Where I’ll be at AWP

Fellow writers! By any chance will you be at the AWP conference in Seattle later this week? If so, here is where you can find me (if, in fact, you’d like to find me):

I fly in to Seattle Wednesday night and will likely be starving after the long flight, hoping against hope that I make it to the hotel before the lobby restaurant and room service closes for the night, but that’s not your problem.

My panel is the first day, Thursday morning, and if you’re interested writing YA or children’s books, I hope you’ll join us:

Thursday, Feb. 27: 10:30 am to 11:45 am

Room 618/619/620, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6 R151. Commercial Literary Fiction (Not an Oxymoron): The Place of Craft in Writing and Teaching Children’s and Young Adult Literature. (Micol Ostow,  Stephanie Kuehnert,  Laurel Snyder,  Sara Zarr,  Nova Ren Suma) Young Adult and Children’s literature are exciting, increasingly popular markets that many writers want to break into. How do you make your manuscript—or help make your students’ manuscripts—stand out… and sell? How does being commercial mean respecting the reader, not something crass? Five published YA and Children’s authors will present exercises they employ in their own writing, and in workshops they teach, to develop authentic voice, characters, and story worlds that editors will snap up.

If you can’t make that, I have a whole list of panels I’m trying to hit during the conference, most of which I’ll keep to myself, but here are a few panels I am trying not to miss. If you happen to be there, and see me, say hi! I can be shy in crowds.

Thursday, Feb. 27: 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Room 604, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6 R263. How to Write About a Murderer. (Madge McKeithen,  Jessica Handler,  Arlene Kim,  Kate Sweeney,  Nick Twemlow) Can a writer adopt an alternate persona or innovative style to explore disturbing subjects? How does altered identity or medium affect a writer’s process and a reader’s experience? Five writers who work in prose, poetry, film, audio, and visual art discuss examples of their adopted personae and structural choices and give examples of ways these applications break boundaries and add perspective in articulating story. Participants discuss one another’s work and choices that have inspired theirs.

Friday, Feb. 28: 10:30 am to 11:45 am

Room 3B, Washington State Convention Center, Level 3 F140. Magic and the Intellect(Lucy Corin,  Rikki Ducornet,  Kate Bernheimer,  Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum,  Anna Joy Springer) In her essay “The Deep Zoo” Rikki Ducornet writes: “the work of the writer is to move beyond the simple definitions or descriptions of things… and to bring a dream to life through the alchemy of language; to move from the street—the place of received ideas—into the forest—the place of the unknown.” On this panel five fiction writers intend to describe, depict, illustrate, and otherwise expose this movement from known to unknown in order to ask: what do we mean when we say “magic”?

Friday, Feb. 28: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Room 101, Western New England MFA Annex, Level 1 F261. The (She) Devil Inside: Unlikable Women in Fiction. (Rebecca Johns,  Julia Fierro,  Samantha Chang,  Marie Myung-ok Lee) “Bad men get to be king. Bad women get to swallow poison and die,” wrote Lisa Santoro in the Huffington Post. But why should we settle for such a fate for our female characters, as readers and especially as writers? Do fictional women always have to be sympathetic to be worth reading? Using examples from multiple genres, this panel will examine how bad women can make for good storytelling.

Saturday, March 1: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Room 612, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6 S245. Small Town Girls. (Caroline Patterson,  Leslee Becker,  Beverly Lowry,  Tami Haaland) Small towns are places where life is lived up close. Four writers of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction from across the United States will explore their lives as girls in small towns—the restrictiveness versus the freedom, censure versus the subterrannean social life, and the freedom of the natural world versus the restrictiveness of the social world.

Saturday, March 1: 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Aspen Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor S257. How Far Do You Go: Sex in YA Fiction. (Sarah Mlynowski,  Robin Wasserman,  Adele Griffin,  E. Lockhart) The only thing more awkward than adolescent sex is writing about it. These writers have published an extensive, wide-ranging variety of books for teenagers that touch on themes of early sexual experience and all its attendant issues. From the question of age-appropriate content to technical points of writing a thrilling kiss to the challenges of exploring the implications of a sexual awakening, the panel is sure to engender lively, candid conversation.

And on Friday night, I very well may be stopping through here to meet up with my fellow YA people in town for the conference:

AWP with a dash of YA
Friday, February 28 at 6:30 pm
POLAR BAR  (it’s in the Arctic Club, Seattle)
700 3rd Avenue
*This YA drinks night isn’t an AWP event—and is open to the public!

