Q&A About In-Person Programs at the Highlights Foundation

Mar 27, 2024 | Campus Happenings, The Highlights Foundation Experience

Special guest alums Jasminne Paulino and Elizabeth Lilly joined some members of the Highlights Foundation team for a question-and-answer session about coming to an in-person program at the Highlights Foundation. If you missed it, you can see the video and read the transcript below.

(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.)

FAQ’s About In-Person Programs

Some links mentioned during the webinar:

What is a Working Retreat?

A Venn Diagram that shows how A Kidlit Conference, A Community, and Writing and Studio Time overlap at a Working Retreat.This diagram really illustrates what a working retreat is all about. It’s all these things, together in one place:

  • Time spent in creative community
  • Writing and studio time
  • A kidlit conference

Where they intersect is a working retreat!

All lodging and meals are included, on our campus in Northeastern Pennsylvania: a place that’s built just for people who inspire kids through story!

How Structured Are the Working Retreats?

The structure varies a little bit per retreat, but in general it’s pretty loose. Feedback over the past few years has told us that people really want time and space to create when they’re on retreat. The general idea is that each day, faculty will present one lecture or presentation, followed by free time for you to get work done.

There are always some opportunities also for optional things like shared activities or knowledge shares or shared studio time; there’s also fireside chats and mealtimes, which provide informal gathering times with both faculty and retreaters.

Can Beginners Come to a Working Retreat?

Yes, absolutely! Serious beginners really do thrive here—and by serious, we mean seriousness of purpose: if you want to write and illustrate for kids because you know how important story is in their lives, and you’re ready to work on your craft, we can’t wait to have you!

If you’re really super brand new, and you have zero idea where to start, and you’d rather spend your time and money on techniques and material,then you might want to try an online course first. But if you want a mix of learning and inspiration, and you want to get hooked into the kidlit community, then, even as a beginner, these working retreats and in-community retreats are definitely right for you.

What are In-Community Retreats?

For the most part, these are less structured than the working retreats, and are specifically developed to offer reserved and respective spaces for different affinity groups within the kidlit community to come and share time together. They’re focused on time together in community, plus time to work on your projects.

Sometimes that can vary a bit. The faculty and the staff of these retreats are voices from within those affinity groups. So if they see some sort of particular need within their community, they’ll work with us to find a particular way to meet it. Maybe it’s a special guest presentation, or some sort of programming, or something like that.

How Many People Attend an In-Person Retreat?

The answer varies, but we have 30 bedrooms on campus. So most of the time we have 30 or less people here.

How Can I Decide Which Program to Attend?

It’s really thinking about what works best for you! Would you benefit from time spent in-community with others in your affinity group? Would you enjoy retreating with others who write in your genre? Sometimes it might be as simple as seeing what’s offered when your timing works best.

If you’d like to talk to someone about your choices, you can get in touch with our Ambassador, Rona Shirdan. She’s happy to talk to you about where you are and to make suggestions. Contact Rona here.

What If the Program I Want Has a Waiting List?

If you add yourself to a wait list, what’s the chance that you would be able to get in? That’s a good question. We add people to the wait list, and if we have a cancellation, we go in order, based on who has joined the wait list, to register them for the course. We don’t get a ton of cancellations; sometimes as it gets closer, if someone falls ill or has a family emergency or something like that, we might have a spot open up.

If you’re interested, please add yourself to the wait list. The next time we offer that course, we’ll go back to the wait list first to see if you still have an interest.  We also recommend related programs as options to those on the waitlist for any given program, as they become available.

What If I Have Dietary Restrictions?

We have an awesome kitchen and we have seen all sorts of dietary needs and interests, and are always able to meet those needs—have no fear, we will, we will accommodate. There’s a place to note your restrictions during registration.

What Should I Bring to Campus?

There’s a great packing list on this page, and a list of what to expect in your accommodations.

Do I Get to Choose Whether I’ll Be Staying in a Cabin or the Lodge?

First: we have one ADA compliant cabin, and two ADA compliant rooms in the Lodge, so please note those needs in the Comments section when you register.

