Teaching and Speakingflourish glyph

Workshops, Conferences, and Writers’ Retreats

 

Ongoing & Upcoming

 

Deborah moderates the Forum on Writing for Children, where authors and publishing professionals talk about their work and answer questions from the audience. Eight programs a year, four each semester, are open to the public.

Forum on Writing for Children, Spring 2012

Tuesday, February 7—Andrea Davis Pinkney
Andrea Davis Pinkney is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of 30 books for children and young adults. As Vice President, Executive Editor for Scholastic, Andrea has acquired and edited a robust mix of titles, including Newbery and Coretta Scott King Award winners. One of the "25 Most Influential Black Women in Business," she was also named one of the "25 Most Influential People in Our Children's Lives" by Children's Health Magazine.

Tuesday, March 27—Enrique Floris-Galbis
Artist, novelist, and devoted teacher, Enrique Floris-Galbis has taught at Parsons School of Design and is a frequent lecturer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Frick Collection, and The Museum of Modern Art. Enrique's first novel, Raining Sardines, is an honor book for the Americas Award for Latin American YA Literature. He received the ALA Pura Belpre Author Honor Award for Ninety Miles to Havana.

Tuesday, April 24— Getting Published Panel
Meet three publishing professionals who will share their expertise about publishing books for children and young adults. You'll have an opportunity to direct questions to Tim Ditlow, Associate Publisher, Amazon Children's Publishing; Louise May, Editorial Director, Lee & Low Books; and Linda Pratt, Literary Agent, Wernick & Pratt Agency.

Tuesday, May 1—Selene Castrovilla
Selene Castrovilla, called "an author to watch" by School Library Journal, is an award-winning teen and children's author. Her teen novels are Saved by the Music, The Girl Next Door and Melt. Her children's books—both about little-known events in the American Revolution—are By the Sword and Upon Secrecy. Selene is a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at The New School.

All programs 6:30–7:30 p.m.
Tickets at The New School Box Office, Mon–Fri 1–7 p.m.;
call 212-229-5488. Admission $5.00
Readings at 66 West 12th Street, Room 510.
For more information: 212-229-5611.

 

Deborah is an MFA Mentor at Simmons. For her mentorship, Alison Ernst worked on a novel. Alison shares a few thoughts on the creative process:

I don’t believe in writer’s block.” Some author I admire said that in print somewhere, so I took that as my creed as well. But then I ran up against something partway through a novel, a project I was attempting to complete with the help of my MFA mentor, Deborah Brodie, during the last semester of the course of study. It may not have been a block, but it certainly was a wall, an impasse, a choking web of brambles. I was stuck.

Deborah noted that one of the character’s voices seemed to rise above the others, that of Rosy. This character started out as a fourth grader, maybe fifth. She observed that Rosy seemed older, and encouraged me to consider whether this Rosy was a teenager. I explored the character, her experience, her role, and settled on her as a seventh grader.

When I started the story, and Rosy was younger, I knew who she was, and what she was going to do. I’d written what I knew, and now was facing the void. What was going to happen next? Who is this older Rosy? I had no idea!

My mentor suggested exploring Rosy in writing that would not necessarily be submitted. What does Rosy like to do? What kind of gum does she chew? What music does she listen to? Simple questions that I could not seem to answer. That’s when the roadblock/barrier/dam really solidified.

Freewriting, which usually works for me to get the words and images flowing, wasn’t working. I was fighting something. And finally gave in and started writing … about me. Rosy was me and not me. Things that happened to her happened to me, though not the way they were happening to her in the story. And all the other characters and their experiences were me, or things I knew and had observed. I gave up, gave in, and started writing again.

The story of Rosy is not autobiographical, but there are elements from my lived experience I am (subconsciously) quilting into her story. This image, fiction writing as quilting, feels right to me. I take bits and pieces of experience, and fashion something new (and, I hope, beautiful) out of them.

John Irving claims he knows the last line of his stories before he starts. And good for him, but I am finding that I am not alone in my kind of process, mucking around and not knowing exactly where I’m going much of the time, until something takes hold and a scene/story unfolds.