Otherwise, I’ll be around—hope to see some friendly faces!

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The Very First Djerassi YA Novel Workshop and Retreat

Earlier this month, you could find me high up in the Santa Cruz mountains of Northern California, not so far from San Francisco, at a beautiful artists’ sanctuary called the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. I was gifted a writing residency there once before, in 2012, but my visit this month was to share my love of the place—and its inspiration, its magic—with my fellow YA and middle-grade writers. The very first Djerassi YA Novel Workshop & Retreat was February 9–14, and it went better than I could have even hoped.

Eleven writers were selected from a group of competitive applications to join me at Djerassi for a week of workshopping, retreating, and exploring the beautiful grounds on the mountain. We discussed novels-in-progress in group critiques in the morning workshops, wrote in the afternoons, met for private conferences with me to discuss even more novel pages, devoured Chef Dan’s delicious dinners, explored the grounds and the sculptures left behind by artists in the woods, and shared more writing in evening readings.

I was struck by the talent of each one of the writers—and also by how giving and committed they were to supporting each other and critiquing their fellow writers’ work. It was a joy to teach this workshop and have the chance to read pages from these novels. I came away having learned so much myself, and itching to write… which is the best gift, in all ways.

My thanks go to the writers—the very first participants not just of this YA workshop series with me, but of a new alumni-led workshop program at Djerassi (the Djerassi Resident Artists Program will be announcing more info on this soon, so stay tuned). This international group of dedicated writers was the very first workshop on the Djerassi grounds!

My next YA Novel Workshop & Retreat at Djerassi is this coming June, and if it’s possible I am now even more excited to share this experience with a new talented group of YA and middle-grade writers. If you’re signed up for June, I hope this post gets you all the more excited about what’s to come. I’ll be emailing soon with more details on what to expect. I can’t wait to meet all of you.

Spaces are full for the next session this June, but guess what?

The first workshop week was so rewarding for me that I jumped at the chance to hold one more YA Novel Workshop & Retreat at Djerassi next year, in June 2015. Applications for the June 2015 workshop will open this spring. Watch this space for an announcement of when applications become available. If you’d like to be on my mailing list to be notified by email when the 2015 workshop applications open, leave a comment on this post or email me directly!

Below are some photos from our glorious week:

The Artists' Barn the night before all the writers arrived...
View inside the Artists’ Barn the night before all the writers arrived…
02 djerassi fog first morning
The magical mist shrouded the mountain the morning the writers arrived, but it would clear…
03 djerassi the fog clears
When the fog and mist cleared, a view of the Artists’ Barn, where we held morning workshops, and a peek of the Middlebrook Studios to the left, where some of the writers stayed…
04 djerassi galoshes
The writers came prepared for mud with multicolored galoshes…
05 djerassi sunset
There is nothing like a Djerassi sunset…
06 djerassi morning visitors
Our morning visitors, who would linger and peek in during our workshops…
07 djerassi workshop
Gathering for workshop one morning…
08 djerassi hike
Out hiking the sculpture trails, led by the Djerassi executive director, Margot…
09 djerassi sculpture climb
A daring climb to meet a sculpture…
10 djerassi old barn
The old barn, where I heard a couple creepy scenes were later written by some of our writers…
11 djerassi listening chair
Me, sitting on the listening bench, taking a moment to relax…
12 djerassi ocean view
The view of the Pacific Ocean. I swear that’s it, beyond the horizon…
13 djerassi valentines
We were surprised and delighted at our last dinner, on Valentine’s Day, by quotes about love (thank you, Celia!). This one was my favorite…
14 djerassi group photo
Me, in the center, with all the wonderful writers! You will be reading all of their published novels one day! (Photo courtesy of Elle LaMarca.)

Thank you to the awesome writers who took part in this workshop: Alisia, Asale, Edith, Elle, Jennifer, Jess, Kim, Marie, Rebekah, Susan, and Zoë! Special thanks to Margot (and Nick!) for offering me the chance to teach this workshop (and for the wonderful sculpture tour!), to Laura and Celia and Tom (and the best dog, Hank!) for making sure everything ran so smoothly even during the chaos of stormy airport pickups, to  Dan for our truly delectable meals, to Judy for facilitating the applications, to E for help behind the scenes, and to everyone else involved in making this week such a success.

Applications for June 2015 will open this spring! Contact me to be added to my mailing list for the announcement. I can’t wait to do this again… two more times!