We’re excited to highlight three novelists who attended novel workshops with scholarships in 2023! Halli Gomez used her General Scholarship to attend Making Magic: Writing and Refining Magical and Fantastical Stories. Anne Spollen used her General Scholarship to attend Shape Your Story: A 6-Week Novel Intensive. Jennifer Liss used her Lee Bennett Hopkins Scholarship to attend Middle Grade Writers: A Generative Retreat Experience.
Halli Gomez writes stories for children and young adults with neurodivergent characters including her award-winning young adult novel, List of Ten. When no one is looking, she sock skates though the house and talks to dogs like they are human. When people are looking, she’s working at her local independent bookstore, reading, or breaking out of escape rooms with her family. Halli lives in North Carolina with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.
She says: “I was thrilled to receive this scholarship. I have always been told that Highlights Foundation workshops are the best, as well as the campus, but have never been able to afford to go. This scholarship gave me the opportunity to experience this first-hand and it was better than I imagined.”
About the Making Magic workshop, she says “I don’t write books with magic, but I do read them and wanted to learn how to incorporate magic into stories. The workshop leaders, Nova Ren Suma and Anna-Marie McLemore did a fabulous job. They explained how magic systems can work at any level and provided the information in a way that was valuable to the beginner and advanced writer.”
She adds: “I will definitely use what I learned in future books. In fact, I started making notes on a new novel at the workshop.”
Anne lives between New York City and the New Jersey shore where she teaches college English, writes, and spends time with her three young adult children. She has published two YA books with Flux (now Northern Star): Light Beneath Ferns and Shape of Water, which was a National Book finalist.
She shares that “the most meaningful aspect [of the workshop] for me was the connection with other writers who saw value in writing for young people. Many times, I have been asked, “Why don’t you write a real book?” which means “Why don’t you write for adults?” Taking the class helped to quiet that refrain.”
“In the lessons and discussions,” she continues. “I saw that my manuscript had a certain robotic quality, a stiffness that reflected how my mind was working with long Covid. As I listened to the lectures and saw examples of what was working with middle grade, I began to revise the ms to create more lively prose. If my ms becomes a middle grade novel one day, I think it will help kids who have felt, or do feel, different or have a sense of being “other” – and that’s a lot of kids.”
Learn more about Anne at https://www.annespollenwritten.com.
For twenty years, Jennifer Liss has worked in educational publishing, developing materials for students and teachers across the country. She specializes in writing fiction for struggling and reluctant readers. Jennifer lives in Santa Rosa, California, with her husband and two sons.
Jennifer says: “My scholarship was incredibly meaningful to me. For years, I had closely followed the offerings in the Highlights Foundation catalog and I knew several published authors who were vocal Highlights Foundation supporters, but I struggled to justify the expense and time it would take to attend a program. So I was honored to receive full support for an in-person program. For two decades, I have worked as a writer and editor in educational publishing, but I have had few opportunities for professional development. In the last several years, I began focusing more on my own creative projects and published my debut MG novel this past summer. I saw my scholarship as an opportunity to deepen my craft, focus on my current WIP, and meet like-minded writers. All those things–and much more–came to fruition.”
“I was lucky to learn from the incredible Erin Entrada Kelly and Laurel Snyder,” she adds. “There were many lessons, but some highlights include: strategies for developing main character; when to stick with and when to bend middle grade perimeters; how to maintain perspective when struggling with publishing/marketing issues; and how to invest in your characters so they become whole.”
“I write hi/lo fiction (high interest/low reading level) and everything I learned during the workshop applies to helping me develop books that struggling and reluctant readers can connect to and increase their confidence and interest in reading.”
Jennifer shared her gratitude for the opportunity her scholarship provided: “For a full-time working parent, having four days to focus exclusively on my craft was an invaluable gift. In fact, when I arrived, I felt really emotional. I was shocked to be staying in the Floyd Cooper cabin with his original art on the walls. I felt a responsibility to properly utilize the gift of time and the gift of such a special place, so I was disciplined in meeting a series of minor goals on my manuscript and taking long walks to work through some ideas and take in the beautiful property. The library, the caring, talented cooking staff, the open and inspiring fellow attendees all contributed to an experience that I will never forget, an experience that I believe will make me a more skilled and thoughtful writer. I am very grateful.”