Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 3, 2012

Review of Ocean Writer’s Retreat

I thought you might like to hear about the Ocean’s Writer’s Retreat I organized last week in Avalon, NJ. What set this apart from other Retreats was being able to have our full manuscripts critiqued by a children’s industry professional. Everyone had the option to also get a fifty page critique with the other editor/agent. This was such a no brainer that everyone chose to meet for an hour with both.

Agent John Cusick from the Scott Treimel Agency and Editor Jessica Garrison from Dial Books for Young Readers did a great job with the critiques and were there 100% to help us with our manuscripts. They are both super smart and savvy. Can’t say enough about them.

This was the perfect spot to do our one-on-one critiques and group critique sessions.

It was also a good place to have some after dinner drinks and talk about books and life with Jessica and John.  Dee Falvo loved that swing and was the master at making the frozen drinks.

The weather made the porch a wonderful place to enjoy each other.

We had a nice big kitchen and each of us were assigned the responsablity to make a lunch or dinner.  We probalby could have stayed another week without buying any more food.  John and Jessica were so great.  They even helped us clean up each night after dinner.

The kitchen was stocked with food for breakfast, but everyone had to make their own each day.

This is where we ate dinner and kept the wine flowing.

Every night we had a different themed dinner and worked around all the allergies and likes and dislikes.

We ended on Saturday night with a nice dinner at the Whitebriar Restaurant, which was in walking distance of the house.  It was a beautiful night and we even got to see a skunk.  He didn’t cause a stink.

Every night the group played games with John and Jessica.  Dee Falvo was in charge of coming up with the evening fun.  One night I laugh so hard, I barely could breathe.  It’s funny how a few drinks can make that happen.

No one had to drive, because the house had seven bedrooms and six baths and no one had problems walking up the stairs.

The house offered a lot of other spaces to sit, talk, and watch TV if you had the opportunity.

But the most important thing was we had plenty of time to work on our manuscripts and get them in better shape and talk about the things that will carry us over the finish line. We used the last day to brainstorm new ideas for that next book.

We got to get to know Karen Forunati better. She is from Connecticut and was a great addition to our group – we had seven writers, plus John and Jessica. Karen had a Contemporary, adventure, thriller, historical, romantic, fantasy. Yes, she managed to get all those elements in her middle grade fiction story.

Anita Nolan submitted a contemporary, middle grade humorous adventure, spy story. Barb Massa had a young contemporary middle grade manuscript about kids struggling to win a Lego Contest. Sharon Sorokin James had a humorous Sci-fi, Outerspace middlegrade fiction story. Dee Falvo had a young adult contemporary, historical, adventure, fantasy novel. Virginia Upton sent in her humorous, adventure, contemporary, fantasy, middle grade novel that she rewrote after the June conference feedback. I submitted “Poll Girl,” my edgy young adult contemporary novel about a girl who loses her mother and drops her old life for new friends who push her off the “Good Girl” path, while her father runs for the US Senate. John, Jessica, and the group helped us see any weaknesses. Now we have a clear path on what needs to be revised.

Barbara Massa and I even got in the pool, before things got started on Wendesday.  There was even a ping-pong table out back, but we didn’t get time to play.

Spending four days working on our manuscripts, getting feedback from an editor and agent on our full manuscript and having 6 other authors read the full thing and share all their ideas was invaluable.

Hope you will be able to join us for a future repeat.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Omg Kathy, how did I miss this? It sounds like an absolute blast. It reminds me of those Toms River retreats of yesteryear 😉 And reading this fills me with total determination to make it there next year!



  2. What a beautiful house! I can’t imagine all of this being any better than you (and the pictures) describe it. I’m so glad it worked out well. It seems everyone got a lot out of it and enjoyed the time spent together. I would think it would be impossible to to come home and NOT want to be writing 24/7! lol

    I know I will never be able to do this, even if I were financially able, simply because of the many chemical exposures involved, but it’s nice to see. And knowing you, you’ll come up with other opportunities to mingle and write together 🙂


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