Monday, March 2, 2009


Whew. Just got back from a fabulous weekend retreat/conference at Asilomar near Monterey, California.

It was amazing - got to hang out with superstar authors Ellen Hopkins, Suzanne Morgan Williams and Jaqueline Woodson, agents Stephen Barbara and Amy Weiss Chilton and editors Kaylan Adair, Nancy Conescu and Emma Dryden. Every building at Asilomar has a common room with a fireplace and comfy chairs and Friday evening found (lucky!!) me in the lounge for hours talking to all of these wicked-cool people and sharing my Moose Munch bars.

The funny thing about this year was the deer - they were everywhere! I opened the curtains on my room that first morning and there were two of them eating grass about two feet from my patio. I was obviously unprepared for wildlife, because my first thought was "Why are there German Shepards running around the property?"

When I checked into my room, I noticed a lonely suitcase sitting outside of the room next door, so I knocked. Author/illustrators Ted and Betsy Lewin (of Click Clack Moo and Horse Song fame) opened the door and thanked me for rescuing it. The next day Ted commented that they needed to watch out for me as I was the notorious bag stealer. Hey, Ted and Betsy, you are welcome to call me anything you want, just call me! Their presentation was amazing - they think nothing of going to Mongolia and spending the week with the nomads and eating nothing but fermented horse milk while they sketch and photograph for an upcoming book. They don't even seem to fight. DH and I argue when we go to Disneyland, so I have no idea how they do it.

It was chill-inducing to hear Jaqueline Woodson (Feathers, Show Way, etc.) read and then tried not to be nervous when I got to talk to her about such important topics as our kids and who was the "bad cop" in our respective relationships. Ellen Hopkins (Crank, Impulse, etc.) was hilarious, and really knows her stuff when it comes to promotion and the Internet. She continued our conversation with a presentation the next day - her handouts on promotion and timeline of what you need to do before and after publication are my new bible. I got to talk to her editor, Emma Dryden and really wish I had something for Agent E to send her because she rocks - and she's close to my age! (For those of you who aren't in the writing community, editors are notoriously 25 and cute as a button - not that there's anything wrong with that...). Agent Stephen Barbara would be a great agent for any writer, even though we were secretly calling him Hollywood because he's got that little bit of cool flash even though he lives in New York.

The only downside was my roomate Cassandra who forced me to stay up talking wayyyy past when I wanted to go to bed and almost let us die from carbon monoxide poisoning from the fireplace upstairs. On the upside of the "smoky room" incident, we figured that if we died, they'd probably put a plaque on the room and might even start a scholarship in our names. We lived, so it's a moot point, but everything I took with me has that smokey, Girl-Scout camp smell.

Sunday lunch was awesome, but it was one of those times where you got into wildly interesting conversations with people right before you were set to leave. Jamie Weiss Chilton is an agent with Andrea Brown and if you are looking for a knowledgeable, earnest and very nice agent, check her out. Blogger extrordinaaire Lee Wind and I got talking right as we walked out the door and I wished I'd discovered him on Friday so I could have spent the entire weekend soaking up his Internet know-how. Frank Cesar (Ramirez) is so awesome with web-advice we were trying to convince him to run a web-building workshop next year. Frank, if you're reading this - we weren't kidding! Do it!

Even in these economic times, I'm not giving up Asilomar, so I'd better sell something soon so I can go next year. It's not just the cost of the trip, but the amount of books I buy so that I can get them signed by the people that wrote them. Hey - it's a write-off, and I get to support authors and a great independent bookstore right? I'm almost ashamed to show you the amount of books I bought this year:

Only one whole year before I get to go again!

On this date: In 1904, Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was born.


lindsey-leavitt said...

Cyn, that looks like it was so much fun. Dang, I have to go West Coast so I could hit up all those retreats! Someday...

Lee Wind said...

Thanks for your kind words! And what a great re-cap of the weekend. It was amazing. But, how'd you get the deer to stand still for you like that?

cynjay said...

Linds - Southwest has cheap flights to San Jose (hint, hint).

Lee - I meant every word and hopefully we can hang out next year. And those deer? Just give those deer what they want, and they'll do anything for you ;)

Robin said...

Sounds like it was amazing! So jealous.
Maybe I'll save my pennies and go with you next year!

Natalie said...

It sounds fabulous! I feel like I sorta kinda know Cassandra from Verla's, but I'm thinking she doesn't look like the twirling flower child on her avatar. ;-) Glad it was such a great time!