google-site-verification: googlee03b52885d65135a.html Workshops and Retreats | Your First Fifteen Pages


3 Ways to Work With Us!

Want to go beyond the Your First Fifteen Pages book and a lonely, solitary writing practice? Join us for a workshop or a retreat. We offer three options to grow your story.  Your First Fifteen Pages workshops introduce you to the basic elements of storytelling, walk you through finding the why of your story and identifying your inciting incident.  We go over how to get the who, what, where, when and why of your story on those early pages and you will leave with a plan for moving forward. Click here for more information on our upcoming workshops.


Hoping for more?  Join us for a First 15/5 writing retreat on a lush farm where you can focus on writing your story.  Our writing retreats combine morning discussions about the concepts and techniques found in Your First Fifteen Pages, time to write and perfect your pages, and one-on-one consultations with author Sandra O'Donnell.  You will leave the retreat with a clearly defined why and inciting incident for your book and a strong draft or rewritten pages of your manuscript that lay a path forward for the remainder of your novel or memoir.  Throughout the week we will surround you with Southern comfort and hospitality.  Click here for all the delicious details.


We know that many of you have work and family commitments that make traveling to attend a retreat nearly impossible.  That is why we offer the option of bringing a retreat to you!  If you arrange a suitable space and line up a minimum of 10 participants, for a four-day retreat or 25 participants for a two-day workshop, we will come to you. Contact us about doing a local retreat or workshop.




First 15 Workshops

What is the difference between a writer who never finds an agent or sells their manuscript to a publisher and an author who becomes a best seller? The first fifteen pages. The job, the explicit goal, of those critical first fifteen pages, is to hook agents, editors, and ultimately readers. Those first pages need to grab us if not by the collar, at least by the sleeve and say, “I’ve got you. Keep reading.” If your first fifteen pages don’t do that, your manuscript won’t make it past an agent’s slush pile, and your book will never land in the hands of a reader or brighten the screen of their Kindles.  


In this workshop, we help you get past the slush pile and open the door for the big ask every writer dreams of – a request for a full manuscript read, an offer of representation and ultimately a book contract. We give you a solid foundation for the story you dream of telling, which will put you far ahead of those also competing for the attention of agents and editors.  


The workshop is for writers at all levels.  For beginning writers, the workshop will help you get started on a firm footing.  And for those who've been at it a while, the workshop will help you identify the gaps in your manuscript that may keep you from connecting with agents and editors.


What you will learn:

  • How to define the why of your story, and the inciting incident the first steps toward creating a story that keeps readers reading. 


  • Who needs to show up in those early pages of your story and how to create compelling, distinct characters.


  • Why it is important to ground your reader in the where and when early in your story and ways to do that beyond the year was 1950 and she grew up in Starkville, Mississippi.


  • How to move the action of your story forward using complications, dilemmas, decisions and indecisions. 


By the end of the workshop, you will have a clear understanding of how to build the beginning of your story so that it leads seamlessly to a middle-build and a resolution.  You will see how to develop a novel that captivates readers and keeps them reading to the end.  And, you will have a cache of examples and techniques you can use to continue developing your manuscript.  


Your First Fifteen Pages workshop is the place to begin for writers who have been struggling with how to get started or why their story isn’t working. Join us and get out of the storytelling weeds and on the page!


Upcoming Workshops

Your First Fifteen Pages Workshop SEPTEMBER
Story Tree Farm
Your First Fifteen Pages Workshop JUNE
Story Tree Farm
Your First Fifteen Pages Workshop MAY (25)
Story Tree Farm



First 15/5 Day Writing Retreat

Do you long to get out of your routine and go to a place where you can concentrate on your writing and your story?  Do you crave conversations with other writers about writing? Are you looking for writing mentors to help you grow your story and your writing chops?  Do you love good food, peaceful surroundings, and Southern hospitality?  Then we have the perfect retreat for you.


Our First 15/5 Day Writing Retreat was designed to help new and seasoned writers grow their stories, build a tribe of writers, and gain access to writing mentors who will guide your work.  We want to help you get past the slush pile and open the door for the big ask every writer dreams of – a request for a full manuscript read, an offer of representation and ultimately a book contract.


During the morning sessions, we will introduce you to the concepts and techniques in Your First Fifteen Pages to build a solid foundation for the story you dream of telling. And, we'll show how understanding these concepts and employing these techniques will help those with manuscripts identify the gaps in their story.


In the afternoon, you will have time to write and perfect your first fifteen pages.  You will also have two scheduled private one-on-one sessions with either Sandra or Laura to talk about your story and get their feedback and input.


This retreat is for beginning writers AND for those who have a pile of thanks but no thanks rejections sitting in their inbox. It is for the writer seeking a traditional book deal AND those who want to produce the best self-published book possible. It is for those who dream of being on a bestseller list or winning a major book award, AND for those who want to write the best book possible and see where it takes them.


What you will learn:

  • How to incorporate the basic elements of storytelling into your story.

  • How to use the inciting incident to kick off and drive your story. 

  • Who to invite to your first fifteen pages party.

  • How to layer characters.

  • How to determine the best point of view for your story.

  • How to use action to drive your story forward.

  • How to use dialogue to move your story forward.

  • How and when to impart information without boring the reader.

  • How to create the setting for your story and genre.

  • How to juice up your story with delicious details.


Our retreats are held at Story Tree Farm, a private five-acre retreat center 90 minutes south of Nashville.  The cost of the retreat is $3995 which includes all meals and a shared room for the duration of your 5-night stay.


2019 Retreats - SOLD OUT!!

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