The title of this post has exactly nothing to do with the content except that this magical chandelier hangs outside the Writing Barn in Austin, TX, where I spent last weekend at the Art of the Sale workshop led by Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han.
Siobhan and Jenny are talented and passionate about children’s literature; they take their work seriously, but at the same time, they aren't afraid to play. As they tell it, Siobhan and Jenny met in graduate school and have been sharing writing ever since, culminating in their recent collaboration on the Burn for Burn trilogy.
Let me take a step back to give a sense of place. If you’ve never been to the Writing Barn, it’s like a spa for writers. Owner and founder Bethany Hegedus has attended to every detail from gorgeous linens to yoga mats. Fresh coffee is available all day and the meals are both healthy and delicious. The environment, a beautifully restored horse barn, sits on seven acres of tranquility tucked into a suburban neighborhood.
Just retreating and writing there would be great. Coupling that space with lectures and critiques by two successful authors was fantastic. With thoughts of the weekend occupying my thoughts days later, I thought about what was the high point for me. Certainly the one-on-one critique with Siobhan was amazing. The level of attention she brought to my pages humbled me. Their lectures were excellent, offering up experience, information and insight on the landscape of publishing today. Meals with the attendees and the authors gave us all an opportunity to get to know one another more deeply as writers, but also in addition to being writers. The highlight, though, may have been the readings. After receiving my critique, I used Siobhan's comments to revise a scene that my friend suggested I read. At first, I was a little overwhelmed. I wondered if I could hit the depth that Siobhan had suggested. But after I read the revised scene to the group, Siobhan basically said I’d nailed it.
This is why we must take the risk to put ourselves out there. And by out there, I mean sharing our work, obtaining feedback and using that information to move forward. Sure, it can be scary to share your stuff with people you barely know — not to mention two authors you respect -- but it’s difficult for to see how far you’ve come without other eyes to show you where you were before.
I'd like to say that the magical chandelier could help you reach your writing dreams, but really it's just a matter of staying in the chair, sharing work and keeping an open mind. But connecting with other writers and authors in a beautiful space doesn't hurt either.
(Chandelier photo my own, Writing Barn photo from thewritingbarn.com)