Writefest (WF) is an invitation-only private workshop for novelists: (a) who're well published in other areas (picture books, poetry, short stories) and working on a novel manuscript; (b) who've finished a master's program in writing for children and young adults; and/or (c) who've published one-to-three children's/YA novels. It's held at my house. G and I run it with the help of two assistants, both of whom meet the participant criteria.
The initial inspiration was to offer a craft-oriented program for skilled writers who're still relatively new to publishing novels. A preference is given to writers from "the middle"--central and mountain time zones--because we are underrepresented on the national publisher lists.
I'm always sort of scouting potential WF invitees because some turnover is important, alumni hit that fourth novel, and there are just so many infinitely cool new voices out there. But I have only 15 chairs.
The idea is to challenge writers to complete a draft by a specific deadline, break them out of their traditional comfort zones (and critique groups), nuture new professional relationships, show off sunny Austin, and have fun.
The writers have each received partials of all participants' manuscripts (up to 3,000 words) and two manuscripts in full. The partials will be discussed by the group as a whole and the full manuscripts in one-on-one breakout sessions.
G and I read all 15 manuscripts in full and prepare comments for all of them.
For the prepatory reading/preparing critique phase, the manuscripts are marked with code names. This is so that the reputation of the author or lack thereof doesn't influence the readers. No one knows who else is coming until they arrive.
This year's code names are royals, i.e., Edward VII, King of Great Britain and Ireland, Emperor of India; Beatrice, Princess of Battenberg. You get the idea.
There are also in-class writing assignments, homework, and what we've termed "field trips."
This is the second year of WF. We begin Wednesday. I can't tell you who's coming yet because of course then I would have to kill you.
But I am pleased to report that Sophie, Queen of Greece and Wilhelm II, Kaiser of Germany came over Sunday afternoon to help with set-up. One of the pages came over last night to review the program. This afternoon, G and I pick up the speakers: Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India; and Victoria Eugenia, Queen of Spain. The tables are set. The folders are stuffed. Anticipation is running high!
G is reading The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man's Guide to Chivalry by Brad Miner (Spence, 2004).