Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Little Turnings: Of the Writing Barn, The Official Sara Zarr, and a genius named Bethany Hegedus

The Official Sara Zarr and Me *
Spent the weekend in Austin in an intensely wonderful 3 day workshop with the brilliant YA author Sara Zarr. The topic was what she calls the "little turnings" of emotional pacing. It was a truly amazing time-- filled with hard work, lessons of craft, and the opportunity both to have my writing workshopped by 20 other mostly published authors as well as to workshop their pieces for them. There is, let me say for those who have never experienced, a certain level of bravery involved in stripping your work bare in front of 20 other writers. A great level of trust and respect that must exist for it to work.

Sara Zarr -- whose STORY OF A GIRL (Little Brown) was a National Book Award Finalist-- and who has written many other equally brilliant books that make me want to read them over and over, is a fine and thoughtful teacher. We talked about tools of writing craft, about beginnings, middles and ends. About how your readers are stepping through the door of your book and you must work to ensure that they are not confused. About character self-awareness and how it guides backstory. Prologues and flashbacks and methods of storytelling. 3 act structure and about the important marker that occurs somewhere at the first 30 or 35 pages. About emotional growth. And much, much more.

By the time Chris Mandelski (THE SWEETEST THING, Egmont) and I hit the road at 5:30 for Houston -- along with EVERY cyclist who had ridden the MS 150 from Houston to Austin and was now driving home on 290, bumper to bumper with us-- we were pleasantly exhausted from learning, talking, digging into the work. Also, there is a certain amount of red wine that is consumed in these events, particularly when 6 of us stay on the top floor of the Albert Oaks B&B and thus ensure that the party continues for a good long while...

Bethany Hegedus, whose most recent MG novel is TRUTH WITH A CAPITAL T (Delacorte/Random House) is not only an author and my friend, but also the Creative Director of an amazing space for writers in Austin called The Writing Barn. Her latest creation, this series of Advanced Writing Workshops designed for working writers rather than novices, is truly fabulous. If you want more information on the Barn,  click HERE .

We writers need our tribe. This weekend allowed us to bond and work and create and laugh. Amazing stuff!!

*Photo by Sam Bond

Up later this week: THE LAURA LINE by Crystal Allen and a contest for an advanced ACTUAL copy of THE SWEET DEAD LIFE!! (you know you want it!!)


Shelli Cornelison said...

Loved this weekend! I can't imagine a better group of writers, instructor, or place for this workshop.

Kim Hennessey said...

Joy - Happy for you! Proud of you!!!

Kristin Rae said...

Sounds like an amazing time! Can't wait to hear more about it! I'll have to keep a better eye open so I don't miss opportunities like these.