At this writing, I am not completely sure what will happen to my Rosy, how her story will end. But by allowing myself to go where she leads, even if that’s back to me and my life-experience, I have faith she will let me know.”

Elaine Dimopoulos also worked on a novel for her mentorship. She says:

I came to Deborah Brodie with 54 pages and a very particular idea of what I thought my novel was about. She pushed me to defend my choices and to reexamine my characters and plotline. The process was, at times, quite painful — at other times, exhilarating. Ultimately, though, I love the story that fought its way onto the page and that continues to emerge.

Deborah helped me learn about myself and how I work. Lessons learned, a list of mantras:

  • Not every project is publishable. I may have to write 100 pages to produce ten good ones; likewise, I may generate five novels before the sixth is publication-ready.
  • Dessert first! I ought to write first the parts of a story that are the most vivid in my head, the parts I am most excited to write.
  • When creating character, avoid clichéd extremes — e.g., the cynical teen, the out-of-touch mom. Character ‘happens’ best when I’m not forcing it.
  • Many children’s books are serious; too few are humorous. One of the semester’s especially interesting discoveries: If I strive for hilarity when writing a scene, it comes out only mildly (but satisfyingly) amusing, and the writing has a light and lively quality (if I, and Deborah, do say so!).

Recent Highlights

Jean Feiwel, Senior Vice President and Publisher, Feiwel & Friends and Square Fish Books: 

The art and craft of a Book Editor is something that — within the context of a publishing house — is not taught anymore, and what a loss that is for editors and authors, and for their books.

Deborah’s Master Class was a deep, instructive, nurturing, and comprehensive tutorial on the editorial process in its many facets. It should be required for people embarking on and truly interested in a publishing career.”

Ellen R. Braaf, SCBWI Mid-Atlantic, Regional Advisor:

“Deborah Brodie’s all-day, craft-focused workshop Craft a Character, Provoke a Plot was fantastic. The glowing evaluations speak for themselves:

‘I liked the way Deborah brought everyone into the conversations and how she related her comments back to the questions/concerns we all posed at the beginning. She was organized, informative, and friendly. I could easily have listened for a longer time.’

‘The Sunday workshop was great. Intense, yet we covered a lot of material in a good, deep way. I felt energized and excited.’

‘Ray Bradbury said writing a novel is like jumping off a cliff and inventing wings on the way down. I came away from Deborah’s workshop with lots of feathers.’

‘I would attend anything that Deborah Brodie offered.’

“Ditto that!”

Barbara Shook Hazen, author of The Knight Who Was Afraid of the Dark and Katie’s Wish, moderator:

“Deborah’s input was valuable, insightful and so well said. A write-on guide to making an ‘iffy’ manuscript salable.”

Holly Brady, Director, Stanford Professional Publishing Courses

Deborah has a unique ability to create a nurturing, fear-free environment for writers as she provides them with practical, hard-nosed advice on how to get their work done.”

Mary Ann Sabia, Vice President and Associate Publisher:

The time that Deborah Brodie spent with our staff was inspirational and informative. Deborah is a natural teacher and moderator. One of the things that impressed me most was her ability to take individual concerns and questions and respond to them within a relevant big-picture context.

Deborah is not only warm and caring, but also extremely knowledgeable and passionate about this industry. She understands and appreciates the challenges and benefits of both small and large houses.”

Yolanda LeRoy, Editorial Director:

Deborah is a consummate editor. She possesses that rare blend of exceptional intelligence, creativity, business acumen, and people skills.”

Neil Watson, Executive Director, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York:

Deborah Brodie happens to be one of those genius editors who can both communicate and inspire. For our “How To Get Published in Children's Books” panel at the Katonah Museum of Art, she gave practical advice, warm encouragement, and in-the-trenches anecdotes—all of which left the audience feeling a little dizzy with new knowledge and raring to go.”

Robin Koontz, SCBWI Oregon Regional Advisor and author:

We had the good fortune to have Deborah as part of our conference faculty, and in fact, we invited her to come back! She is truly a warm and giving person with a relentless passion about the craft of writing and doing it well. Her experienced advice and encouragement left us all feeling ‘We can do this!’”

