I spent last weekend at a revision retreat sponsored by the Missouri SCBWI (Society of Book Writers and Illustrators) at the YMCA’s Trout Lodge. Randi Rivers of Charlesbridge was the guest editor. An incredibly nice aspect of this retreat was that she met with each participant twice. Writers sent in a manuscript back in February. Randi marked up the manuscripts and wrote a revision letter. Plenty of writing time was built into the weekend so that writers could bring back a section to get some feedback on their changes.
In order to make this work, the organizers knew that they couldn’t have Randi give the normal number of presentations that guest editors have in the past at this event. I’ve been attending these retreats since 2003. In fact, I set up the first one. So when the Missouri Assistant Regional Adviser asked me to consider being on the faculty, I had to say yes.
I gave two talks: The Art of the Query Letter and Here’s the Pitch. The first shared my biased view of what a query letter should be based on presentations by National Book Award Finalist Kathleen Duey and Philomel’s editorial director Michael Green not to mention reading various blogs and websites. (Randi sat in. She confirmed my theories and answered questions. Nice!) I also collected a bunch of queries and cover letters that helped writers either sell projects or receive offers of representation from agents to use as examples.
The second session on pitching projects was more of a workshop. Each writer prepared a one-sentence pitch and a three-sentence pitch as the building blocks for a successful query letter. And since this was a small group of talented wordsmiths, everyone had the opportunity and the willingness to read their pitches out loud. Working together, we all helped sharpen each other’s pitches to capture the essence of the works in progress.
I really feel like everyone emerged from the retreat with an improved project and the means to market it effectively.