When you book a personal retreat, you can select your room type.  When you register for a particular event, you are assigned a room type so that we may accommodate everyone on the campus.  If you have a preference, let us know in the comments when you register. We can’t guarantee it, but we try our best to honor those requests when we can.

How Do I Get to the Retreat Center?

You can travel by car, plane, or bus.  We’ve got an entire web page about that—here it is!

Full Transcript:

Cat Galeano:
Alrighty. Hi, everyone! I’m gonna go ahead and get started because we have such a wonderful conversation ahead. I’m Cat Galeano. My pronouns are she/her. I’m the social media manager here at the Highlights Foundation, joining you from Westchester, New York, on the traditional lands of the Siwanoy people. I’m excited to welcome you to this QA chat on our upcoming 2024 in-person programming. Thank you for being here and for considering a stay with us this year.

Fun fact. My first visit to the Highlands Foundation campus was in 2018, and I like to joke and tell people that I never left. I’m still here, so I just wanted to say, I hope you have a great time if you decide to come. But I do love visiting our campus time and time again, and the magic feels alive for me every single time, and truthfully, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been there, and the magic is still very much alive.

So that says a lot and with me today from the Highlights Foundation is our executive director, George Brown and our marketing director, Christina Ousouljoglou. Hi, George! Hi, Christina! Nice to see you.

And a big hello to our guest author, Jasminne Paulino and author illustrator, Elizabeth Lilly.

A note for all of you with us. This is a webinar, so you can’t see your video, and we can’t hear your audio during this session. But we can see you in the chat, and we can see you in the QA feature. There are closed captions available if you’d like to use them, and of course closed captions will be included when you watch the recording or have the recording sent to you if you’re here with us live.

We’ll enable the chat so you can chat with everyone, and we would love for you to use the QA feature, though, to please list your questions and not in the chat. I don’t want to have your questions get lost, as the chat seems to move quickly sometimes. And we don’t want to miss your questions, of course. So please use the QA feature for your questions. And in these faces, in the chat, on Zoom, really anywhere where we come together as the Highlights Foundation, we ask for your respectful engagement. We ask you to join us today, and always, with no hate, no harm and no harassment of any kind. I’ll place a link to our community standards in the chat for those of you who are really just getting to know us, or for those of you who would like to read our full commitment that we bring to our programs which include safety and inclusivity as much as we can everywhere we go.

And with that I will pass it over to Christina, and we will get started.

Christina Ousouljoglou:
Awesome. Thank you. Thank you, Cat. And like she said, I am Christina. My pronouns are she/her, and I’m joining you today from Grand Rapids, Michigan, on the traditional and contemporary lands of the Ottawa, Ojibwe and Potawatomi people and I’m so excited to be here today with you all, and I know it sounds trite when people say that. But it’s true. It was a little less than a year ago when we did a similar program to talk about our summer camps on a webinar and I really love that format because everyone, especially if they hadn’t come to a summer camp before, had an opportunity to really understand what it was all about and what they could expect. And I don’t know about you, but I’m the type of person who finds that sort of thing super helpful, because I like to know what I’m getting myself into before I commit to anything. So I like that format but also for those who are new to the Foundation completely, I think it helped them understand what the Highlights Foundation is all about and really level set that our entire community is really dedicated to this shared purpose and the shared mission of making a difference in kids lives through story. And that’s what we’re trying to create here. And really, everything we do is that nurturing environment where you can feel cared for and empowered and inspired, and find joy and meaning. And this work that we’re doing together, that really is so important.

So that session on Summer Camp was great. And we wanted to do it again this year, specifically for our working retreats and in-community retreats because you’ve never been to one of these programs before, and we did have some last year on the schedule. But many of them are new this year. You might be wondering what they’re all about, and if they’re a fit for what you want, and what you need on your own journey. So I’m going to tell you a little anecdote.

