Nancy Sondel's Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop
16th Annual    September 28-30, 2018    Master Class to Masterpiece
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bullet  To help you envision how our event may benefit you, browse these comments from alumni—
published and aspiring. For more testimonials, see the upper boxes on most of this site’s pages, or click for faculty and teen commentaries.

Annemarie O’Brien
MFA, Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and YA;
author of Lara’s Gift (Knopf BFYR)

Annemarie O'Brien Annemarie O'Brien, Lara's Gift This workshop is a definite 10. For eight years, it helped me hone my craft and make contact with esteemed editors and agents. Pre-workshop materials about character development gave me a new way of looking at my novel. Then I met an editor at the workshop who loved my novel and offered me my debut contract.

This seminar’s intimate masterclass structure allowed me to hear first-hand from professionals what worked (or didn’t) in each manuscript. I learned as much from the critique of my own manuscript as from those of peers. Reading these manuscripts in advance encouraged me to develop my critical skills, then compare them with those of the faculty. I recommend this great workshop and community of writers. (California)

Hallee Adelman

Halle AdelmanMy full-novel critique from HarperCollins executive editor Kristen Pettit was priceless. Her feedback was clear, insightful, sharp, and inspiring. She is a gem. Adding to that, the care and love that Director Nancy Sondel puts into the workshop is beyond incredible and much appreciated.

Though I live on the East Coast, PCCWW was SOOOO special and worth the trip!! I definitely plan to tell my friends about it. I can’t wait to hear all of the success stories that come out of this 2015 workshop! (Pennsylvania)

UPDATE: Christian Yee’s book (below) is the first of those success stories!

Christian Yee

Christian YeeEach time I come to this workshop, it’s better than the last. The level of whole-novel feedback is among the best you can get at any conference or peer group on either coast. That includes my 2015 teen critiquers—they articulated when and how my characters were relatable to young readers. It would have been extremely difficult to get that unbiased feedback anywhere else.

This workshop’s format helped me put my best foot forward in front of industry professionals. Their whole-novel feedback let me gauge my direction more accurately than at any other workshop I’ve attended. I love this event! [Christian then went on to sell his book.] (California)

Bobbie Pyron
Author of The Ring (WestSide), A Dog’s Way Home
(Tegen/HarperCollins), and two others

Bobbie Pyron I have never in all my years of attending professional workshops and conferences seen anything as well organized as this one!

The Ring by Bobbie Pyron I liked doing peers’ written critiques before the event, because I was able to put thought into them. The pre-workshop exercises were challenging and useful—really forced me to focus.

In the team-taught master classes, it was fascinating to see how differently the faculty evaluated the same manuscript. It reinforced that we need to send our manuscripts to various editors/agents, and that much of the success of whether our books get published is dependent on their landing in the right hands.

When I brought my fledgling novel to this workshop, I had little confidence in my ability to craft a good story. The application process, plus faculty and peer feedback, boosted my self-confidence—helping to pave the way for the sale and publication of my first novel. The next two manuscripts that faculty critiqued at this event have also been published. This workshop is very helpful! (Utah)

Helen Pyne
MFA, Vermont College of Fine Arts
in Writing for Children and YA; author, editor, teacher

Amazing, extraordinary, enlightening, inspiring, and fun! I’m so glad I was here to be part of it all. (California)

Angie Azur

Angie AzurThanks to Nancy Sondel for creating a unique workshop that I will never forget! I enjoyed the teens so much—their insights have made me a better writer already. The editor and agent were amazing. I’m so happy and thankful I was able to enroll in this event! (Oregon)  

Kate Merkling

Kate MerklingThe unique format mixing professionals, peers, and teens sparks a stimulating synergy that ups our creative game at every level. The intimate, comfy setting fosters a spirit of support and encouragement while providing helpful information on every aspect of writing. Thanks for another wonderful experience! (Colorado)

Tracy Holczer
Author of The Secret Hum of a Daisy (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

Tracy HolczerI loved this workshop’s craft focus. The event played a huge role in my success. My novel improved largely due to faculty and savvy peer critiques, which led to my first sale. Outstanding seminar. And our beachfront venue was the perfect spot for honing my writing. (California)

Ann McCarthy

Ann McCarthyThis workshop’s chief attraction for me was the chance to get professional feedback on a full novel manuscript. I got valuable, actionable input on my pacing and character development... It also meant a great deal to me that my YA novel connected so powerfully with my teen critiquer. (California)

Mary Cronk Farrell
Author of award-winning Fire in the Hole! (Clarion) and others

Mary Cronk Farrell The Pacific Coast Children’s Writers Workshop is the most worthwhile writing event I have ever attended. I learned so much I would not be surprised if it Fire in the Hole! by Mary Cronk Farrell turns out to be a major turning point in my fiction writing. The faculty showed such passion, and were so skilled in communicating their extensive knowledge and understanding of literature.

