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Saturday, May 8, 2010

EMLA retreat!

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Ah... Chicago in the springtime... tulips galore!

One of the many amazing things I experienced last week in Chicago was a retreat with the authors of EMLA (which stands for Erin Murphy Literary Agency)-- also called the Gang of Erin. The retreat was my third, and it was truly phenomenal-- three energizing and inspiring days... I learned heaps about everything from the publishing industry to techniques for plotting and revising novels and much more...

The best part, of course, was the people... spending time with my agent, Erin...


 and the agency's other wonderful agent (and author), Ammi-Joan Paquette (here she is in green) with Cate Tiernan (her next book, Immortal Beloved, will be coming out soon!) perusing review copies of other authors' books...


and nearly thirty other fabulous authors...



It was a special opportunity to bond with everyone in person (after months or years of only online conversations.) And what I'm most grateful for is that everyone, whether published or prepublished, was a talented writer with so much to offer in discussions-- and everyone was so warm and gracious and enthusiastic about each other's writing. I love these ladies (and man-- hi Bob!)  Here's Ruth Barshaw, Ammi-Joan, and Audrey Vernick (in the middle-- I can't wait to read her picture book Is your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? with Lil Dude!)


I feel SO lucky to be part of this group, and can't wait for next year's retreat (which will be in Austin next spring). I know I seem overly-gushy and mushy, but I'm not the only one... we all came away from the retreat just spilling over with gratitude.


                        me with Sarah DeFord William

We spent mornings in large-group discussions in a comfy suite on the 19th floor, and then we scattered for the afternoon-- some of us (me) writing in our rooms or at cafes, some sight-seeing, some lounging in the suite and talking.  Then, in the evenings, we gathered in small or large group for dinner.  Delightful! Here I am with Natalie Lorenzi, Liz Garton Scanlon, and Cynthia Omololu-- we're in a pretty little park, waiting for our scrumptious deep dish pizza...


Below, Ruth Barshaw (of Ellie McDoodle fame) never fails to crack me up... and she's one of the warmest, kindest people you'll ever meet.  She carries a wee sketchbook everywhere she goes... I'm sure it's hidden somewhere under her mink...


which brings me to the vintage minks...  they were decorations on our beds in the Whitehall Hotel (a charming place, right down to the tiny old creaky elevators).  Actually, I suspect the furs came from some other animal-- beaver?  Who knows.  But we had fun with them on Saturday night after dinner...


A few people brought along family and friends to participate in some events with us.  Here I am with one author's lovely daughter, Emily, an avid reader and writer who offered us great ideas and insights from a teen perspective...


Here (from the left) is Cynthia Omololu -- author of Dirty Little Secrets-- a teen novel involving hording, which sounds fascinating. In the middle is Natalie Lorenzi, whose pre-published novel about a Japanese-American family sounds really good, and right up my alley... and she has a background in ESL teaching, as do I!  Then there's Sarah DeFord Williams on the right-- her first novel, Palace Beautiful, just came out, and I'm so excited about reading it--there's magic and mystery and secrets in an attic... the kind of story I always adored as a kid (and still do).


Below (laughing) is Jennifer A. Nielson on the left, whose debut novel Elliott and the Goblin Wars is coming out in October-- this'll be so fun to read aloud with my son in a few years.  And on her right is Susan Vaught (also laughing), author of Trigger and Big Fat Manifesto, among many others-- she creates fantastic voices, and her books deal with timely and important issues (and did I mention she's also a practicing neuropsychologist?)

We spent lots of time in informal small-group conversations-- it's such a delicious feeling to talk with writers who you can really relate to... there were many great bonding experiences throughout each day. Here is super-cute Susan Larsen, pre-published YA author (on the left), Liz Garton Scanlon (in the middle), author of one of my son's favorite picture books-- All the World (and she's just as dazzling in person as I'd imagined she would be after reading her poetic words every night at my Lil Dude's bedtime).  Zu Vincent is on the right-- she's the author of The Lucky Place-- a beautifully written and touching YA novel.


Here are Ruth Barshaw and Jennifer Nielson looking radiant at dinner on Saturday night.


And there were so many more lovely, talented people-- I wish I had the space and time to do all 28 authors justice.  This is just a little smattering, but I hope you enjoyed it!  Lil Dude just woke up from his nap, so I don't have time to link to everyone's individual websites.  If you're interested, you can go here to see a list of Erin's clients and their websites.

In my next posts, I'll give a recap of some super-fun school and library visits I did earlier that week, in Chicago and Michigan.  Thanks for  reading!


xoxo,
Laura