I just got back from the SCBWI-LA (Society of Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators - Los Angeles Region) retreat and thought you all might like a brief review.
I was never one for retreats, but I have to say, I had a ton of fun. I met some people to form a local crit group, which I badly need. And I sang Kareoke with editors from Scholastic and Harper Collins.
This particular retreat has been around for a few decades, so they have their act together. Full disclosure, I'm on the board of the SCBWI-LA region, so I've worked with all of the people who put on the event. They work hard for no pay and are awesome.
I'm sure every retreat has it's own format, but this is how they did it:
Friday - check in at noon. One o'clock, do a practice read of the first page of your work. Each author (there were about 48 of us), had 3-minutes to read and get notes from a panel of 3 other writers. This was a chance to break the ice and get rid of any jitters. Seeing as how I love to be in front of an audience, I just liked the opportunity to perform my own work.
Later that evening, we met in groups of 4-5 writers with each of the "faculty" (2 agents and 2 editors) for 12 minutes of reading and getting notes from the group and faculty member.
That night was a wine and cheese get together.
Saturday: 3 more rounds of critic sessions, with plenty of time between for writing or relaxing. During the down time I stumbled on some people doing an impromptu crit session and joined in. They will be the basis of an on-going crit group moving forward.
That night, Kareoke. Turns out, one of the editors from Scholastic used to be on a competative Kareoke team. She was awesome! We all had too much fun.
Sunday morning - another agent joined the faculty and we all had 3 minutes to read and get notes on our first pages. I have no idea how they were able to give such specific notes for every single one of us. Most of the time, the reader's words just bounced off my skull.
Each of the 3 agents and 2 editors gave us their submission guidelines, so anyone who was at this retreat has a free pass to submit to them.
Going into this, I wasn't sure what to expect. I have an agent, so I don't need those contacts - though, we've split up and come back together before, so you never know in this business. The editors aren't in my genre/age range - but they could move around.
I decided going in that if I came away with some new critic partners, then that would be a win for me. I did, so I'm happy. I also made some new friends, and that's always a good thing.
I hope this summary helps someone here.