By Louann Brown
How did Words in the Woods begin?
After Woodstock, a very popular SCBWI weekend conference, ended several years ago, it left a void that one-day conferences could not fill: a large block of reserved time to focus on craft with those who share the same desires and dreams. A weekend retreat provided an environment that removed the distractions of daily life and forced attendees to face their inner critic and evolve their craft. Sharing and creating in-depth bonds with fellow artists was an added bonus. The desire to recreate that unique experience gave rise to Words in the Woods, which began in June 2008 at the rustic Camp Cilca in Cantrall, Illinois. Professional speakers presented attendees new thoughts on plotting and presentation and manuscript reviews. Water heaters broke, but spirits and inspiration soared.
How has Words in the Woods evolved?
Two years later, Words in the Woods 2010 opened at a new location, Villa Maria on Lake Springfield. Attendees loved the environment and the time to focus on their craft. After that experience, requests poured in for another type of retreat that focused on “time-on-task” for works in progress, rather than bringing in speakers.
Woods in the Woods: Reflections offered that alternative in 2011 and established a pattern that currently alternates the traditional “speaker” Woods retreat with one that has no featured speakers. Both forms continue to inspire, grow, and give wordsmiths and illustrators an escape into the worlds they create for children’s literature.
Who will benefit by attending?
If being surrounded by nature is your idea of an ideal writing environment, if recharging your muse is just what you need to get you going, or if your manuscript is lying lifeless and needs CPR, Words in the Woods 2012: Moving Your Story Forward, is the conference for you. Friendships, stories, and positive memories that blossomed from the summer camps of your youth will be recreated in a warm, constructive atmosphere.
Who are this year’s speakers?
This year’s professional speakers include an agent, an editor, and an author/illustrator/publisher. From one of the most prestigious literary agencies representing writers and illustrators in the children’s market, Kristy “Ty” King of Writer’s House will offer tips on how to attract an agent’s eye. Simon & Schuster editor Alexandra Penfold will help you pinpoint revisions that will make your story stand out. Author/illustrator and recently turned publisher Marissa Moss brings a unique perspective to the conference, addressing aspects of illustrated manuscripts as well as marketing your manuscript once it is accepted.
What are some of the topics that will be covered?
Topics on the agenda include identifying and crafting turning points in your story, understanding character motivation and how it affects your plot, how to craft multiple storylines, understanding visual narrative in picture books, and more.
How are the critiques set up?
Participants will be assigned to small critique groups that include other attendees. These groups will exchange manuscripts about a month before the event and spend time at the retreat tutoring their peers and polishing and revising their work. A limited number of professional critiques by the speakers are available for an additional $35 fee.
What else will be going on?
Games, crafts, and hikes through the Lincoln Memorial garden will offer worthwhile and entertaining breaks from your laptop. Let your hair down in the evenings around the campfire, or shake your author/illustrator bootie with like-minded colleagues at a pajama party.
How do I apply?
Cost of the conference including room, food, education, socialization and inspiration is $300 for members, $325 for nonmembers. (In many cases you’d pay that for hotel alone!) Registration forms are available online at: http://www.scbwiillinois.org/Programming.html.
Louann Brown is a published author/aspiring illustrator who lives with her husband in Gillespie, Illinois. She is a member of two SCBWI-Illinois network groups (the Springfield Scribes and the Bookends from Southern Illinois) and serves as the network rep for the Downstate Illustration Group.