2013 – The First Better Books Workshop
September 26 to 29, 2013
The first Better Books Workshop was held at the Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, California. Twenty-one writers gathered to go deep into craft. Beginning Thursday morning, the three and a half days were filled with inspiring conversation and insights. Having the schedule start with small critique sessions allowed us all to settle deep into our own work and get to know our fellow writers and their stories. We ended the weekend with a second check-in with our small groups to share what we’d all learned and talk about next steps.
Our critique group had dreamed about the benefits of a small group workshop spanning several days, taught by excellent faculty. The results were everything we’d hoped for and more. The faculty for this first workshop could not have been better. The group of writers were amazingly talented, friendly, and excited about honing our craft. Better books were indeed made along with fast friends.
October 23 to 26, 2014
Our second workshop had a fantastic, fabulous faculty and a perfect setting to focus intensively in a small, interactive workshop. Our group was approximately half published, half pre-published and all committed to improving our craft. Learning from our first workshop, we followed up on the 25-page critique sessions (held the first day) on Sunday to discuss take away highlights and next steps. All our faculty were helpful and supportive. Ammi-Joan Paquette gave an informative session about the appeal and pitfalls of atypical story structures. Tamra Tuller talked about focusing on dialogue, with a number of examples from some of her favorite authors. Cheryl Klein discussed pacing, including several useful exercises we put to use. Andrew Harrell delved into character with innovative approaches to defining who your characters want to be.
During what became a Better Books Workshop signature session, faculty shared favorite scenes, reading from I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson, JUPITER PIRATES – CURSE OF THE IRIS by JasonFry, and Francisco Stork’s THE LAST SUMMER OF THE DEATH WARRIORS. It was interesting to apply what we’d been talking about in sessions on dialogue and character to powerful, but very different scenes. For our “Night at the Movies,” we watched Perks of Being a Wallflower, which many hadn’t seen – we all came away with high recommendations.