#HFGather: 2024 Scholarship Celebration and Information Session

Jan 25, 2024 | HFGather, Podcasts, Scholarship Stories

Update 2/1/24: our 2024 scholarship application period is now closed. To be informed of future scholarship opportunities, join the mailing list.

#HFGather: 2024 Scholarship Celebration and Information Session

Highlights Foundation Program Director Alison Green Myers celebrated our 2024 scholarship program with some special guests: scholarship recipients Camellia Koo, Karol Ruth Silverstein, Elyse Arring and Shuba Mohan. Special thanks to our ASL Interpreter, Cynthia Norman.

After greeting everyone, Alison gave an overview of our website’s scholarship pages, types of scholarships, types of programs, and what the scholarship application looks like. She then introduced some storytellers who have been through this process, having received scholarships and used them with different types of programs.

Camellia Koo received an in-person scholarship and chose to attend Summer Camp. She shared that after taking a kidlit writing course at her local university, she was hooked and happened upon the Highlights Foundation right in the middle of our scholarship application period. She applied and was very surprised to receive a General Scholarship. She chose Summer Camp because she wanted an in-person experience with structure, mentorship, community and guidance. She felt like “these are my people” and came away with a feeling of “you belong here, your stories matter.”

Shuba Mohan was bitten by the writing bug during the pandemic, when she wrote a whole book, and even got editing help and then started sending it out. Many rejections later, she thought “I really enjoyed this whole process, and I want to learn more about it.” Through research she found the Highlights Foundation and decided to apply for a scholarship, thinking: “If I do get the scholarship, I’ll actually have a path forward on how to learn more.” Shuba was drawn to the in-person courses but knew she couldn’t make that happen as her life was very full at that time. So she applied for a scholarship to attend Linda Epstein’s online novel intensive, and says it was a fabulous experience even BEFORE the class began “because everyone that I worked with at Highlights…were so professional and responsive…everyone there answered every one of my questions.”

Karol Ruth Silverstein had heard about the Highlights Foundation for years as an active member of SCBWI. Despite having some anxiety about travelling to the Retreat Center (she has some mobility impairment) she decided to apply for a Whole Novel Workshop. She was working on the second draft of a middle grade adventure and “really needed that holistic feedback.” Karol says that filling out the scholarship application “is instructive in itself, with deep and probing questions.”  The Whole Novel application “really helped me explore my own novel even if I hadn’t gotten a scholarship.”  “The Retreat Center gets pretty high marks,” she said, “in terms of a mobility disability.” She was grateful for all the support she received from Highlights in this regard, especially when she asked to bring her sister along to help mitigate her anxiety. This “made me feel comfortable, taken care of, and fully present for the course.”

Elyse Arring received a Kidlit Pride Scholarship and chose to use it for a Personal Retreat. She is a caregiver who works at home and has two special needs kids. She said, “managing all of that doesn’t always leave me a lot of time in my own head.” At her first Personal Retreat she formed a writing group with 3 others who have since become “3 of my closest friends…and we stay in touch daily. ”  She adds “Everyone I’ve ever met at Highlights has been kind, and fascinating.” She found her Personal Retreat to be a lovely experience: “The Personal Retreat is really an opportunity to get what you need out of it.”

Executive Director George Brown thanked our donors for supporting our scholarship program, and then program team members Alex Villasante, Molly Chao and Emily Rosenthal shared their experiences with In-Community Retreats, which do have some craft element but mainly are a chance to meet with “people who will understand the kind of stories you are trying to tell. You build community that you take with you,” Alex said.

During the Gather, program assistants Molly and Emily were busy answering questions in the chat, and Alison answered some of them directly, but below you will find all of the questions asked during the Gather, with their answers.

According to Alison, the two main takeaways from the Gather should be:

  • Please apply!
  • Please reach out with questions.

If you missed the live session, you can watch it here.
Please note: closed captions are being added to the video below. When they are finished, you can see them by hovering over the bottom of the video and choosing the “CC” icon.

Questions Asked During the #HFGather

Below you will find questions put into our Q&A chat during the Gather, and their answers. If you don’t see your question here, it’s either because we answered it during the Gather, or your question was very specific to you and we have asked our Ambassador, Rona Shirdan, to get in touch with you directly.

Helpful Links Mentioned During the Chat

About the Application Process

About how many applications did you receive last year and do you anticipate receiving more this year?
Last year we received 550, and we don’t really know how many to expect this year!

Any suggestions for how to choose a scholarship for your application, if you qualify for more than one?
You can apply for more than one scholarship. As long as you only apply for one TYPE of scholarship (i.e. a scholarship for online OR for on-campus workshop OR in-community workshop), you can check off as many scholarships in the dropdown menu that you qualify for.

