July 17, 2013

Squaw Valley Highlights

I'm back from the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, and wow, is my brain full. I had an amazing time, and I learned so much.

Before I start reporting on my week, though, I have to mention something even more exciting. Yesterday, my new nephew made his way into the world. It was very thoughtful of him to wait until I was home and had the day free to do nothing but wait eagerly for news of his arrival. I'm looking forward to going back east to meet him -- and play with his big brother again -- later this summer.

I have so many things to say about Squaw Valley that I plan to do a series of posts over the next few days. I thought I'd start off with a list of high points, and later I'll go into more detail about various aspects of the conference.

In no particular order, the highlights:

→ I spent three hours every morning with a dozen people tasked with pointing out faults, and it was wonderful. I really lucked out in having such a smart, insightful workshop group that got along well.

→ I got to speak casually with several authors I already admired and some others I didn't yet know I was in awe of.

→ A successful novelist read the first chapter of my novel, praised it repeatedly, and then told me why it's not the right place for the book to start. She blew my mind with her brilliant idea for a better opening, and now I can't wait to get back to work. The best news? It doesn't involve changing everything!

→ For eight days, pretty much every conversation I had was about writing and books. It was heaven.

→ The writers, editors, and agents who make up the staff shared their wisdom and talent in panels and readings so compelling that I attended almost every one, despite the warning that it wasn't possible to do everything.

→ I witnessed Amy Tan playing the ukelele and chatted with her about The Rock Bottom Remainders. (She also gave a couple of inspiring talks.)

→ Whenever I went outside, I got to gaze at gorgeous mountain scenery, and during our afternoon off, I had time to both visit one of the peaks and get down to the Lake Tahoe shoreline. Photo album here.

More to come about the format of the conference, the process of receiving feedback, and the knowledge I gained.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ At Beyond The Margins, Kim Triedman offers advice on how to prepare your loved ones for your book release: "People will take umbrage at things you never even imagined could be offensive. Your agent will quietly bristle at the way you describe the inner workings of the publishing world. Your neighbor will take offense at the ugly living room furniture you describe, recognizing it -- correctly or incorrectly -- as her own. Your sister will assume that all the emotional dysfunction you've heaped on the fictional sister in your book is your way of getting back at her for being the free-loader in the family."


Christopher Gronlund said...

I'm so glad you got to have this experience. I know how hard you've worked on this book, and it's great that it offered such a great opportunity! I hope great things continue to roll on with the story; I look forward to more entries about the workshop! :)

Kathryn said...

Wow, sounds like a great experience! It's wonderful to hear about all the things in your life, and they couldn't happen to a better writer - I can't wait to read the outcome!

Henri Picciotto said...

Amazing that this woman could suggest a different opening after only reading one chapter!

Lisa Eckstein said...

Thanks, everyone!

Henri, I guess that does sound pretty astounding. She'd also read the synopsis, and we discussed the plot and focus of the book, so she did have some additional information. What she pointed out was that my first chapter was an interesting opening that didn't do a good job of conveying what the rest of the story would be about. I'll discuss this in a bit more detail in an upcoming entry.

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