During the session last year we had Harlan DeChamps on to talk about her experience, just like we have Jasminne and Elizabeth here to talk with us today. And they shared some great information. But one of the things I think was really important was that Harlan found the opportunity to share a space with faculty and students in that relatively kind of small group where you could share meals and be with each other. That really made a difference for Harlan. And there was a one particular quote I remember. She said, “You know even more than the lectures themselves, you get to eat breakfast and lunch and dinner with these people,” and the way that Harlan said it was kind of funny, but I just loved it so much. Because it’s true. Whether it’s at the breakfast table in the morning or around that fire at night, it’s the same. It’s that kind of sense of community in place that really helps us generate that creative magic, makes it tangible while we’re here, and that’s what the retreats are all about. If you look at our schedule, you see a lot of them at various times of year, with different genres and groups and titles. And it really might be kind of overwhelming, so I wanted to start by showing you something to really illustrate what the working retreats are, and the in-community retreats are, and what we’re doing with them.

So I’m going to start with a Venn diagram and Cat, if you could pull that up on the screen for me.

This Venn diagram, my team, we put it together. I do love a good Venn diagram. We put it together because it really shows and illustrates what a working retreat is all about. It’s all things together in one kind of that kidlit community, the writing and studio time that we have, and also a kidlit conference kind of together in one. And where it intersects is that, that working retreat model.

And the structures kind of vary a little bit per working retreat. But the structure of them are are pretty loose, and we got that over the years, over lots of years of feedback, especially in the last year or two, that what people really need of, needed more of was that time and space to create and to be creative? So you’ll find that the general ideas that each day really has kind of one lecture or one presentation or kind of keynote, if you will, from a faculty member. And then there are some opportunities also for optional things like shared activities or knowledge shares or shared studio time, or that time gathered around the fire at night, where you can really learn more and work together, if that is what you want to do.

And then there’s also time built in for your own personal writing or studio time which you can kind of use. However, you want, you know, if you want to go back to your cabin and work on a manuscript because you haven’t had time to work on it forever in your daily life. And that’s what you want to focus on. That’s great or maybe you learn something about a new technique in one of the lectures, and you want to try it out on your own manuscript before you forget about it, or while you still have time to ask a faculty member a question about it, then you can do that, too. Or maybe you want to take a hike and go into one of our hiking trails spend some time in nature, or maybe you want to take a nap in your cabin, or maybe you just want to sit in a rocking chair and kind of stare into space for a little bit to process something, you know. There’s really, there’s time and space for that in this model with that tri, kind of tripod. We really have time to do all of those things, and they work together to create your experience here in that small environment, you know, one that’s built for kidlit creatives. When you get here, that’s all you have to do. You sit, you come with us, we cook for you, we do all those things, and you can really focus on what you came here to do.

Now, the other event kind of event you’ll see on the schedule are in-community retreats, and I think Cat might have already showed this. But she can show it again. Those are similar, but for the most part they’re even less structured than the working retreats, and those are really specifically developed to offer reserved and respective spaces for different affinity groups within the kidlit community to come together and share time together.

So you’re gonna see a lot of different options across our schedule for these. And they’re not really gonna have specific lectures or topics or things like that on the schedule. They’re gonna be pretty exclusively focused on time together in community and time together to work on your projects. Sometimes that can vary a bit, though. The faculty and the staff of these retreats are voices from within those affinity groups. So if they see some sort of particular need within their community, they’ll work with us to find a particular way to meet it. Maybe it’s a special guest presentation, or some sort of programming, or something like that. We do our best to accommodate it if there’s a need. So you may see some variance there. But you can always check the program descriptions to learn more about them.

Okay. So Cat can stop sharing there. We’ve been over the two types available. Now I want to talk, invite George a little bit to talk, about how you might go about picking one or narrowing down your choices, and I already actually do see some questions in the Q&A box about this. But I think hopefully I set George up pretty well to talk a little about might might go through your mind when you’re evaluating your options and choosing one. So, George, if you want to take over from here for a little bit.

George Brown:
Well, Hi, everybody! My name’s George Brown. I’m the executive director here at the Highlights Foundation. I am in a little cabin on our campus at our retreat center. We’re in Boyd’s Mills, Pennsylvania, the traditional lands of the Lenapi.

How to decide. I think that’s the part I love about what’s going on on our website is we’ve got it set up with filters of all sorts. So it’s really thinking about what works best for you, and what your interests are, and that might be a stage in your journey, and it might be a genre you’re interested in, where it might be really as simple as what timing works for you.