If we are interested in multiple scholarship categories, does it make sense to apply to the one with the most available scholarships? How would you decide?
They’re all quite different but all valuable! We would recommend deciding based on which one you feel will benefit you the most. If travel is not an option for you for whatever reason, applying for an online workshop scholarship would be best. If you wanted more structure and to really meet others, then an in-person retreat or an in-community retreat may be right for you. General scholarships are available for all scholarship types.

The scholarship link isn’t working. It just loops back to apply.
If you scroll down on that page, you will see that there are links to apply (within the green boxes) at the bottom of the page.

The In-Person, In-Community, and Personal Retreat categories all quite similar. Can you highlight the differences between them?
In-Person workshops are open to all and are working retreats that are based around genre or experience.

In-Community retreats are also working retreats, but are centered around community and being around peers who come from a similar background or experience.

Personal Retreats are entirely unstructured and, while you will eat meals with those also on campus, the time is yours to work independently.

When it says we must submit a picture book manuscript, can the manuscript be in a draft stage, or does it need to be edited and polished?
We recommend putting out your best work and that which you are passionate about. It does not need to be edited and polished; it can be at a draft stage.

I am working on nonfiction picture book biographies of women artists, as a writer/illustrator. I’ve been published twice (once in Highlights magazine!). Any tips?
We recommend putting out your best work and that which you are passionate about. If you are an author/illustrator, make sure your submission shows off both writing and illustration and include a link to your portfolio, if you have one.

If I have received a scholarship previously, do I mention that in my application?
You certainly can mention that in your application, but it doesn’t restrict you from receiving another scholarship this year.

I saw the scholarship form has text boxes for the narrative and other info, I am wondering how long or is there a word count for the narrative? Or text boxes.
There is no word count. And we have had responses that are paragraphs and those that are a few sentences. Either can give us the information. We would say: try to make the narrative concise (while still making it awesome!)

What is the file size limit for illustration submissions?

For illustrators, is there a recommended number of pieces to include in a digital portfolio?
Normally, your best 8-10 in your website link will be enough to show your strengths.

Is there equal consideration for applicants that live in other countries?
Yes, there is equal consideration for applicants that live in other countries.

Can you clarify about the requested cover letter? It just needs the title, genre, project status, and synopsis on one page right?
The cover letter is just one page and can include all of that. It can also mention your connection to the project.

One of my favorite manuscripts I’m working on is not complete. It is about halfway through. Is that a manuscript that you would recommend not submitting?
If this is a picture book manuscript, then we would suggest applying with a finished manuscript. If this is a novel, if you have enough of the manuscript written that you submit the full page count as shown on the submission guidelines, then you could submit it, especially if it is what you are passionate about!

When a draft is submitted as the writing sample do you prefer them in a specific format?
PDF is our preferred format.

So you can apply for any of the scholarships within any of the categories (in-person, in-community, online, whole novel, personal retreat), correct?
Yes, but you can only submit one application. Please make sure to select the ones that fit your background/situation.

After reading through the scholarship list and starting my application, the Paula Cohen Scholarship wasnâ’t an option in the selection list. Am I missing something?
Depending on what type of category you selected, it might not appear. The Paula Cohen Scholarship supports a Personal Retreat.

Could you clarify what some of the criteria are to assess the application questions? For example, what constitutes a type of writing goal or passions in the children’s book industry that will catch your attention? Similarly, with the manuscript submission, what are you looking for: high quality, originality…?
We are indeed looking at quality. We are also looking to see that you are passionate and looking to improve your craft. Your goals may include landing an agent, becoming published, or that you will take certain steps to move forward. We are looking for seriousness of purpose; that you are dedicated to your work.

Does applying for a single category mean you are not eligible for the general scholarships, or are those included in the other categories?
The general scholarship is available for every type and is automatically considered for all applicants.

Does the writing sample have to be the novel you’re planning to work on with the scholarship? Can it be another work?
If you are applying for the Whole Novel Workshop, you should submit the novel you’d like to work on for that course. For other courses, it does not have to be the same. You can just give us a submission that best shows your work and your passion.

Can you save your application answers and return to it later?
No, the website will not save your process. If you like, you can type on a document, then cut-and-paste.

Do in-person scholarships provide funds for travel if you’re out of state, or is it only for the course/stay?
We only have 10 travel stipend awards. There is a place on the application for you to indicate whether you would need a travel stipend to attend. Scholarship awards do not provide funds for travel, except for these stipends.

