The Writing Barn — YA/MG Weekend Intensive

The Writing Barn

I arrived the day before the intensive started, partly because — Ya know — FOMO, but really to have a day where I could just work. I knew as soon as everyone arrived, I’d be snatching moments to do my own work, and this time was as much for my creativity as it was for the class. I had the whole house to myself for twenty-four hours, and I spent most of it getting eaten alive on the porch, editing. The Texas temperature was next to perfect, especially in the evening and the morning, and I did manage to finish line edits just after the first car arrived.

The workshop truly was an intensive! The Writing Barn sent out the itinerary a month ahead, each day set out in 30 minute increments. From breakfast at eight am to desert at nine pm, there seemed to be very little down time, but that’s exactly what it was supposed to be — a full weekend for dedicated writers to engage in their passion and craft. Even on the rare moments were the workshop paused, we didn’t stop. Some of my most precious moments were spent around the table in the Book House, talking books and writing and kidlit with people who loved it as much as I did. It was near-impossible to find a moment to call home and check in with my wife!

The two lectures were spectacularly informative, especially the second lecture focused on market and how to pitch your story as a high concept, even if you don’t necessarily see it as such. I’ve come away from that really looking critically at my own pitch, and I’m psyched to see what I’ve learned put into practice!

The workshops themselves were group workshops. We received a package of each others’ material ahead of time and made critique notes in order to really make the most of the short time-slots for each person (20 minutes) There was a little trepidation that the minimal time wouldn’t be effective enough, but I think general consensus is that it really was! Everyone — participants and faculty — were all completely engaged and dedicated to making the most of it for each writer. For mine, it was just the most wonderful blur. I got verification that I’m heading in the right direction, and the critiques were clear and gave me a really good image of what I need to do to push my story beyond the point I could get it to on my own. I came away completely inspired, and only lasted until the next morning before I couldn’t resist going back to edits!

But it’s all about the community. This is something I’ve always been passionate about — writing is such a solitary endeavor, it’s so easy to become isolated, but find your people! Whether it’s in fanfic or NaNoWriMo or during the PitchWars season, find your people! — and this weekend really confirmed it. Everyone was so excited to be there, together, talking about writing. Not only can writing be a lonely past-time, there is next to no reward for most of the time. The reward is itself, and it was really validating to be around people who got that. We do it because we love putting words on a page, because we love the books of our childhoods, because we love the kids we do it for.

It was a truly special group of writers, and I’m honoured to be a part of it and to be with them as we all move forwards

On a personal note, anyone who’s been anywhere near me in the lead-up to this course knows how bloody terrified I was. I was meeting an author whose work I loved from the moment I opened my preordered audio-book in 2018 and an agent/author I have admired since I first started to take myself seriously as a writer. Not only did the thought of them reading my pages, but the bios of everyone else were so intimidating! I opened the attachment in September and just gawked.

Then I made the conscious decision not to be intimidated. I aggressively introduced myself to everyone on twitter and I made sure I could put pages to faces. When the time arrived, I had already made friends of people I would definitely’ve been scared of if I hadn’t. I also made the decision not to be intimidated by the faculty. Even though I was SUPER EMBARRASSING, I did it anyway, and I felt myself become stronger and braver because of it.

Be scared, do it anyway.

That’s 2019.

That’s my future.

And here are all my embarrassing super-tired selfies!

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