Interview with Andrea Brown- by Donna

As I mentioned in last week’s posting, I think of the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop as a pivotal experience in my writing career. I also consider Andrea Brown, co-director of the conference, to be my writing fairy godmother. Andrea probably has no idea, but she provided the encouragement and push I needed to finish my first middle grade novel, Boob Blogs. She was kind, tough and insightful. Who would have thought with her amazing experience in the publishing world she would have still have such a heart for new authors?

Andrea Brown is the President of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. Founded in New York City in 1981, it was the first literary agency to represent both children's book authors and illustrators. Prior to opening her own firm, Andrea was an editor at Alfred A. Knopf, and worked in the editorial departments of Random House and Dell. In 1990, she moved her literary agency to Northern California. Among their many published clients, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency represents New York Times Bestselling authors like Maggie Stiefvater, Jay Asher, and Ellen Hopkins. In addition, the agency also represents future New York Times Bestsellers like… ME :)

Andrea is also the Executive Director of the Big Sur Writing Workshops. This week I’m grateful to have Andrea respond to a few questions regarding Big Sur.

Why would a literary agency organize a writing conference? Isn't that a bit unusual?
Big Sur writing workshops began 13 years ago after I met Erin Gafill (family owns Nepenthe in Big Sur) at a writing conference in Fresno. She hooked me up with the Henry Miller Library to start a workshop as she was a writer and artist, and very involved with the Big Sur community. So, it was never, and still does not, have any formal affiliation with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. It is just me personally who is a co-director, along with the Henry Miller Library, who is the formal sponsor.

How do you select the faculty?
Over the years, as my agency has grown, I have just invited more and more of my agents to act as faculty, and as luck would have it, many of my agents have found great talent there and signed up many new clients from the workshops. We have had other agents attend in the past, such as Donald Maass, Erin Murphy and others. Now that I have 8 other agents, it just makes sense to mostly have ABLA agents there. They love it and they are great teachers. I choose all the faculty and try to find editors, and authors who are fabulous writers/editors as well as nice, approachable people. We want to create an informal, pleasant, fun and enlightening experience for everyone and since we work closely together all weekend, it is important to have people around who are a joy to be with and work with. New York editors are now begging me to bring them out to Big Sur as they love coming and getting to do what they really love about the business—work with new writers to polish their works. So, we have editors signed up into next year already.

Both the December and March workshops will focus only on juvenile books. We used to handle adult books at the March one as well as juveniles, not any longer. December 5th weekend will be at the Big Sur Lodge and the March 5 weekend will be at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Monterey as some people want the conveniences of a new hotel and some want the rugged Big Sur experience.

What makes Big Sur different from other writing conferences?
What is special about our workshops are that each writer has his/her own individualized unique weekend. No two are the same. Miracles have happened and we have about 27 success stories now. We focus all weekend on just the manuscripts—with some panels and information on the markets, business end, etc. but it is all about the craft.

What advice would you give to someone attending for the first time?
I would suggest that new writers coming to Big Sur have at least a partial manuscript ready to work on, decide what areas need the most work/revision and come prepared for anything. Some writers totally change their books. Some realize they need to write a different category/genre. Some work only on polishing the first chapter to make it ready to show.

So check it out for yourself. Maybe you’ll meet your writing fairy godmother at Big Sur.
You never know.

Big Sur Writing Workshops For Children’s Books from Picture books to Young Adult fiction. December 3 - 5, 2010 in Big Sur.
March 4 - 6, 2011 in Seaside/Monterey.

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