All presenters were generous and genuine. The insight I received from each on my manuscript was invaluable. The weekend was also great fun. I enjoyed meeting other writers and felt a spirit of camaraderie and support.

Update: I have just signed with a great agent. I could not have written my second novel, Ellie Paints the Sky, if I had not attended this workshop! (Washington)

Joni Sensel
Author of four youth novels (Bloomsbury and Henry Holt)

Joni Sensel This workshop combines the support and camaraderie of an educated, informed critique group with a rare opportunity to connect with editors and agents to a degree that’s impossible in larger workshop or conference settings.
The Farwalker's Quest! by by Joni Sensel; cover art by Antonio Caparo The master class format is incredibly helpful. For me, critiquing these peer manuscripts was the best part of the workshop. The speakers and very special group of bright, friendly, talented and committed participants were a huge plus.

Focused, friendly, and productive, this one weekend can catapult your writing toward compelling novels that stand out and get published. In fact, attending this workshop allowed me to meet a dynamic agent whom I would not have otherwise considered for my work. I’m so glad I participated! (Washington)

Mel Boring
Prolific, acclaimed children's author

Mel BoringAn absolutely marvelous weekend. This workshop is magic. Grateful times a gazillion. (Washington)

Statement made shortly before Mel’s 2008 death. An enthusiastic educator, Mel bequeathed a generous donation to our first TeenSpeak Novel Workshop scholarship fund. He is missed in the children’s book world!

Sheryl Scarborough
MFA, Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and YA
Author of a mystery-forensic series: Book One: To Catch a Killer (TorTeen)

Sheryl Scarborough This workshop attracts real talent. It will have lasting effects on many.

I gained helpful insights about my manuscript and enjoyed peer authors immensely. The size of the entire group was perfect. Everything ran efficiently, on schedule.

The perspective of the professionals was well-balanced—i.e., having both an editor and one or two agents on the panels worked well. I liked that we all had the opportunity to read the open clinic, aka master class, submissions before the workshop. That made such a difference to me in understanding the pros’ responses. The Spot Critiques (First Pages) by multiple faculty were also very helpful and illuminating.

I enjoyed Saturday night dinner “on your own.” It gave me a chance to bond with peer writers. I also liked having intimate conversations at meals with faculty. Finally, I loved the beachfront setting. I’d return to it just for a vacation! (California)

Clara Asunción
MFA in Creative Writing & Writing for Performing Arts

Clara AsunciónThis workshop helped me develop new strategies for my whole novel. The feedback inspired me to be more conscious of the parts as well as the whole, to strengthen each element in its own right. I considered whether each character simply filled a role rather than living his or her part of the story. I also more closely examined each chapter as its own production—a progression of steps and character development, rather than a single step forward in the story. I'm happy with how much more streamlined and focused it is now.

The faculty’s enthusiasm and generosity were truly heartening. Their interest in enrollees’ manuscripts brought a positive and hopeful energy to the whole writing gig. Listening to the open clinic critiques highlighted ways to hone my critical eye. An educational weekend with spectacular setting! (California)

Christopher S. Ledbetter
Author of 
Caenus and the Quiver of Artemis (Outskirts Press)

Christopher S. LedbetterFabulous event. The kicker for me was the draw of a full-novel critique. I can receive critiques on short manuscripts anywhere. The beachfront setting was great. I enjoyed the summer-camp type feel of it all, strolling back and forth from “cabin to cabin” along the winding paths. Hats off to PCCWW for the logistics and planning. I had a wonderful time. (North Carolina)

Claudia Pearson
M.A. in Children’s Literature, Hollins University;
author; independent publisher; SCBWI Regional Advisor

Excellent faculty, format, craft focus, and caliber of peer submissions. The most valuable feedback and best workshop instruction I’ve ever received. (Alabama)

Mandy Robbins Taylor
MFA, Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and YA

Mandy Robbins Taylor I loved PCCWW’s small size and the opportunity for everyone to get to know each other. I also really, really enjoyed networking with these writers.

I was so excited to talk one-on-one with an agent and editor without having to “shove through the masses,” as one does at larger conferences. I left this workshop feeling much more enthusiastic about the ins and outs of the publishing industry. The faculty had everything to do with that—they emphasized pleasing individuals, no matter how huge and intimidating a publishing house may seem.

The whole event was very refreshing and inspiring. Definitely a positive experience for writers like me! (California)

Tassé Bentson
Aspiring author

In just a few hours, this workshop helped me more than any other I had attended. Thanks to the director for envisioning a highly interactive workshop, then following through on her dreams. (Louisiana)

Sally Engelfried
Copy Editor, Librarian

Extremely practical, fun seminar. I loved the camaraderie, level of professionalism, access to faculty, beachfront venue, and refreshing participation of teens.

