Monday, March 24, 2008

Pictures from Chautauqua

Tip of the Day: The annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival is April 5th! Check it out:

Last year at this time, I was waiting to hear whether I had a scholarship to the Highlights' writing conference at Chautauqua, NY. This is an annual weeklong retreat in July for children's fiction and nonfiction writers, from picture book authors to YA novelists. I was terrified about leaving my kids for a week and wondering if they'd forgive me. Plus I figured, hey, I'm just starting out as a writer and I don't have any credits. What are the chances I'll get a scholarship so I can afford to go?

It was a longshot, but I had to try. When I got the email that I got the scholarship, I was ecstatic. And terrified. It's hard to explain what that week did for my writing. Mostly I learned to try to have faith that I can write something great someday and not just something.

I need a lot of reminders of that, though! Fortunately the wonderful people at the Highlights Foundation sent me a CD brimming with pictures of my July week. I'd like to share a few here so you can decide if this retreat is right for you.

Many of the photos on the CD show the beautiful lake scenery. I'm not sharing any of them because I didn't actually see any beautiful scenery while I was there. Due to the amazing number of classes, lectures, lunch and learns, critiques, and manuscript trades, this is what I saw:

This is editor Patricia Lee Gauch in a Writing for Young Adults class. The schedule was so exciting at first, with lots of classes to choose from and opportunities to learn even during meal breaks. I tried to do everything. By the end of the week, I was drained and brain dead and ready to sleep for days.

In fact, the only scenery I saw was on the many occasions me and my roommate got lost on our way to lectures.

There's a little scenery. I'm all the way to the left in the pink shirt, where Paula and I are probably wandering around, lost in an extended conversation about our favorite novels, half a mile from where we're supposed to be.

It wasn't just scintillating conversation, though. There was also the incredible food. Every meal, I'd sit down thinking, OMG, I can't believe they're serving us this. Here's a picture of us applauding a typical dinner:

Actually, this is us applauding a thought-provoking speech about boys and reading from the phenomenal Bruce Coville ... my Chautauqua mentor!! Yes, I was that fortunate. He was amazing. He taught me a lot about using every object and interaction in my manuscript, which is so crucial to YA and MG writing, and he also upped my self-confidence.

Here's my favorite picture. Notice I'm wearing a sweatshirt in July. You gotta love upstate New York:

The writing friends I met in Chautauqua have been remarkably supportive. I keep in touch with them online all the time and their help in my writing journey is definitely the best thing to come out of the conference. I can only hope I've been as helpful to them. Hey, I feel close enough to them to post a picture of them online! But they're wonderful people who can always complain in the comments, right?

In summary, if you're thinking of going to Chautauqua, ask yourself these questions:

1) Are you a writer?

2) Do you like food?

3) Are you willing to consume tremendous amounts of caffeine?

If you answered yes to these questions, I'm gonna urge you to consider the conference. I'll never forget it.

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer


Emily Marshall said...

This conference looks great. I've keep hearing wonderful things about it.

Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

I can't say enough about Chautauqua! I see you were there with Mindy!

It is the most amazing week, in every way. When Friday afternoon came, and we all watched the slide show in the Hall of Christ, I had to hurray away, down to the shore before I started bawling. Who would have thought that a week at a writers retreat could have such an effect?

I felt as though I had just graduated from college. And I still keep in touch with people I met there, including my mentor--who is review my ms as I type!

Anyone who even thinks about going to Chautauqua for half a second should go. I went on scholarship, too.

Life-changing. No doubt.

Anonymous said...

I made Kate's blog.

I'm just back from the MotherShip (Starbucks) and am buzzed on cappuccino. You are the most fabbity-fab-fab writerly chicklet and I lurve your blog!


Kristina Springer said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing-- I had never heard of this but it looks REALLY cool!

Jessica Burkhart (Jess Ashley) said...

Wow, this looks like so much fun! :)

DeenaML said...

Next year I'm applying for sure -- when I know what's going on with my job. :) Thanks for the reminder to all of how great an experience it is!

Kate Fall said...

Yay, MJ stopped by and didn't complain about her photo! :)

Yes, Mary Ann, I really got to know Mindy while I was there and we keep in email touch. She's been very inspirational. So funny how many YA/MG writers know each other!

Deena, you and Maureen both should apply next year.

Stella said...

Hey, I just signed up for Chautauqua and I am psyched! I'm also scared to death and wondering what I'm doing. Thanks for sharing your experience.