And so we have I think 8 or 9 working retreats. From picture books to poetry, to novels in verse. We have one specifically related to sparking your inspiration through creativity and meditation, nonfiction and informational fiction, writing for the educational market and I, I hesitate to share, but I do want to just pop this up real quick.

When you look at our website under workshops and retreats. We have both working retreats and in-community retreats. But when you get to the page you can learn a bit about working retreats, but you can see kind of the full list of what we have here and the timeframe around each of these. I won’t keep this up, but just wanted you to kind of get a visual of what those specifics are.

The, so, let’s say, you know your genre. You really are interested in revision. Well, maybe the revision retreat is just right for you. They’re set up in a way that wherever you are on your journey, you’re going to get something out of that, right, because they’ve been structured to give us just enough of faculty, inspiration, and guidance from your faculty guides who will provide a daily lecture conversation as well as those fireside chats that Christina was talking about. And then all that time on your own to actually retreat and get work done.

One of the things: I was just speaking with a a guest this weekend who is here on a personal retreat. And she was here specifically to NOT get work done. So her goal was to decompress and just find that creativity, to figure out how to get some work done and then I stood up and I went over to the coffee pot, and I started talking to another guest and she was here on a specific deadline with a specific goal of word counts to get work done. And so I think, with the retreat model the way we have it, you find the topic that works for you. And then you find there’s so much flexibility whether you’re just getting started and drafting or thinking about that idea, or whether you’re trying to hit that writing goal of just getting that project accomplished, or whether you’re into your revisions and you’re really need to focus on reformatting your story.

So working retreats, it’s really about what topic and timing work for you. And I think also with the in-community retreats that Christina talked about, we have 8 of those. We have the Asian and Asian American Voices, our Jewish Symposium, Black Voices retreat, Neurodiverse Writers retreat, Native Creatives, Latinx Voices and Rainbow Retreat, all happening at different times throughout the year.

Christina, have I covered enough of an overview, of how to think about which retreat?

I think so. And we’re also gonna have a Q&A little bit. And Cat’s gonna share how to get some more kind of personalized one-on-one help if you want help picking one. So I think we’re gonna cover that later. I also did want to say one of the most common questions that we get our staff gets is, can beginners come to these working retreats? And the answer is, Yes, completely. We do have one working retreat in particular that’s designed for more experienced storytellers; that one’s called In Company. And that’s actually the one Elizabeth attended last year and is going to talk about; you are going to find experienced storytellers across all of our retreats who want to come and build community and work on their craft. But I think serious beginners really do thrive here. When I say serious, most of all I mean seriousness and your purpose, like, if you want to write and illustrate for kids because you know how important story is in their lives, we can’t wait to have you. But I would say also, are you ready to work on your craft, like are you ready to be open to this inspiration and put it to work? That helps, too, if you’re coming to us as a beginner.

I will say, though, if you’re really brand brand new, and your very primary purpose is to learn some aspect of craft or some technique that you want to really dig deep and learn about, you might consider that doing it in an online learning environment. Like, if you have zero idea where to start, and you’d rather spend your time and money on very, kind of, techniques and material,then you might want to try an online course first. But I think if you want that mix of learning and inspiration, and you want to get kind of hooked into the kidlit community, then, even as a beginner, these working retreats and in-community retreats are definitely right for you.

Okay, I’m going to turn it back over to Cat, and she’s going to talk about the format, about the rest of our time together. So I’ll turn it back over to you, Cat.

Thank you, Christina. Thank you, George. Let me just replace the spotlight back to myself. So, when Christina and I and our marketing team were sort of thinking about hosting this live today, we were thinking about who we’d like to speak to and, and, and how we want, that wanted this format to happen. So we sort of brainstormed, and we thought about who has attended our sort of earlier version of working retreats that we hosted last year and in-community retreats. So these two wonderful guests of ours were the two people that popped into our heads today, that popped into our heads. And so we reached out and thankfully they were available to talk to us.

And so we’re just going to spend a little bit of time with them, to see, to hear first-hand from someone who attended our workshops and, and was on campus, and got to experience this format in this new model that we’re that we’re sort of coming out with. And so, Christina, are you going to talk to Elizabeth first, or am I going to jump in with Jasminne?

