In December, the most amazing email hit my inbox.
I’m still in awe that I was accepted into THE Tin House’s YA Fiction Workshop–and I’m even more amazed, that, because of the generous support of friends and writers and anonymous people I STILL cannot thank enough–I was able to attend. And not just attend–my mom’s group booked me a few nights in a local hotel so I could have uninterrupted writing time. I mean. Look at this room:
The timing for this acceptance couldn’t have been more perfect. On Dec. 14, an agent sent me a R&R that I decided to take. Between Dec. 15 and February 10, I completely rewrote Acts 1-3 of BLOOD LIKE ROSES. I submitted my revised opening to the workshop, and planned on using my alone time in the mornings to knock out Act 4 (which I did!). By the end of the weekend, I had notes on my opening and a completed draft. It was honestly a dream come true!
I couldn’t find a lot of information about Tin House’s YA Workshop online. This was only their second YA Workshop, but I had heard of their prestigious Fiction & Poetry Workshops. I figured it might be nice to give a quick recap of my experience in case anyone is on the fence about attending. I can unequivocally say: do it. Even virtually, this workshop was the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing. I learned SO much in such a short amount of time, connected with incredibly talented writers who are going to change the literary landscape, and MOST IMPORTANTLY I left with a confidence in my work that I’ve never felt before.
the virtual workshop
One thing I want to say, right off the bat, is that I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of work it took to organize such a jam-packed weekend that took place entirely over Zoom. Going in, I was so nervous – would it be awkward? Did I even belong there? They’d made a mistake in admitting me, right? How the heck was I going to handle the time zone thing (I’m in EST, Tin House, based in Portland, ran in PST)? I really didn’t need to worry at all. Everything was seamless. Everyone was so kind and enthusiastic. And Lance and India, the workshop organizers, began right off the bat by reminding us that we all belonged. We’d each been accepted. No mistakes were made.
The schedule was intense (especially over Zoom) but doable, with lecture recordings available after the fact in case life intervened or anyone suffered from Zoom fatigue. There were affinity group meetings for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and parent writers. Each night ended in happy hour (except for Saturday, which was reserved for a surprisingly amazing round of Zoom karaoke). There was also time for faculty and participant readings, and an (optional) 1:1 agent meeting.
My workshop leader was Alaya Dawn Johnson. I’ve been a fan of hers since THE SUMMER PRINCE and I went in feeling so overwhelmed but excited to learn from her. My cohort’s pieces were STUNNING, and I once again wondered how the heck I managed to be paired alongside of them (shout-out to Claire, Laura, Keshni, Téa, Noel, Paula, and Yvette!). But once we got underway, the nerves wore off. The pace was a completely bearable two pieces per day, and we started each workshop session with a craft exercise, and everyone had a one on one meeting with Alaya post-workshop. Everyone was so enthusiastic and supportive and thoughtful with their feedback, and by the end of the weekend, I felt like I could trust anyone in my cohort with any future pieces. Like I said before, I left feeling more confident in my writing than I can ever remember feeling, and so much of that is because of the incredible support I received from Alaya and my cohort.
While I’m sad that I didn’t get to experience Tin House in person (one day!) I am so grateful that in a year filled with hardship, I was able to participate in such a rewarding experience. If you write YA and have the chance to apply in the future, DO IT – you won’t be sorry. ♥