Highlights Foundation Workshop

In October, I was made the decision to take the big leap and attend my first Highlights Foundation workshop. The workshop I chose was called “Creating Page-Turning Non-fiction for Middle Grade Readers and Up.” I’ve had a fair number of non-fiction pieces published in really great children’s magazines and I would love to also create non-fiction books for children.

Lucky for me, this workshop was taught by the incredible Deborah Hopkinson, who also has a ton of experience writing page-turning historical fiction, one of my ‘dream genres.’ I love the way a really skilled writer can weave a great story around accurate historical facts.

We also had the chance to hear from and talk with Steve Sheinkin, a two-time National Book Award finalist.

The setting for the workshops is the Barn, a retreat in the woods outside of the small town of Honesdale, PA. It was almost a six hour drive from Pittsburgh, so I chose to fly to Philadelphia, then take a connecting flight to Scranton, then a driver from Highlights drove me the last hour or so to the Barn.

On site there is a lodge and cabins, and I stayed in cabin 10, a short walk from the main building where we had our classes and our meals. The food, by the way, was very healthy and fresh.

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In our classes we discussed so much, from standards to research methods to what librarians want and teachers need, to what readers want – but Deborah reminded us that our job is to tell the story. She gave each of us two thoughtful critiques and plenty more listening time outside of class. We learned a tremendous amount from her about constructing a solid non-fiction book proposal. Deborah comes from a grant-writing background and she really knows how to show the value of a project. She’s also a fine writer. I read her book Titanic: Voices From the Disaster in one day.

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It was a productive three days. During my time there I read (and loved) several books, including Sheinkin’s Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About the Civil War. At the end of this workshop, I felt like I was in a great place to put together at least one solid non-fiction book proposal. Deborah also coached me through the elements of my planned historical fiction story and a new novel about running. On the flight home, I revised my butterfly story and came away with a very strong new version. The runs on the woods, the walks around the grounds, and time spent with thoughtful writers was really invigorating.

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We were also able to take a tour of the Highlights offices and Boyds Mill Press in Honesdale. I enjoyed seeing the “where the magic happens” and connect with some editors.

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I have been considering doing one of these since 2012, but they do require a fairly significant financial investment and for some workshops, I’d have to be gone for a full week.

But I knew these workshops also offered significant resources and information.┬áBack in 2012 I thought I might bring my first novel to a “whole novel” workshop, but I’m really glad I did not. I’ve learned a lot in the past three years and I know if I had attended that session it would have been heart-wrenching. Instead, by waiting for the right moment, I think my first Highlights Workshop was a real success.

About: Elizabeth

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

One single comment

  1. […] This year I was in the Lodge, which I enjoyed just as much as the cabin. Another difference from my October 2015 visit: […]

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