by Marilyn Morton
Among the many reasons for SCBWI-LA Working Writer’s Retreat’s (WWR) popularity is that it may result in a publication. Just ask Julie Williams (HarperCollins), Cecil Castelluci (Candlewick), Jesse Marie Klausmeier (Chronicle), and Amanda Hollander (Beach Lane Books) who became published authors as a result of attending this event. In recent years WWR, which is also open to non-SCBWI members, has filled within hours of opening registration.
Since its beginning over two decades ago, the WWR offers serious, working writers a weekend during which they can focus solely on their writing and connect with others. The concept of being immersed in our writing for an entire weekend was conceived and developed by RAs Judy Enderle and Stephanie Gordon who, with Sue Alexander’s able and enthusiastic assistance, made WWR one of our region’s most anticipated annual events. And immersed we were, I might add. In the beginning, our only contact with the outside world was a single pay phone at the end of the hall.
Sarah Laurenson eventually took over organizing the WWR. Her grasp of technology is reflected in many aspects of the event. For instance, she streamlined the schedule which created even more personal writing time for attendees. Sarah is a logistical genius, by the way. In recent years, the retreat culminates in the much anticipated First Pages session where writers somewhat anxiously pitch their book ideas to a panel that includes an editor and one or more agents.
Though Judy and Stephanie no longer organize the WWR, they remain the core members of the faculty, sharing their knowledge and insight as instructors and well-published children’s authors. A contest in Sue Alexander’s name keeps her memory alive for those of us who were blessed to know her. Each year, the winner of that contest gets to attend for free.
I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of helping organize and run portions of the Working Writer’s Retreat since its beginning. My tasks have included handling registration when it was done through the mail, making room assignments, checking in attendees upon arrival, conducting icebreakers, helping secure the site for future retreats, providing transportation, putting together faculty gift bags, timing the First Pages pitches, and even knocking on doors to wake folks in the morning. I’m still responsible for some of these tasks.
As an attendee, the opportunity to receive professional feedback while being totally focused on one’s writing was, and remains, an exceptional experience. Catching up with friends, relaxing in Lynette’s stretching sessions, socializing at the wine and cheese events, and letting the strain of a day’s work disappear during the karaoke session are traditions that many, besides myself, look forward to each year.
This year, WWR will be held September 30th through October 2nd. For more information: https://losangeles.scbwi.org/events/working-writers-retreat-2016/