I am a Black homeschooling homemaker, living in NC. Can anyone offer any assistance on selecting a scholarship type?
Our advice would be to think about where you are in your career and where you want to be. Do you need something more structured? Then a workshop (whether online or in-person) might be most useful. If you’d like time to just get away and work on your own, a Personal Retreat may be best. If you’re looking to build community, then an in-community retreat may be right for you (we do have a Black Voices In-Community Retreat).

If I’ve already signed up for a program and paid, can I still apply for the corresponding scholarship, or is that discouraged?
Yes, please still apply if you need one.

Can I participate with something that is on submission with editors (but not under contract yet?)
Yes! Awarding of scholarships isn’t contingent on being unpublished. We have scholarship recipients at all levels and stages of creating and publishing.

What is the best thing to do, copy paste to the boxes or is there a file upload option?
Copy and pasting into the boxes would be best. Your submission however will be a file upload of a single PDF.

Where does the sample manuscript go? As an attachment?
Yes, you will find a place to attach a pdf before you submit.

Can I apply if I have book that have been written and self-published in Spanish but I want to take it to the next level and write in English?

I applied last year and didn’t get a scholarship. Would you recommend applying again, but with a different story?
Please apply again! And it depends if you’ve worked on that previously submitted story or if you feel your passion is elsewhere!

Do you think this is a fit for independently published authors?
We do have independently published authors who apply and take our courses. Our workshops and retreats are for all who are creating for children and teens.

I’m an established illustrator but an aspiring writer and would like to apply to work on my writing or author/illustrating. I’m not sure what I should list myself as in that case.
Probably list yourself as an author/illustrator. There will be room in the narrative to tell us you are working on your writing.

Who is on the scholarship committee?
Our scholarship review committee is a blend of authors, illustrators, editors, agents…all knowledgeable lovers of kidlit!

About Financial Need

There are 3 criteria listed for the scholarships, are scholarships given for one of the three, or all three considered together? (For example, are some scholarships given just for financial need and are some given without financial need?)
Unless a scholarship specifically says otherwise (such as the Erin Entrada Kelly Scholarship which has financial need as a main part of the criteria), then all three criteria are considered together.

Can you address the scholarship criteria as far as need and merit? Is there an income threshold that you are looking at? I’ve had some colleagues asking if they are qualified to apply.
We do not have a specific income threshold. We will take that need into account and also look at the narrative box which allows someone to give more information on their financial situation.

Is the financial information being optional going to make my submission less appealing to the committee?
The criteria used for reviewing scholarships includes: Seriousness of Purpose, Talent and Financial Need. For the strongest application, we encourage you to add some reference to financial need, whether it be in the specific question, or in your narrative questions.

I live outside of the US; in the financial information could I just describe my finance situation instead of the adjusted gross income AGI?
Yes; that narrative box will give us information on your financial situation.

About Specific Courses

Are online courses continuously added throughout the year, or is there a date that the schedule is finalized? And when are scholarships announced?
We will release new online workshops throughout the year. Scholarship awards will be announced at the end of March 2024, and awards must be used in the 2024 workshop season.

What is the longest length (in days) that an In-Person retreat could last?
Most In-Person retreats are 4-5 nights. Several of the named scholarships support a week-long Personal Retreat, such as the Renée Watson Scholarship.

Will there be an online course with mentors for author/illustrators?
We usually have at least one online course for author/illustrators.

About the Whole Novel Workshops

For the whole novel workshops (in person and virtual), I assume you apply with a writing sample. Does that writing sample have to be the book you ultimately workshop if you receive the scholarship? Or can I send a sample but later decide which novel needs the most workshopping prior to starting the session?
Please apply to the workshop with the book you’d like to workshop.

Is there an ideal length for the whole novel? I know the cap is 80,000 words, but many middle grade novels are far shorter. Would a shorter work be considered less compelling in an application?
The novel’s content is what will be judged. The word count will not.

For the Whole Novel workshops, how polished should your draft be? Are first or 2nd drafts okay, or should it be ready to query?
The Whole Novel Workshop is all about revision and working through your novel. Your manuscript does not need to be ready to query; in fact many use the Whole Novel Workshop to get their novel ready to query.

I’m a little confused about the sequencing of the Whole Novel scholarship process; would I apply first for the Whole Novel Scholarship and then, if awarded one, apply for the Whole Novel Workshop I’m interested in? Or should we apply to both the workshop and the scholarship at the same time?
There is one application for both processes. You will be automatically accepted into the Whole Novel Workshop if you are awarded a Whole Novel Scholarship. Then you can choose which Whole Novel Workshop you’re interested in.

