Wisdom from the 2013 EMLA Retreat

As Laurie Ann Thompson mentioned on Monday, some of us were lucky enough to attend June’s EMLA annual retreat, held this year in Big Sky, Montana. For as long as I’ve been with the agency, I’ve heard tales of the amazingness of this retreat—the friendships made, the wisdom shared, the inspiration inspired by late-night conversations (and the musical stylings of in-house client band Erin Murphy’s Dog!)—and I’m here to attest that the rumors were all true. It was an incredible weekend, and I’m already scheming to go back next year.

Every morning at the retreat, there was some kind of panel or group discussion, and I did my best to take notes. One session I found particularly helpful was the “Experienced Author Panel,” which consisted of clients who have published two or more books. For us debuters, it was great to get some advice from authors who have already been around the block a couple of times, and I thought that I would share some of my favorite pieces of wisdom from that panel here on the blog.

On dealing with edits:

The reason behind a suggested edit is more important than the actual suggestion.

If a specific change that your editor is suggesting for your manuscript doesn’t feel right, try to think about the reason behind that suggestion. What, exactly, isn’t working in the manuscript as it is now? You may be able to figure out a different change to make that will solve the problem just as well.

On reviews:

Don’t believe that the review is you.

This goes for both bad reviews and good ones. If you buy into everything that the good ones say, then the bad ones will devastate you when they come out. (And they will come out.)

On being comfortable with self-promotion:

The author is a spokesperson for an entire team.

By the time your book is published, it doesn’t just belong to you, but also to your agent, your editor, your illustrator (if you have one), and a slew of other people without whose hard work it wouldn’t have hit the shelves. So if self-promotion makes you feel uncomfortable, remember that you’re speaking not only on your own behalf, but for everyone who has worked hard to make your book a success.

On celebrating:

Celebrate everything good.

This is a piece of advice I’ve heard many times before, but I can always stand to be reminded. Goodness knows that this business comes with plenty of rejection and disappointment. So when something good happens, no matter how small, celebrate it!


And also:

Try harder.

You need more practice.

Always be working on something new.

Have a paper and pencil with you at all times.

Surround yourself with people who support your dreams.

Honor the times when you need to stop writing and have new life experiences.

And, my personal favorite:

If you’re not scared, you’re on the wrong ride.


Many thanks to the experienced authors who shared their thoughts–are they wise, or what?  🙂

Readers: Which (if any) of these pieces of advice resonate most with you? What’s the best piece of writerly advice you’ve received recently? Please share in the comments!

Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Stars, her debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published in 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com.


Filed under Advice, Celebrations, craft~writing, Editing and Revising, Promotion, Writing, Writing and Life

7 responses to “Wisdom from the 2013 EMLA Retreat

  1. Pingback: Advice for writerly types | tara dairman

  2. OMG, I needed to hear “If you’re not scared, you’re on the wrong ride.” I am constantly terrified! Good to know I’m not the only one!


  3. Alexa

    My favorite here is the last one about being on the wrong ride if you’re not scared. Also resonating is honoring the times you need to stop writing. I am on vacation right now and just rode the scariest new roller coaster on the block. It was thrilling and new and scary as hell! All can be said of this process. Good to be on the literal side of it for a change. Heartfelt post. Thanks.


  4. I love that last one: if you’re not scared, you’re on the wrong ride. There are so many days I’m ready to give up for many reasons, and fear (of never making it, of the constant rejection, of oh so many things) is a huge part of it. Thanks to all those experienced writers for passing on their wisdom, and thanks Tara for sharing it here.


  5. I found the panel very helpful, too. Their advice was a nice mixture of encouragement and reality. It was interesting how they (even though published) hit on so many of the things I struggle with as a pre-published writer.
    Thanks for sharing the wisdom, Tara!


  6. annbedichek

    This is fabulous! I’m definitely counting the days until the next retreat!

    And I love the scary ride one — but I also like the “find the reasons behind the revision suggestion” because having a strategy like that makes me a wee less scared. 🙂


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