As I think everyone who attends does, I went to Big Sur with high hopes. I thought that all of the faculty only attended this workshop to discover the next big talent, hoping that the next HUGE novel will be placed in their hands, and that if they saw someone they liked, they'd stay up late into the night that weekend and sign the author right then and there, and hand them a big ol' paycheck to head home with. Well, after speaking with several of the faculty members, I learned that this definitely was not the case. While I'm sure all of the agents there had their eyes peeled for something they really enjoyed, most of the faculty were there because they enjoy doing these types of things and getting out and meeting new people. But that's not to say that it's not still a valuable workshop.
The way the weekend works is they assign you two critique groups and one personal 15 minute critique. You meet twice with each group for two hours each. I was hoping to have my one-on-one with a specific, very big-name editor. I didn't get that, but he was the leader of my first critique group, and I think that ended up working out better, because I got more time to interact with him. So that evening we had our first critique group, and it was a really good group. We all had some good WIPs that were pretty similar in genre and taste, and everyone was very involved in the critiquing process. I got some great feedback and was very pleased.
Dinner that night was a lot of fun; Magnus Toren, who is in charge of putting the workshop together, gave a speech on Big Sur and Henry Miller, then sang some really fun songs. I also ended up at the same table as the editor from my group, and he made a point to tell our whole table that I have an excellent reading voice. So that was nice to here.
The next morning I woke up and went to my second critique group. Our group leader this time was an agent, and she was great at being able to tell you exactly what was wrong with your manuscript, and gave me some awesome ideas on how to improve my opening pages. But in this group I was the only one with fantasy, and the agent said up front she's not really a fan of the kind of fantasy I'm writing, so I didn't come away with quite the feeling of magic I had in my first group. It was still helpful, just didn't give me that high.
Then came my one-on-one, the low point of my weekend. My critiquer was an author, and while he was very encouraging in his ripping apart of my first ten pages, it still stung. He basically said two of my characters were flat and uninteresting, and asked if it was an early draft (ouch). I told him it was a somewhat early draft, and failed to mention that I had just sent this in as a partial. So I was all depressed that afternoon.
But we press on. Later that evening was round two with our first group, and everyone seemed to enjoy what I brought back to them this time, so that lifted my spirits. We finished round two and after a quick happy hour headed to dinner. And that's where the biggest excitement of the weekend happened . . . (to be continued.)