I want to talk to Elizabeth first.

Wonderful. So let me, let me finagle back to the spotlight. Okay.

Elizabeth Lilly:

OK, and like I said, I already kind of gave it away a little bit. But In Company last year, which is really our working retreat model for experienced storytellers. And when we say, that is, people who have been working in the industry kind of for a longer time, and who kind of know the ropes of the industry and are looking for that, building that community among other people in the same position. But really you’ve attended a little bit of everything at the Highlights Foundation. So you were on a personal retreat back when we called them Unworkshops. You attended an illustration program and then In Company, and when the team and I were talking, Alison brought up your name because she said that you got a lot of work done when you were on campus for In Company. And I, I thought that would be a valuable perspective. So you just want to talk a little bit about that, and about your experience at that particular working retreat?

Yeah, so I was so excited to go to that and you know, when you’re a creator, you don’t always have a huge budget for these kinds of experiences, and I had gone to larger conferences a lot the last couple of years, and I sometimes, I would come home from those kind of exhausted because you’re like running from place to place. You’re meeting like 1,000 people a day. And I was like, this time I wanna do something a little more personal where you can like really spend tons of time getting to know like your fellow creators. And that’s why I was so happy to go, because it’s like so relaxing in a way, like everyone is kind of on the same level, like, no matter who you are, everyone’s super-respectful and kind and welcoming, and I was like so scared to walk into the cocktail hour on the first day. But I talked to Joe Cepeda, who was one of our faculty, and right away he was like, “Oh, what do you do?”

Everyone’s just really curious about each other’s practice, whether you’re like a “day one” beginner, or you’ve been in the industry for like 15 years. Everybody’s so interested in each other’s wisdom and knowledge, and just like learning from each other. And you know, it’s intermingling that social time with work time. So you, especially as a lot of us are introverts, it gives you time to talk and learn but then time to go back to your cabin or your room, and like, absorb everything, and think and work and kind of like synthesize things and show things to people later in the day like, it’s just a great mix of like everything. So I had such a great experience.

Thank you for sharing that. We had a person on another webinar, and they were saying that oh, I could talk about picture books all day with people on it, that kind of shared interest, but also shared personality, ven when you are an introvert, to come in and talk about those things.

Yeah, yeah, that’s so funny. Like I, you can really nerd out with people about the thing that you love. Like, I will talk to my wife about picture books for like half an hour, and then she’s like, Okay, like let’s like, maybe shift back to another topic and I’m likie well, you haven’t heard about like the new Caldicott honor, can you believe it, or whatever. And like everybody at the retreat, is like, I can’t believe it, you know. So it’s always really fun to just like, have unlimited time while you’re there to like, get into all that like nitty gritty with people that actually care.

I can appreciate that. And I’m going to go off the script a little bit and ask you one more question so hopefully, that’s okay. But when you were kind of going back from that time in community, maybe hearing a lecture or something like that, and then going back to your own space to work like did you have, were you able to immediately get in the flow, or did you have to–kind of what was your process like for that part?

Hmm! I found that I had to rest a little bit first, like I would just walk around the campus. Actually, that was such a nice way to like kind of recharge. If I was feeling a little bit like socially overwhelmed, or whatever, like it’s so beautiful there, I would just like, take a walk around quietly and then like, come back to my cabin. And I just like put my phone like under the bed, or you know somewhere that I couldn’t see it, and like there was like a beautiful field in front of my window, and I would just start like typing or drawing, or whatever. So there’s like so many ways to to rest and like really nourishing ways there almost, and then like get into writing or or drawing.

Appreciate that. And now you’re coming back as an RA for this, for this particular working retreat this year. So is there anything or any thoughts you have on the being on staff side of this year? What do you hope people take home from it? Or what do you hope to give them as an RA for this retreat?

Yeah, I think, like, I’m just really excited to reach out to each person and make them feel welcome, like I remember especially the first time, or the first couple of times I was there. I was really shy and kind of scared, and I still am. Every time I go to one of these things I’m like, I don’t know people like me, or I don’t know but kind of like making sure everybody feels welcome and like important, like the your voice is important, no matter how much experience you have there. So that’s something I really want to make sure I do when I’m the staff there for sure.

