Saturday, August 1, 2015


The view outside my window at the WOW Retreat in Helen, Georgia!

I recently attended the 2015 WOW Retreat, and it changed my writing life. My original goal was to write historical novels and historical picture books, and while I have one published novel, (THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL), and one novel forthcoming, (RUBY LEE and ME), picture books had eluded me. I finally figured out why when Candace Fleming spoke.

I'm paraphrasing here, but Candace said every picture book has a vital idea. My picture book biography is about an oral storyteller. I jotted down my vital idea. Stories saved Ray, and then he saved the stories.

Next Candace said, "Every scene must contribute to the vital idea." Oh WOW! I pulled out a red pen. My manuscript is about stories, and I had included three spreads that showed Ray singing ballads. I love ballads, and I love those spreads, but they didn't contribute to my vital idea. As Candace lectured, I hacked 300 words with a red pen. It tightened the story right up and it became evident what the story is ultimately about.

The following day, Kristen Fulton weaved her magic. She emphasized the importance of the opening spread which she called, Once Upon A Time, and the last spread, which she termed, They Lived Happily Ever After. I spent a lot of time reading and rereading my opening and closing. One right after the other, skipping everything in between. This manuscript needed to come full circle.

You know that saying writers have, "Don't revise in a vacuum?" It turns out five heads are actually better than one. As my revisions took shape, I had the opportunity at roundtables to get feedback from industry professionals.

The icing on the cake was meeting writer Jackie Wellington. Jackie read through my manuscript and helped me play with ways to add more lyrical language.

I fell in love with my manuscript all over again--that's the magic of WOW! And I'll go you one better: I had a similar experience with a second manuscript, but that will be the focus of a later blog post.

If you write picture books, especially if you write non-fiction or historical ones, I can't recommend this conference highly enough. The 2016 WOW Conference will be held July 17-23rd. More details are available here:


  1. Shannon, thanks for the shout out...but it is all your story and what a phenomenal story it is...Glad I was helpful...That is what WOW is all about...Writers helping writers to succeed. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  2. Love this, Shannon! Can't wait to see that picture book in print, and I have no doubt I will someday soon!

  3. Great post. The retreat/intense workshop was a good place to revive a story and find that the parts are still working and the heart is stronger than ever. And, yes, to fall back in love with a story that's been hanging out in the back of the desk drawer for too long.

  4. WOW really was a phenomenal experience! I would love to read your book, either before or after it goes to print!

  5. WOW really was a phenomenal experience! I would love to read your book, either before or after it goes to print!

  6. WOW really was a phenomenal experience! I would love to read your book, either before or after it goes to print!

  7. Hi Shannon...we didn't really get to talk much (or at all)...there was so much fabulous content, it was hard to find a minute to do anything but interact with the mentors, listening to their presentations, going to round tables with them, and having critiques. Oh yeah...and eating and eating and eating yummy food. ;) I loved your brought me back there for just a minute...and that was a very good thing. ;) I

  8. Spot-on point for writing PBs. They may be the hardest to do well.