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Amazing, amazing Wisconsin retreat

This weekend was SCBWI-Wisconsin's nineteen annual retreat, and it was amazing.
I arrived early, as I do the first session on Friday afternoon, called, "From Beginner to Pro: What you need to know." I was expecting 12-13 people, who were all attending their first retreat. Imagine my surprise when 18 people showed up! Some of them had been to many retreats, but said they always learned something new from my session.
(BLUSH.)
That evening, Bruce Hale (author of the Chet Gecko Mysteries) gave a lively, entertaining and information packed talk about creating suspense. He read examples from published books, doing all the different voices with great enthusiasm!

Lisa Yoskowitz, Dutton Editor, told us the secrets of how to write a killer query letter.
Friday night social time (food, wine, lively conversation) ended when the last diehards, like me, toddled off to bed at one in the morning.
As my room was right across from the communal showers, I was awakened at 5:30 a.m. by an early riser, and early shower-er. Seriously people....
The morning was packed. Greg Ferguson, Egmont editor, spoke about what happens after your book is acquired. We saw revision letters, marked up manuscripts and more. Loraine Joyner, Peachtree art director, showed us a picture book from beginning manuscript to finished book. It was magical to see rough sketches transform into brilliant colorful pages.
Mary Kole, agent at Andrea Brown (blogs at http://kidlit.com/), covered the process of finding an agent, in a lively and information packed talk.
Then, lunch. Let's just say the meals aren't the highlight of a conference at the Siena Center in Racine. Neither are the rooms or communal bathrooms. But where else do retired nuns welcome you so warmly and offer up their prayers for you? And where else can we bring tons of snacks, and chocolate, and beer and wine and talk into the wee hours of the night without disturbing anyone?
Sat. afternoon was taken up by breakout session, peer critiques and critiques by the editors, agent and authors. After dinner, author Deborah Wiles gave an inspirational speech that had us laughing, crying and gasping in shock. What an amazing woman! See her here, on YouTube, http://tinyurl.com/27d3ksg.
We relaxed after with a wine and chocolate event, where we oggled the work of our chapter's amazing illustrators, and learned the winner of our illustration contest. Three winners, that is, since art director Loraine Joyner couldn't choose just one!
On Sunday morning, Pat Schmatz, author of Mousetraps (http://patschmatz.livejournal.com/) gave an inspirational speech about connecting with your characters and telling their stories. It was an eye opener for many, including me. We left feeling energized and ready to dig back into our writing project. Thanks Pat!

Here's a somewhat blurry picture of Sheri Sinykin (author of Giving Up the Ghost) accepting a gift from our RA Pam Beres and assistant RA Judy Bryan. Sheri set up the first Wisconsin retreat, 19 years ago, and has been a help and support to so many of us over the years.
So, that's it. One weekend, very little sleep, discussions about craft, about ghosts, about the emotional side of writing, new friends, old friends...and so much more.

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