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Choosing Your 2020 Nonfiction, Poetry, or Specialty Course at the Highlights Foundation

This year, we’re hosting a series of free webinars: FINDING THE RIGHT WORKSHOP FOR YOUR 2020 WRITING GOALS. This week, Program Director Alison Green Myers will talk about our 2020 Nonfiction, Poetry and Specialty workshops. We have 8 poetry offerings this year, 5 workshops for nonfiction writers and 6 workshops in specialized areas.

What are some ways you can narrow down the offerings we have for you, to choose the one that will meet your writing goals? Here are a few questions to consider:

  • In what genre or genres are you writing? Do you write nonfiction? Or are you interested in weaving factual elements into your fiction? Do you write poetry? Or are you interested in weaving poetic conventions into your next picture book manuscript? Do you write a little bit of everything?
  • Where are you on your journey as an author or illustrator, and where are you within your current project or projects? After you have a better understanding of where you are on your journey, and any genres you are interested in learning more about–or are currently writing in–you can start to see pathways for yourself in your professional development.
  • How much feedback are you ready to receive? How do you take critique? Do you want time to work on revisions while you still have time to meet with your reviewer? Would too much feedback at this point in your process halt your momentum to finish a draft? Each of our workshops has a component of feedback, some more than others. Some feedback is given in roundtable critiques with faculty and peers, some as one-to-one conferences. It varies, but we try our best to give you this information in the workshop description on our website.

Watch the webinar:
There’s also a transcript below.

Nonfiction Workshops
We begin the year with our Telling it True: The Art of Storytelling in Narrative Nonfiction, with Steve Sheinkin, Tod Olson, Paula Yoo, and editor Connie Hsu. This workshop offers lecture, discussion, roundtable critique, one-to-one feedback with faculty, and sessions like: “Scene and Structure: Why Nonfiction Writers Should Think Like Screenwriters” and “My Outlining and Writing Process, Step by Step.” If you are not sure what long-form nonfiction looks like, check out Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s Terrible Typhoid Mary, Sonya Manzano’s Becoming Maria and Elizabeth Partridge’s Boots on the Ground. There are so many excellent examples of long-form, or narrative, nonfiction, where an interesting topic, event, or biography/autobiography is approached with a narrative arc. This workshop has been crafted by experts in this form of nonfiction writing.

Long-form nonfiction will also be discussed at our Summer Camp in Writing Nonfiction for Children & Teens. On this year’s faculty, you will get to learn from Don Tate, Lesa Cline Ransome, Heidi Stemple, Dana Rau, Rob Sanders, and special guests Yvonne Dennis and editor Daniel Nayeri. Each one is well-versed in writing nonfiction for young readers. The Summer Camp model is simple: morning keynote, daily mentor meetings, and breakout sessions on nonfiction tracks… This summer we have sessions on everything from crafting a nonfiction proposal to trimming the research to find the GOLD. Summer Camp is a great example of a workshop that offers critique for a writer looking for a lot of one-to-one feedback. You meet each day with your faculty mentor. You might work on one project all the way through during the week, or you might look at a new project each day. That’s up to you and your needs.

More nonfiction offerings include Crafting Nonfiction Picture Books for Children in a Changing World. This new workshop with Traci Sorell, Cynthia Levinson, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Mitali Perkins, and editor Kandace Coston covers the craft of writing and researching stories about the people, places, and events that have changed (or WILL change) the world.

Science & Nature Writing for Kids & Teens is back, by popular demand. This intensive workshop immerses eager authors and author/illustrators in what it means to write S-T-E-A-M (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) topics for children. This workshop has a special PLUS for science and nature enthusiasts because in addition to craft, feedback, and lectures there are also hikes, nature journaling, and other outdoor activities.

The last offering for nonfiction writers is an Unworkshop Retreat with author Deborah Heiligman. Our unworkshops are popular because you, as the book creator, drive your schedule. We fit you with three delicious meals a day, private accommodations, and room to create. You bring the project you need to write. For this special unworkshop, Deborah will be in attendance, working on her own nonfiction project. She’ll gather the group in the evening to talk nonfiction talk, and be a part of the discussions at meals. This type of experience is perfect for a nonfiction writer, who needs time and space to work on or revise a nonfiction project, and isn’t looking for formal feedback.

Poetry Workshops
First up is our Poetry Intensive for Published Writers: Find Your Muse in the Woods. This intensive is just that: intense. It is a series of 8 workshops, morning and afternoon, to learn, discuss, and craft poetry, all under the guidance of poet Gail Carson Levine. The Poetry Intensive does not focus on children’s poetry.

Another immersive experience for poets is The Craft and Heart of Writing Poetry for Children, where you will learn about poetry collections and poetic picture books, as well as stand-alone poetry. This workshop is specifically for children’s authors.

A retreat-style poetry experience is our Working Poets Retreat, where most of the day is spent in the wonder of your own words. You will gather to share and offer feedback in roundtable groups, and the faculty will host informal discussions about poetry and books. It is not a full workshop; it’s more like an Unworkshop, but with a higher level of feedback.