I love that I think that is one of the special things about the Highlights Foundation, for sure. You have people come in, and they say, Oh, am I allowed to call myself a writer, am I allowed to call myself a an illustrator, or whatever, like? Yes, you are. If you’re here doing that.

Yeah, yeah, it’s can be very validating for sure.

I’m goign to turn it back over to Cat, who is gonna talk to Jasminne for a little bit.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for, for sharing that with us. I, I was nodding very hard when you were talking. I was like, yes, oh, my gosh, everything she’s saying speaks to me. So thank you. I’m gonna go ahead and add my, so add Jasminne. I’m also gonna add myself.

Yay! It’s a little difficult doing doing Zoom tech things and also talking. So thank you everyone for for bearing with us. Hi, Jasminne.

Jasminne Paulino:

Congratulations! First, I want to congratulate you on the acquisition of your debut. We’re so excited for you.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Cat :
And also we’re gonna talk a little bit about everything that you’ve attended and sort of been to at the Highlights Foundation, including a mix of personal retreat, several in-community programs, with Latinx writers and illustrators online and in person, and a novels in verse working retreat.

Last year, in 2023 in fact, our 2023 novels in verse working retreat was in the spring, and then you also came to Latinx voices in-community retreat in the fall. Did I get all that right?

You did.

Awesome. What made you want to invest in yourself and do both last year?

I’ve seen, I actually went to the Zoom version of the Latinx retreat back in Fall 2021, and loved everyone from the mentors and some of the other attendees, and continued on with those friendships, and then that led to then attending the Fall 2022 Latinx retreat, and that was like the in-person edition. So the love grew exponentially for again, being in community with other Latinx writers. It was also during that retreat that I finished the draft of what is now, what will now be my debut novel. So like that I knew when I was able to finish that draft, and it was my first time getting to the end of a draft, that something really special. It happened so that was the beginning of my journey with this particular story at Highlights. And then I loved that experience so much that when I was in revision world with that story, I then went back for the Novels in Verse working retreat, and worked with Chris Baron, and there were, there was, there were some beginning poems that I was struggling with, and the feedback that I received from both him and those in my group really helped me get that those few beginning poems to where they needed to be. So I, I can’t think about that story and not go back and think about that retreat and the novels in verse workshops. So they were all like very important building blocks, and me getting that story that always lived in my heart onto the page in the way that I wanted it to be.

Wow! I’m so touched to even hear that. Oh, man! Well, you sort of answered my second question already, which was how the Highlights Foundation helped with your debut, because this is the first that I’m hearing that that first draft was completed in 2022 at the Latinx retreat. So that is so special to hear that and you’ve also just continued to come back for personal retreats as well. So it really is sort of part of your writing practice, and that’s so wonderful to hear.

Personal retreats have also been incredibly helpful in that. There’s always the thing that I’m thinking about as I’m driving up to campus. And then what I what I could return home with, which is always so much bigger than what I had originally thought up and just being on the ground again, like as Elizabeth Lilly mentioned, just walking around and finding that inspiration was also so helpful to disconnect from the everydayness that, like we all have to deal with and have that time and space for the creative work.

Yeah. And I love how you touched on also the fact that, like you needed that novels and verse working retreat in order to touch on these poems that you had been working on, and to see how you can better them. And then the difference of being an in-community retreat where you just wanted to be in community with people, other writers and illustrators of your background. So I feel like, thank you so much for sharing that. And how important those two separate experiences were for two separate stories and and poems you were working on.

And I also I also wanna quickly touch on, just like the magic of when you go to these things of the people that you, you spend time with, and that you, you get to meet and kind of hang out with, and then that slowly turns into friendships over that, that like small, intense period of time, you’re together. Jasminne and I actually met last spring at the Novels in Verse working retreat, and we ended up realizing we lived close to each other. That sort of led into building a friendship through the year, and then Latinx, we both attended that together. So it’s just been like a beautiful thing to a become friends through this process, but to, to see so many other people also have that experience. And I think that’s really the beauty of when you attend things in person is that you really are just hyper-focused on your work and the people you’re kind of hanging out with during that that period of time, and like the beautiful friendships and stuff that can come out of that.

