" waiting there for me!

  3. That's great, Audrey.

    What class will you be taking? Be sure to let us know how it goes.

  4. I'm taking the Writing for the Educational Market. I retired after 27 years in Early Childhood Education, and I'd like to find a way to link this background/expertise with my writing. I'll let you know how it goes.