Power-Up Poetry: Making Connections with Poetry Collections is a brand new experience for our poets. Faculty leaders Charles Waters and Irene Latham will take poets through skills needed to build and revise poetry collections, and teach you how to bring poetry to life for children.

A little note here: in addition to all of the workshops that have Poetry in the title, please also take a look at our faculty at other workshops. Poets are everywhere in writing for children, so they appear throughout all of our offerings. For example, our Summer Camp in Writing Fiction for Children & Teens might not feel like the place for a poet, but just look at the faculty: Lesléa Newman writes novels in verse, poetic picture books, and stand-alone poetry. David Bowles writes and teaches poetry, contributes to anthologies, writes novels in verse as well as his own poetry collections. If you come to Summer Camp, and are mentored by one of the poets on faculty, think of all that you can share during your daily one-to-one sessions!

More workshops for our verse novelists in 2020 include our Novels in Verse: Analyze and Generate with Joy McCullough, Padma Venkatraman, and Andrew Karre. This workshop is meant to break down the novel in verse form, as well as offer you opportunities to generate poems for your novel in verse. You can also attend this workshop if you are writing a hybrid-style novel, with some verse and some prose.

We have two online courses launching this fall with verse novelist Cordelia Jensen. One is Crafting Image Systems in Your Verse Novel, and the other is Writing Novels in Verse or Vignette: The Advantages and Disadvantages. Look for more information on both of these online offerings in February.

Specialty Workshops
Let’s start with Writing for the Educational Market. This workshop sells out quickly each year because the educational market is hungry for content, and this workshop walks attendees through how to start working in this market. It covers the craft and business side of writing for the educational market: cover letters, sample writing, proposals, fiction opportunities, nonfiction opportunities, poetry, and more. As one testimonial reads, “This is a fantastic workshop. I came not knowing how the educational market works. And now I know exactly what to do to find work for hire, write book proposals, work for book packagers…” This is a great workshop for writers looking to expand their career.

Another specialty course keeps the school/educational market in mind. This is our Writing First Chapter Books and Early Readers. These books, meant for readers as they move from being read to,
to reading on their own, requires a specific skill set for the book creator, and this workshop is your introduction to it all: how early readers help kids learn to read; characters, emotions, and story arcs for young readers; work-for-hire projects versus submissions, and more.

And, thanks to your feedback, we’ve crafted a follow-up to the Early Readers course called Developing a Series in Chapter Books. Debbi Michiko Florence, Jennifer Laughran, with additional faculty, will help teach the principles of crafting a series for young readers. These series take up the “sweet spot” between early readers and middle grade. They are layered in their story structure, but streamlined enough for a developing reader. Debbi’s own Jasmine Toguchi series accomplishes just that. And agent Jennifer Laughran is well-versed in bringing a chapter book series to market. These courses are designed back-to-back for a reason. Take one, take both, and get your chapter book series off and running!

Also in this “specialty” area is our How to Create Concept Books for Children with Salina Yoon, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Denise Fleming, and creative director Patti Ann Harris. Come to get answers to the questions: Can a concept book be wordless? Can you submit a concept book if you aren’t an illustrator? Can you use photography in concept books? How in the world can you reinvent a concept that’s been done 100 times? And, more importantly, what do you need to know about word choice and play to make a concept book sing?

The next specialty workshop is a brand new retreat this fall called Pushing the Limits: Writing Experimental Fiction for YA and Middle Grade Readers. This workshop includes information about novels in verse, graphic novels, vignettes, ways to play with form, with structure, with chronology, and ways to intertwine genres. This workshop is for those novels that seem to break all the rules, but in the best possible ways!

This next workshop doesn’t quite fit the mold of “specialty”– But the faculty makes it so.

We tend to run our graphic novel workshop every other year, and in 2020, we do not have a graphic novel workshop as a standalone. In addition to Pushing the Limits workshop, graphic novels will also have the spotlight during our Summer Camp Intensive in Illustration. Along with talk of narrative arc, and media during the hands-on sessions, our special guest editor Kiara Valdez will host a session called, “The Graphic Novel Process.” So, the workshop itself is broad in nature for illustrators, but if you are creating a graphic novel, please know that this is a place for you as well.

Need more help to choose?
If you’re still undecided, you can visit our Upcoming Workshops for detailed descriptions, faculty bios, and information about our extensive scholarship program. Our website has a new filtering feature where you can filter by genre, subject, career level and more.

You can also contact one of our Ambassadors to get individual help in finding your perfect workshop: Cat Galeano, Rona Shirdan, Alex Villasante, or program coordinator Jo Lloyd. They will work with you one-to-one to find the perfect course for you to help accomplish your 2020 writing goals. What’s more, they can assist with information about the Highlights Foundation experience, and with details about our scholarship program.

One last thing: if you register for a workshop by January 31, use code BUCKETLIST to get $100 off!

Download a pdf outlining the 2020 specialty workshop choices.

Posted on: January 24, 2020

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