So I feel so special and honored to be able to to talk with you about all of kind of the, the retreat models, and how that sort of those models brought us together. So…

Certainly did. I, I have friends who live like all the way out in California, who I met back in Fall 2022 of during the Latinx retreat, who then returned for this past year’s Latinx retreat, who I will continue to talk to forever and ever. Because of all the things that we were able to share while in community, during whether it was breakfast, lunch, or dinner, just walking around. They are people that I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t attended those events at Highlights, and I love them so much, and they’ve been such a big part in my journey as a creative and like, and just figuring out being in this debut space. So I’m forever thankful.

That’s wonderful. Christina, do you want to take it over again?

Notice that George has been sneakily kind of answering some Q&A.

I did notice that too.

And we had a couple of questions that came in kind of before the webinar. So I’m gonna start with one of those, because I think it’s important, and we talked a little bit about it before. But if Cat, if someone’s deciding between a few different options, what really is there kind of best fit to get more information about that, other than just searching the website, and things like that.

So I like to consider more a person that like while I may read a description, I, I truly love talking to a human so that’s sort of the kind of person I am when I’m researching something. I’m like, you know, I read the description. Everything sounds sounds great, but sometimes I’m like, I just need a little bit more than what the description and or the page is giving me. So we have Rona Shirdan, who’s our Ambassador, who is the person who will, the live, wonderful human being who will answer your call if you need a little bit more of a deep dive on either a particular workshop or working retreat, or in-community retreat, or you’re perhaps not really sure what you should do when you just sort of need someone to bounce ideas off of. Rona is our person to do that–is, an incredibly accomplished, wonderful human being who will not only answer your call, and and give you the time and space to answer your questions, but also follow up with you. If perhaps what we have on the table is not what you need right now, and something down in the next, coming up in the next couple of months, or perhaps circling back next year, and you may have just missed it, Rona will be the person to circle back to you and get that information to you so that you’re aware, and you can sign up so I think Christina dropped the link in our chat.

I did, and I, I also wanted to point out, too, because I thought it was interesting when you said, Jasminne, that you went to the Novels in Verse working retreat really, with a revision focus. So like some people might say, Oh, I should go to the revision working retreat if I’m in revision. That’s not quite true. Like there’s different kind of pros and cons to doing it specifically in the genres. The working retreat with revision happens to be three editors at that one. So that’s kind of cool to really have that perspective on it. But it’s really kind of looking at the different faculty at it, looking at the topics that are going to be talking about, and all those things to figure out what might…And I also wanted to open it up to Elizabeth and Jasminne like, do you have any feedback for anybody? I know I might have stolen your thunder, Jasminne, about saying that. But any other feedback on what you might give for people to think about when they’re looking at what options might be the best for them.

I would say, just think about the community that you want to build, like the In Company might be amazing if you feel like your community is missing a particular like person from your own, like ethnic group, for example. And you want to build your community that way. But if you want to build a community in a different way, say, the working retreat, that’s for revision like you had mentioned, like, maybe you wanna build a community of people that can be intense critique partners and be in the same like step of their career. So that’s what I would say. Kind of like, what feels like is missing from your community right now.

So good point.

Yeah, I’d just like to, I’d just like to add what Elizabeth said. Sorry to cut off, Jasminne. But yeah, like, I’m also a writer for those that may not know. But writing is is a very lonely thing, so finding community and finding, you know people that understand what you’re doing, and people that you can talk to you about. It is super super important and I’m not an illustrator, but I’m sure it’s it’s you know the same, this, the same thought process. But yeah, I just wanted to to stress that.

Yeah. Drop. Oh, go ahead, Jasminne. I’m sorry.

Just to quickly agree with what both Elizabeth and Cat just mentioned like for me, I remember that Zoom version of the Latinx retreat was the first time that I was able to code switch between English and Spanish in a space, and it like my brain melted. I wanted to cry during that Zoom. Similarly, when it took place in person, and having the open mic, and being able to share my work, and I always write in both English and Spanish, and being in a space where everyone understood and I didn’t have to explain, I mean, till this day, just talking about it makes me like, just feel all emotional because it is a special experience as a creative as a Latina. And that’s why I’ll always go back for sure.

