SCBWI Missouri Advanced Writer Retreat with Mary Kate Castellani

This was the second year I’ve been in charge of the SCBWI AWR. After I picked Mary Kate up at the airport, we jetted off to chow down on some fabulous Mexican food at Catino Laredo- they have guacamole to die for. Were we too full for dessert? Heck no! I took her to Andy’s Frozen Custard.

Then we headed to Elfindale Mansion. Attendees began arriving around 1:00PM and Mary Kate began one-on-one critiques shortly afterwards. I sat around greeting old friends and meeting new ones until dinner at 5:00 PM. Afterwards we broke up into critique groups-which are always one of my favorite parts of the retreat.

Mary Kate gave two presentations, the first was “The Wide (and Competitive) World of Picture Books: Making your Story Essential. We broke into groups and examined several picture books. We discussed common concepts, the top 3 reasons why PB manuscripts are declined, & asked ourselves some hard questions about the marketability and craft of the stories we are working on.

Mary Kate’s second presentation, “Honing your Hook: Using a Title Information Page to Find Your Elevator Pitch” was also extremely useful. During the workshop time, we attempted to create a handle, identify competitive/comparison texts, write a short descriptive paragraph and list 5 selling points for our novel.

She also spent almost an hour answering questions about the industry.

In the morning, those that weren’t rushing off to beat the storms shared their first pages and received feedback.

It was a wonderful, productive weekend and thankfully, everyone made it home before the storms hit. I’m already looking forward to the next one in 2015.

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