Monday, June 12, 2017

On Returning to the Highlights Foundation -- no longer a rookie, but still learning

Some of you may remember my blog post from last year about my first Workshop at The Highlights Foundation. I was such a rookie I didn't know how to find my cabin and I especially didn't know how to juggle my minor characters or add humor to a serious novel. I learned so much and came away impressed and vowing to return as soon as possible.

That blog post received thousands of page views, more than any other blog post in my seven years of blogging, except, oddly enough, my Yorkshire post. In the latter case, I suspect kids writing book reports on The Shakespeare Stealer found it, shall we say, helpful. But in the former case, my Highlights blog post must have touched a nerve. It seems every children's writer longs to attend a Highlights Foundation Workshop (or Unworkshop). And it undoubtedly helped that Highlights posted a link to my post on their facebook page. Thank you, Highlights!


The Barn at the Highlights Foundation -- where magic happens!


This month, I was thrilled to again attend a workshop and again, it was Novels in Verse (an Advanced version), with returning faculty members Kathryn Erskine and Alma Fullerton, plus returning guest author Padma Venkatraman. They're all delightful human beings and fabulous writers who go the extra mile to coach and encourage their students. They told me to dig deeper and add more emotion so that was what I worked on, along with combining two characters into one to streamline the story a bit.

I learned so much from them and was so inspired that my novel soared to new heights in only four days. What impresses me the most about Kathy and Alma is although they divide up the twelve attendees and each mentor six of us, both of them read all twelve novels! I don't know how they do it.


Hello, Cabin 9, my old friend! New name holders and easy-to-see Cabin numbers this year.


I also don't know how I accomplished so much. There must be a magical time warp in those cabins that allows writers to achieve more in a few short days than we ever could at home. Whatever it is, I hope they keep it up!



My smartest move this year was adding an Unworkshop Day after the Workshop was officially over on Thursday (oh, how I wish I'd added two!). I got a chance to go on the tour of the Highlights offices in Honesdale, ate another delicious dinner, and then hunkered down in my cabin and flew through my revisions in close to four hours of hard work that evening. It was almost a mystical experience, sitting in Cabin 9 late at night, typing away on my laptop and seeing my characters grow stronger with every tweak.

As I write this, I've been home only a few days and already I want to go back. Not just for the writing inspiration and camaraderie, but for the fresh and delicious food:

Lunch! 

Dessert (baked apples - yum!)

And for the fun of the Word Garden. I was thrilled when the rain stopped and I could play in it. Moving word rocks around is therapeutic and led to more than one new line for my novel.



Here's a tiny hint of what my novel in verse is all about:




Ready to sign up yet?



21 comments:

  1. What a great experience...again. I've never attended one of these but have it on my wish list for the future. Sounds like you accomplished a lot during the time. Thanks for sharing (the food looks delicious!).

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    1. Greg, I firmly believe that every writer of children's literature should experience this at least once. And when you do, I'll bet you'll want to go back!

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  2. This sounds like such a wonderful experience. One of my beta readers from my writing group has gone to more than one Highlights Foundation workshop and has always come away inspired. Love the sentence you came up with in the sentence garden.

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! And I'm not at all surprised your beta reader has come away inspired by Highlights.

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  3. Wow, what a wonderful experience! You really had the intimacy of small classes and the support from some great mentors/teachers. I admire Kathy and Alma, and really love Padma's work. Such a beautiful place for a retreat. Love your sentence in the word garden. I'm so happy for you.

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    1. Thanks, Patricia! Small classes seem to be the norm there. Which is excellent because you really get to know each other and learn from each other, not just from the faculty.

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  4. Sounds like a fantastic experience. So glad that you got so much out of it again.

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    1. Me too, Natalie. Hope you get a chance to go there someday and experience it for yourself.

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  5. I think I have been to about a dozen Highlights workshops. I could take a dozen more if it were possible. Traveling from California puts a bit of a hitch in those plans. Next time I go, I think I will add an Unworkshop day as well. Glad you had such a powerful experience.

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    1. Yay, Rosi! A dozen trips to Highlights means a dozen chances to experience the magic for yourself. I'm so jealous. There were several people attending my workshop who traveled from a distance. I'm lucky I can drive it in three and a half hours. Yes, definitely add an Unworkshop Day (two would be ideal) the next time you go.

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  6. Sounds like you had an incredibly productive time! Keep up the hard work!

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  7. Congratulations on going and on improving your book! I'm interested by the hint as to what your book is about; it sounds great!

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    1. Thanks, Completely. (I'm sorry I don't know your real name!)

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  8. YOU are so fortunate to be sorta next-door country road neighbors of Highlights Joanne! (at least, compared to driving up from Florida . . . )

    The faculty you've highlighted each have meant so much to me - their novels which I have read more than once, but also their abiding interest my novel. And to know that your story wears the cloak of the workshop magic 2x around brings a smile to my face.

    Love the cabin & rock garden images.

    With hugs from your Highlights 2016 pal

    p.s.
    thousands.... I am WOWED about your followers

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    1. Thanks, Jan! Missed you there this year. :( Yes, I am extremely lucky to live within driving distance. The caring, giving faculty is one of the main reasons I go to Highlights.

      And believe me, thousands is NOT the norm. Most of my blog posts get a measly few hundred page views.

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  9. Wow! This sounds like an amazing experience. I am so glad you shared it with us and that you were able to go again. I can't get over all the work you got done. The environment you described is delightful and perfect for writing. Kathy and Alma sound like they did an awesome job. :)
    ~Jess

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    1. Oh yes, Jess. Everyone who attends Highlights seems to feel the same way. The faculty is outstanding and there's just something about Highlights that encourages a writer to accomplish amazing things... Wish I could live there!

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  10. Ohmygoodness, this sounds SO amazing! And you're right, I think every writer harbors a secret wish to hang out at the Highlights Cabins, some day. I loved your pics--and that word garden!--but love most of all that your novel is soaring. Here's to your success, and joy in writing, my friend!

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