Cassy's Corner- Brainstorming and Writing
I have just returned from another trip to Italy. As many of you know, I go as many times a year as I can lie, cheat, steal and cajole the time and tickets. This trip was different, very different. It created a large "rethink" of my writing and how I approach my work. Let me explain.
I often make the trip alone. Family is better than great, but there are times I want to focus on my writing and the spot we have there is perfect for my honing in on my work. Two times I have made a special trip to attend the Women's Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy. It is a fantastic conference with an international attendance, lots of editors and agents, and tons of great sessions. It's one of the more intimate conferences I have attended; friends (truly) are made and held over the year. Not to mention, the food and wine is pretty darn spectacular.
Based on my continued contact with the woman who runs the WFF (Elizabeth Jennings), I received an invitation to participate in the first Brainstorming at the Spa (yes, there was a little "spa" involved) in Matera. This was not part of WFF, but its own event. We were about 18 invited participants plus Liz Jennings and the incredible Christine Witthohn leading the way. Christine presented more than nuggets about writing, the industry, the future of publishing plus much much more.
But, I am taking too long to get to the point. The truly best part of the 4 going on 5 days was the individual time given to each of us for brainstorming. We each had about an hour in which we presented to the entire group an overview of the book we were currently working on. Then it opened up. Comments were offered about the story, about the character arcs, about the best genre, about the marketability, about.....
We laughed for hours straight. We also worked very hard. This group focused with laser intensity on each person's story, thinking through what would make it better, what would change the tone if needed, what would increase the reader's attachment, and what would help the author move the work to the next level. Folks were supportive beyond belief. There were no "hatchet" jobs. But there was lots of honesty. I won't even tell you what needs to happen to my story--but I heard it loud and clear and they are right.
We had the inside jokes that grow from so many hours together both in the brainstorming sessions and over lunch, dinner, strolls through the sassi, and, yes, a bit in the spa. We've formed a Yahoo loop (thanks, Christine) and the emails are flying back and forth, continuing the conversations.
The genres covered the board. If I had thought that hearing about dragons, aliens, fantasy worlds, a woman's path to self-esteem, YA, and much more would shape my mystery writing--I'd have told you that you were wrong. Well, I was wrong. A good story is that, a good story. I have begun to look at my work with a very different, yes critical, but different eye.
I left the Matera retreat not able to write. My head has been spinning. I returned to the place we stay across the country and let the mental buzzing have its own course. Now I am ready to re-look at my work through my gained perspective with the wonderful help of nearly 20 focused and thoughtful minds. I never would have guessed the time spent would accomplish so much.
If anyone is interested in learning more about the WFF do feel free to contact me personally. They are hoping to offer the retreat on an annual basis. I’m not sure I could ever attend too many times.
What have your experiences been that have helped shape your writing?