Once again, the marvelously beautiful acreage of the Alton Jones campus welcomed us to the Whispering Pines Writer’s Retreat! It is always such a treat to head into the woods and live amongst authors, illustrators, and book lovers of all kinds for a few days.
We were swept into the experience right away with good food, drinks, and a First Pages panel. Folks had anonymously submitted first pages of their works in progress and were able to get first impressions from the panel.
This was one of the BEST First Pages panel discussions I’ve ever heard. It was just a good mix of whip-smart personalities and good submissions that made it truly interesting. Everyone took a lot of notes!
The next morning was glorious, literally. One of the first truly nice weekends in a long time here in New England.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt, organizer extraordinaire, started the day with the conferring of a few gifts.
Connie Hsu, Assistant Editor at Little, Brown, was the first to speak.
She had a lot of good information on the ingredients present in a good book; about setting boundaries and creating rules for your characters that make their world ring true. Look- there’s Grace’s book used as an example!
Author Cynthia Lord was the next speaker. I had heard her speak at the NESCBWI conference before, and remember being blown away by her talk. This time around, she gave a more directed talk about plotting that was, once again, spot on and very inspiring. She’s got a real gift, not only for writing, but for being able to share what she knows. Which is plenty.
Between sessions, Marlo Garnsworthy showed us her newly released book series!
Associate Editor Alexandra Penfold made it clear that manuscripts need to be in the best shape as possible before coming across an editor’s desk. A book needs to connect quickly if an editor is going to go ahead and champion it through the publishing process.
Here’s Jan and Paula in the Great Outdoors:
It wouldn’t be Whispering Pines without a few dozen baskets full of books and goodies to raffle off!
Betty Brown won Marlo’s Ginny Giles basket, and Cheryl Kirk Knoll got the coveted Nerd lunchbox. She ended up giving it to me, because she’s supremely nice!
While I brought a few baskets to be raffled, I also won one! It’s the delightfully named “Unthemed Basket” made by Mary Pierce! I love it… it has a plush Tony the Providence Dancing Cop doll, and a squeaking duck that have nothing to do with the books inside. Perfect!
Cocktails and chat before dinner…
Another session of First Pages that was just as good as the previous night’s version.
Here’s the “Official” mentor line-up:
And before bed, everyone should read a favorite children’s book, and possibly have a pink beverage.
Children’s Lit Jeopardy was next on the docket! Lynda was the Mistress of Ceremonies (or Alex Trebek, as the case might be). We were divided into 6 random groups and got to choose from categories like “Award Winners” and “First Lines”. I helped the incredible Team #4 sail all the way to Third Place!
A last lunch. Oh, it’s so easy to get used to being served great meals and NOT having to clean up!
Me, Jan, and Barb. Wake up, Jan!
We were so lucky to have my friend Carlyn Beccia as the Illustrator Mentor this year! She gave a fabulous talk about how she researches her books and how she works, complete with a digital demo. Her enthusiasm for all things historic is positively infectious!
The time always ends up flying by so quickly, alas.
And the time comes to go home. It’s always a bit of a melancholy feeling.
BUT, inspiration is always the by-product of a Whispering Pines retreat, and this year was no exception. Besides, I have Tony the Dancing Cop and the Random Squeaky Duck on my desk to remind me of the good times! And when I got home, there was a book contract in my mailbox the next day. It’s all good!
Many thanks to Lynda for her amazing ability to pull this wonderful weekend together, and to everyone else for making it a blast! Hope to see you next year.
Previous years at Whispering Pines: