A couple of weekends ago I took a break from my normal life and went to the Nebraska Novel Retreat at the St. Benedict Center outside of Schuyler, NE. (However, I didn’t sit outside and work like the woman in the above image. It was only 30 degrees outside, so I squirreled myself away inside.)
The Nebraska Novel Retreat, the brainchild of children’s writer and sixth-grade teacher N.L. Sharp (Nancy Wagner), is for writers who are working on novels for middle grade (4th-6th graders) and young adults (6th-12th graders). Like most retreats, this one offered a chance to focus, write, attend classes, and make connections with other people who love doing the same thing I do.
But Nancy’s retreat is unique because it is not a one-time thing. It actually takes place in three separate sessions over the length of a year and culminates with the attendees spending two days with a children’s book agents. Not only that, but we get to submit a query letter, synopsis, and 20 manuscript pages to the agents for critiques.
Writers go to retreats for different reasons. I chose the Nebraska Novel Retreat because a couple friends recommended it, it’s relatively close to me (meaning I didn’t need to fly), and it offered the depth, accountability, camaraderie, and agent-incentive I needed. The accountability? Everyone who attends gets a critique group. We work with them throughout the year, too, either in-person or by email.
I attended the first session last June, and so this was my second session. I worked with my critique group and attended several of the classes. But, I’m really close to finishing a draft of my novel, so I skipped a couple other classes to hide away and write.
Retreats are a good place to eliminate distractions, and this one at the monastery retreat center in rural Nebraska is an especially good place. We had internet access, but cell phones didn’t work in the building. And there are no tvs!
However, the biggest distraction, yet also one of the best things, at the retreat was the camaraderie with the other writers. The retreat center has set meal times, so we ate together, and of course we talked during our class and critique times.
As for the agent-incentive, my deadline for my submission packets is May 1. Back to work for me!