About Specific Scholarships

I am interested in the Erin Entrada Kelly Scholarship! I’m an aspiring author. Do I need to be an emerging author or a published author to qualify for this scholarship? Is this scholarship also open to aspiring authors?
Here is the link with more info on the Erin Entrada Kelly scholarship: https://www.highlightsfoundation.org/erin-entrada-kelly-scholarship-for-middle-grade-authors-of-color/. There is no stipulation on where a creator is in their career to be eligible for this scholarship.

The Wheeler Whole Novel Scholarship says it’s for an unpublished, middle grade writer fifty years of age or older to attend one of the Whole Novel Workshops. If I am published in picture books but NOT in middle grade, could I still apply?
Yes. Please make sure that you note that you are unpublished in novels. Thank you!

The Renée Watson Scholarship does not show in the dropdown list. How do we go about applying for that scholarship?
The Renée Watson Scholarship supports a Personal Retreat, so it will not show up in the drop-down for an In-Community, In-Person, or Online Course.

What type of scholarship is the Christine and Kenneth Taylor-Butler Scholarship?
It supports a middle grade or picture book storyteller, either in-person or online.

The educator scholarships are only for K-12? Not for collegiate professors/adjunct/etc?
That is correct.

Do public children’s librarians count as educators?

For the educator scholarship, would you consider a Learning Specialist? I don’t work in a traditional school setting but I do teach literacy skills to kids with dyslexia.

Would the Send a Teacher to Summer Camp Scholarship count for a floating teacher/substitute?
Yes it would!

About In-Community Retreats

If we submitted an application for the Muslim Storytellers Retreat, can/should we also submit to the In-Community Retreats category? Or can/should we submit to a different category as a backup option?
The Muslim Storyteller Retreats are separate from the scholarship applications. You can certainly apply for a scholarship for an in-community retreat, but the Muslim Storyteller Retreats are separate. You’d be applying for a different in-community retreat.

The Asian and Asian American Voices retreat is full/waitlisted, can I still select that in the scholarship application? Or do you advise applying for just the general scholarship?
We have spaces reserved for scholarship recipients at the Asian and Asian American Voices retreat, so please do apply.

The Native Creatives retreat in August would be considered an in-community retreat?
That is correct!

On the in-community scholarships page, I don’t see a menu for applying to a specific scholarship. Is that right?
There is not a way to select a specific scholarship and tie it to an In-Community retreat.

General Questions

If we work on a novel in one of the retreats, do we get to keep the copyright of our stories or does the Highlights Foundation ask for any of the rights in return?
The Highlights Foundation does not ask for any rights in return. Your copyright is ALWAYS your own.

How challenging is it to get to the location for in-person programs? (I don’t drive, and I just want to decide what type of scholarship I should choose.)
We do offer paid shuttle service if you take the bus or arrive at the nearby airport (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.)

Any chance of a workshop for people who want to both write AND illustrate in the future?
All of our illustration workshops and retreats have author-illustrators in them. Summer Camp in Illustration is full of author/illustrators, both as participants and faculty.

I am an illustrator. Do you meet and work with the writers? How does it work with illustration?
If you mean at Highlights Foundation courses, we have some workshops that are specific to illustrators, and some that are specific to writers. But there are often author/illustrators throughout our courses, even ones you might not expect. If you are asking in a larger kidlit context, most often publishers buy a book from the writer and then they find an illustrator to put with that story.

I am a self-published picture book author. In recent years I have been teaching myself how to make digital art. I love creating on my ipad and on my phone. But I did not realize for a very long time that art-apps often are for non-professionals and the art created is only 72 DPI. It really looks great online but will NOT print. So, if I apply for the illustrator camp, do the instructors know digital or is this course for people who use tangible media? I do not know how to use Photoshop or a Wacom. Can a mentor take me as-is and help me learn how to prepare what I now have at higher DPI and format to send to a publishing house Art Dept?
We do have faculty who know how to create art digitally. (We actually did an inpromptu Adobe Fresco and Indesign walkthrough at last year’s Illustration Summer Camp). The faculty will certainly meet you where you are and work with you to see where YOU want to take your art and what you are interested in learning and creating.

Does the retreat center have internet? I use a chromebook to write and rely on the internet to access my work.
We do have internet connectivity in all our spaces on campus. That connectivity can sometimes be spotty as we are located in a rural area. Our suggestion would be to bring a backup of your work just in case – to take you through any times when the internet might flag a bit.

I’m a little confused about the difference between a middle grade and Y/A novel. Does it depend completely on the age of the protagonist?
The age of the protagonist and the target age group of readers is primarily the difference, though different themes tend to abound based on those age ranges.

Listen to a podcast version of the #HFGather:

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