Tag Archives: Novel Retreats in 3 Acts

Novel Retreat Details


I’m not involved in Nancy Sharp Wagner’s retreats except as an overjoyed participant. All this information is for you to become familiar with this very unique way to learn to write a novel in an equally unique location.

Novel Secrets: A Novel Retreat in 3 Acts

Have you always wanted to write a Young Adult or Middle Grade Novel, but haven’t carved out the time to get it done? Do you have a draft of a novel written, but are looking for ideas and strategies to revise and strengthen it? Are you looking for critique partners? Would you like the chance to meet with an editor or an agent to pitch your novel and gain critical feedback about this novel in particular and the chidlren’s fiction market in general? All of this is possible if you attend Novel Secrets: A Novel Retreat in 3 Acts.

Unique in the world of Writing Retreats, the intent of this series it to help move you from the first inklings of an idea toward a publishable children’s novel in one year’s time. Advance preparation for each Act is required and the retreats are designed for maximum participation.

Join us for a Writing Conference like no other.

Act 1: First Draft Secrets with Elaine Marie Alphin

Elaine Marie Alphin is the author of more than 20 published books for children and young adult readers, many of them award-winners.The first retreat focuses on brainstorming techniques to get you started with the plotting, character development, and pacing of your novels. You will leave this retreat with a elaines-bookbasic outline of your novel and a plan for turning that outline into a first draft. The requirements for Retreat 1: Read Elaine’s book, Creating Characters Kids Will Love, published by Writers’ Digest Books.

Act 2: Revision Secrets with Darcy Pattison


Our second retreat will be led by Darcy Pattison. You will go home with strategies and tools for revising your novel, often a bigger chore than writing the first draft. Requirements to attend Retreat 2: 1) have a completed draft of a novel, 2) submit four copies of your manuscript to be read by the three other members of your group 3) agree to read the novels of your three other group members before the retreat, and 4) read Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King and The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. Darcy Pattison served as thedarcys-book-cover1 Arkansas Regional Advisor for the SCBWI from 1991-96. In 1999, Darcy created the Novel Revision Retreat, which she now teaches nationwide. Her book “Novel Metamorphosis” is devoted to revision strategies and is highly recommended.

Act 3: Submission Secrets
“Sell”ebrating a Satisfactory Ending with a Fresh Beginning

The final retreat will feature both an editor and an agent. The focus for this retreat will be marketing strategies and submission secrets. We will discuss the process of letting go of this novel and starting a new project, as we revisit skills and strategies we have gained on our journey. Requirements to attend Retreat 3: 1) Attend at least one of the other two retreats. 2) Submit a revised draft of your novel for critique by your small group. 3) Submit a cover letter, a synopsis of your novel, and the first ten pages for critique by either the editor or agent

All of the Novel Retreats will be held at the St. Benedict Retreat Center, a smoke-free retreat and conference center located on Highway 15 north of Schuyler, Nebraska, approximately two hours from Omaha, Nebraska. Each participant will have his or her own private room. Meals and lodging are included in the cost. All rooms are fully air conditioned and have private bathrooms. An exercise room is available.

Openings are limited. Minimum participants required to run each retreat will be 12. Priority will be given to those individuals who register for all three retreats at one time. Read testimonials from past participants.

Check Nancy Sharp Wagner’s website for retreat dates, registration deadlines, program costs, cancellation policy, and the identity of the editor and agent scheduled to attend Act 3 … AND find out how you can get a $100 discount when you register!

Invest in your Writer Self! You’ll be glad you did!

What is keeping you from writing that novel for teenagers?

Why a Novel Retreat?


As I’ve gotten to know Nancy Sharp Wagner over the course of my participation in the Novel Retreats, I’ve also gotten to know her story. Not her novel, alas, because she wasn’t in my small group, but rather the story of how these Novel Retreats were born.

Because I’m always a wee bit lazy, I asked her to write it for me, so here’s what she said …

nancyThe Novel Secrets in 3 Acts Retreat Series came into being because I had this draft of a novel that I knew needed work and I really wanted to attend Darcy’s Pattison’s Revision Retreat. Unfortunately, the timing never seemed to work for me. I spoke with Nona Morrison (our Nebraska SCBWI RA) about the possibility of bringing Darcy to Nebraska to do the Retreat here. I told her I would be happy to organize it if she thought that it was something our SCBWI members would be interested in attending. She, of course, loved the idea and said she would help me in any way she could, so I contacted Darcy to see what our next step needed to be.

That was where I ran into my first stumbling block. Because, in order to host Darcy, I needed to find at least eight folks who had written a novel for children. What I discovered was that even though I knew lots of folks who wanted to write a novel, I was having more difficulty finding a group who had already written a novel.

Then, in the fall of 2006, I attended an SCBWI event in North Dakota, where Elaine Marie Alphin was presenting. Elaine did an afternoon session on brainstorming character and plot, and I asked her if she would be interested in expanding that session to an entire weekend. My idea was that I would organize and host two Retreats. Elaine would present at the first one and get us started brainstorming the characters and outlining the plot for our novels, and then (six or eight months later), Darcy would present her Revision Retreat. Elaine loved the idea and said she would be happy to be the presenter for Act 1.

While Elaine and I were speaking, Jean Patrick (RA for the Dakotas SCBWI) and Alexandra Penfold (editor for Simon & Schuster) joined us. Before I knew it, the two Retreat series became a three Retreat series, with the focus of the final Retreat being submission packets and formal manuscript critiques by both an editor and agent.

When I was setting up the first set of Retreats, I was just hoping that I would get enough folks so I wouldn’t have to cancel the Series. But not only did we fill the three Retreats, I had folks asking me when the next set of Retreats is going to be held. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful comments from the participants, who also encouraged me to keep the Series going.

So, that is the plan right now. I will keep the Series going at the St Benedict Center as long as I see an interest. Elaine Marie Alphin will be presenting again at Act 1, Darcy Pattison will lead Act 2, and the third and final Retreat will have an editor and agent attending. Those names will be announced as soon as I have them finalized.

I have also heard from a few of our past participants about how difficult it was to leave, knowing that Act 3 was the “final” retreat, so I have been brainstorming ways we can continue to support each other on our writing journey.

I’m mulling over lots of suggestions for a Reunion Retreat. It will probably be very informal ”” just us writing and sharing our drafts, again held at the St. Benedict Center. There would be no presenters so the cost should just be the cost of rooms, meals and your own travel.

Another suggestion was to create a book club for our group. Using our Novel Retreat Yahoo! Group as our “meeting room,” we could read and discuss various books online from the perspective of writers. I am really open to ideas for the organization of this. We could all read the same book and discuss it–OR–we could choose a genre (or an author or an agent or an editor) and each of us read different books in that genre (or by that author or edited by that editor or represented by that agent), and discuss similarities and differences we note in each.

Each Reunion Retreat might look different, as I hear new ideas and different needs from the participants.

Thanks for letting me share my story, Becky! I hope to see lots of new faces at our next series of retreats and some familiar ones at our reunions!

What do you think about the Novel Retreat in 3 Acts idea?