The submission and pre-workshop writing assignments inspired me. At the event, the master-class critiques were well thought out—I was impressed with the careful consideration the faculty gave each writer’s manuscript, and appreciated their delicacy in addressing everyone’s problems. I liked the concrete examples of how editing is applied and writing developed, rather than vague ideas about the elements of writing.

I also appreciated the quality of my peers’ writing; it was nice to chat with other authors about the challenges of writing novels. I definitely give this workshop a 10! (California)

Susan L. Lipson
Author and Writing Teacher

Susan L. Lipson Overall, the Pacific Coast Children’s Writers Workshop has been my favorite professional workshop or conference ever. It offers children’s novelists of middle-grade or YA books—novelists who have either been published or have seriously studied their craft—an opportunity to convene with other serious writers, and learn from each other via in-depth written critiques and discussions. Attendees can receive multiple critiques from publishing professionals as well as credible fellow writers. I found this format extremely valuable.

This workshop is a great service to children’s authors—the friendships it helps form, the inspirations it helps generate, the excitement it encourages, and the professionalism it helps foster. I hope to return! (California)

Elizabeth Shreeve
Author, The Adventures of Hector Fuller (Simon & Schuster); more

Shreve, ElizabethI liked the attention to big ideas and major elements of storymaking. Terrific chance to meet and receive feedback from top editors and agents. I left the workshop re-energized and encouraged. Great faculty, committed writers. Plus, I first met my agent at this workshop! (California)

Elizabeth Fais
Aspiring author

This workshop is extremely valuable for developing craft and bringing a manuscript closer to publication. A unique opportunity to connect one-on-one with an agent, editor, and peers. I was impressed by the participants’ high caliber of writing, and amazed at how supportive everyone was with each other. I learned a tremendous amount listening to the critiques and fabulous faculty.

The team-taught, masterclass critiques were profound and enlightening. The novels were diverse, yet faculty comments were universal in their approach to structure and style. I gained a clear understanding of how to fix problem areas in my manuscript, and also refine areas I had thought were “perfect.” smiley My experience at the workshop was all about growing and learning as a writer—invaluable. (California)

Mar Junge
Editorial consultant

If you want to know what it takes to get published, this workshop will leave you with no doubts. Incredible faculty. An absolute pleasure to be in the company of such talented writers. Critiquing both the first and (optional) midbook chapter was incredibly valuable—a unique workshop approach.

This workshop did more to improve my craft than any other I’ve attended. It inspired me to write from the heart. My gypsies are calling to me to tell their story, no matter how outrageous... (California)

Doraine Bennett

Doraine Bennett
Author of Greece and Our American Heritage
(State Standards Publishing) and others

I really enjoyed the weekend. I’m thrilled with my new friendships and wonderful faculty insights. The workshop was well worth the price. (Georgia)

Carol Foote

Carol Foote, JournalistInspiring! The weekend gave me lots to work on in the following months and made a real difference in my writing. I also enjoyed getting to know so many talented, nice writers. A wonderful experience! (California)

Sherise Mitchell
Aspiring author

The workshop manuals and reference materials with personalized exercises really helped my writing. Previously, my novel had been only a “That would be cool” idea; now it’s actually a work in progress. I really can’t tell you how excited I am about my story... (California)

Natasha Yim
Picture book author and playwright

Natasha Yim The workshop was well organized and well structured. I liked the intimacy of the room setting, enjoyed the manuscript exchanges, and had fun meeting both writers and faculty.

The faculty was accessible, answering my questions during meals and breaks. Breaks came at the right time, were enough for a quick breather, but not too long, so everything moved quickly and smoothly.

Hearing feedback that other writers received on their manuscripts was invaluable to me; I learned a lot. The comments spurred new ideas, which I hope will breathe new life into my story. (California)

Linda Joan Smith

This workshop is a great ongoing seminar in how to refine one’s writing, plot, and premise! I feel the gears moving again for me; my next rewrite will be far more profitable. (California)

Melody (Mary) Cryns

Melody (Mary) Cryns
Aspiring author

An amazing working workshop where you actually see editors and agents critique manuscripts. The critiques were honest and well thought out; very helpful. Well worth my time and money! (California)

Ally Cowee
Workshop presenter

PCCWW will keep me inspired and moving forward for many months to come. A high-end seminar; immeasurably beneficial. (California)

Marjorie Sayer
Aspiring author

Writing a novel can feel like scraping a hole through concrete with one’s fingernails—huge, hard, and lonely. But the masterclass format is a great aid and inspiration. PCCCW is the best creative writing workshop I’ve attended. (California)

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