Anna Olswanger, conference coordinator, author, and literary agent at Liza Dawson Associates:

When Deborah Brodie spoke at the Jewish Children's Book Writers Conference at the 92nd Street Y, she talked about the difficult goal of balancing life and work. She urged writers to stay centered without losing the joy in writing. ‘Write your favorite parts first,’ she said. ‘Don't be afraid.’ The audience quickly discerned that Deborah does what she says. She is centered. She is joyful. She is, unsurprisingly, an excellent speaker and teacher.”

Deborah created and taught the Writing for Children Workshop and Literary Salons.

Luis Jaramillo, Associate Chair, Writing Program, The New School:

I couldn't hope for a more professional, enthusiastic, knowledgeable colleague. Deborah Brodie is an untiring editor and champion of student work, and I know from the career trajectories of some of her former MFA students that not only is Deborah encouraging and tough, but she also gets students published.”

Two students reflect on their experiences in the Summer Writers Colony workshop:

Charlotte Doyle:

Deborah forged a workshop atmosphere of respect and trust that allowed us to become a loving and supportive group—despite our differences in age, culture, and writing experience. As we listened to her comments, we learned to do close, respectful readings without losing a sense of overall intent and shape. We learned to cheer each other on as the evident progress appeared.”

Margaret Crocker:

Under Deborah's guidance, our workshop and Salon buzzed with creativity, commentary, and camaraderie. I was sad to see it end!”

One Literary Salon guest was Ann M. Martin, bestselling author of the wildly successful Baby-sitters Club series, as well as the Newbery Honor winner A Corner of the Universe. She says:

I found a roomful of students who were enthralled not only by the material and their experiences in the course thus far, but by Deborah herself. She had clearly captured her students and fanned their interest in the subject matter. Deborah is a highly respected and sought-after editor, and her students are lucky to learn from one of the best.”

Elizabeth Partridge, author of the Printz Honor Book John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth: 

Our small writing group invited Deborah Brodie to come and teach us for a week. We each ponied up a sixth of her fee, and stayed at the largest house belonging to two of our members. Half of each day was devoted to writing, the other half to prompts and manuscript critiquing. Deborah’s insights were incredible, and put many of us into a flurry of new work, as well as ah-ha! revising. In the evenings we ate, laughed and relaxed. I have high regard for Deborah’s ability to critique, as well as to lead group workshops. Two thumbs up!”

Tom Birdseye, author of Airmail to the Moon:

Although a fiction writer by trade, I have to make nothing up when it comes to the benefit of a retreat with Deborah Brodie. Not only does she bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, but — most important — complete commitment. You will grow as a writer. That's a fact!”

Patricia Wittmann, author of Go Ask Giorgio!

With her extensive editorial experience, Deborah knows how to ask the ‘right’ questions to encourage you to view your manuscript with new eyes and take it to the next level. Most of all, Deborah is passionate about good writing. Passionate in a way that is invigorating and highly contagious — attending one of her workshops is a rare experience indeed!”

Gary Hines, author of Midnight Forests:

Deborah’s review of my manuscripts proved invaluable! There’s nothing like having a world-class editor right at your fingertips. Too bad it couldn’t have been longer than a week. She also held lively discussions with us and passed on writing exercises and techniques that I’m still finding helpful.”

Suzanne C. Johnson, author of Fribbity Ribbit!

The group segments were fresh and productive, and even more so, for me, were the private sessions. Deborah’s coaching was insightful, specific and frank. She was clearly committed to guiding me into tapping my own writing potential—some of which I truly did not know existed. Retreats with Deborah Brodie are empowering.”

Anna Grossnickle Hines, author of Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts, winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Excellence in Poetry:

At the two retreats I did with Deborah, we did a great deal of laughing and a lot of hard work. Her encouragement to open possibilities and explore by writing snippets, scenes, bits of scenes, the parts that most appeal to you — ‘Dessert First!’ Deborah calls it — is invaluable in getting a story started or, if you are further along, ‘unstuck.’ And if you need a little help finding your dessert, Deborah is generous with stimulating prompts and questions.”