Yesterday's retreat at Whispering Pines was not as retreaty as the one I do each January. There was no snowshoeing, yoga, or reading in front of a window while night falls over a mountain meadow. But I did get lunch and a thirty-minute walk, so I can't complain.
Cynthia Lord was the author/mentor and the reason I went because she was giving a talk on plotting, which is hell on earth for many writers, myself included. Now, Cynthia Lord has only written three books, and two of them are just coming out this year. Yet she's a very popular speaker at both schools and literary events. Some jaded types might say that happens when your one novel is a Newbery Honor book. I think it's more likely due to the fact that she is a very fine speaker. She was remarkable with both content and presentation. She also made the best use of PowerPoint of anyone I've ever seen. I'm talking both in terms of slides supporting content and ability to use the program.
Now the group critique I took part in during the afternoon was very interesting for a couple of reasons. First, I have to say that the material I heard yesterday was much better than I expected. I was a member of a writers' group for a few years earlier in this decade. That group was made up primarily of unpublished writers, which I suspect was the case yesterday, too. The quality of what I was hearing yesterday was better than what I often heard in my old group. I don't know if this was because there are many more options for beginning writers to learn craft now and I'd see that in any group critique situation or if these were all SCBWI members and, as such, were more likely to avail themselves of such opportunities. Second, these people were also very sophisticated readers and could express themselves confidently. (Probably more so than I did.) I know that at least three of the people there were members of writers' groups and were experienced at giving feedback.
As a result of the discussion of my offering--a few pages from the 365 Story Project--I am going to make some significant changes on Day One, which shouldn't be too difficult to do. I'm also going to change the name from Middle Ridge Road to A Year on Middle Ridge Road. So it was a productive day for me.