I appreciate that, too, and I dropped a couple of links in the chat, two of them the working retreats and in-community retreat page that George pointed out before. But there’s also just the upcoming workshops page which has filters like by genre and different things like that. So you can search around. That also has online programming in it. So again, if you’re deciding what kind of what learning experience that you need, all of those are in there.

We did get a bunch of questions about transportation, and I’m gonna throw that over to George, because I think people are wondering kind of the best way to get here. So, George, do you wannt to start that conversation a little bit, and we can always…

Sure, sure thing. So we, we do have a web page called “Getting Here” that kind of explains the options. And, and you can drive. We are five hours from a lot of places. We just had a woman here this week who drove from Michigan, which was a nine hour drive, so that was pretty impressive.

And then people flying into Scranton Wilkes-Barre, which is our closest airport and our shuttle can pick you up there when you arrive. I think we charge $25 for shuttle service from Scranton. And then the other option is to fly into Newark. There are typically more flight options into Newark but it’s a 2 and a half hour ride as long as there’s no traffic, so it’s a little longer distance, and the shuttle fee is a little bit more to get picked up there. But we do have shuttle service, and we have times, and you can sign up for that.

Some people just fly into Newark and rent a car to have that flexibility. Also, there are buses that come into Homesdale, but mainly into Scranton. There’s not really a reliable train service in our area, but we do get people taking buses from the Philadelphia and the New York area. Otherwise it’s typically flying and driving in.

And I think that “Getting Here” page is helpful because it lays out all of the options. And on that Ambassador page there’s also a link to talk to our team, the customer service team. So if there’s a logistics issue that you have about, oh, which day do I fly in or whatever those types of questions they can definitely ask that.

This one, I don’t know if George is able to do this with the computer that you have set up here? The question was, can you scan the cabin with your camera so we can get a look at the quarters, and I know you’re in one that doesn’t have restroom facilities. That’s kind of what the indoor part of a cabin looks like, but most of our cabins have restroom facilities within them, and then we also have the lodge. So I am going to drop in a link to a virtual tour there, that might…

And say, but wait! We have a virtual tour.

We did. There’s a virtual tour, and also lots of pictures. Because, like I said, I’m the type of person who likes to know what I’m getting myself into. So the virtual tour, I think, helps and the different photos that show all of the different lodging options related to that.

And so there are 17 cabins, and so you can have your own cabin in the woods, and it’s got its own private bathroom, bedroom writing desk, etc. We also have the Lodge, which is like a mini hotel that has eight rooms in it, and again, that’s very much like a hotel room with your bed and private bathroom, and then there’s a common space, tables where you can sit upright and get work done, or the couch and the comfy chairs where you can kick back and work casually.

And then we also have the historic farmhouse which is the home of the founders of Highlights Magazine, and we have five bedrooms there. That has much more of a kind of a that historic feel, feels a little bit more like you’re staying in a bed-and-breakfast.And you get a sense of the history of the early days of Highlights and how highlights Magazine was started, and hopefully feel a little bit of that creative energy.

The thing I like to talk about on our campus here; so this is my great-grandparents’ homestead, and it was my great-grandmother’s grandfather who has been here since the late 1800’s. But since the 1940’s when they started Highlights Magazine, they’ve been entertaining and hosting creatives thinking about creating for children.

And so you know, our mission is about positively impacting children by amplifying the voices of storytellers. So you come to us as storytellers, thinking about creating the best story you can for children, for the reader and we’re on a piece of property that’s had people thinking about that creativity for children for the past almost 80 years. And I think you get a feel for that when you’re here on campus, and you feel that sense of the importance of what it means to think about children being the world’s most important people and creating stories for children.

And I feel like that’s one of those like kind of secret magic pieces that you can’t really explain. But once you get here, you you feel it almost immediately.

And I think George is on campus most days, so if you ask him for a tour of different parts, so point out the right places. So I would definitely recommend doing that as well.

We do have another question about: I was happy to see the mini-course specifically on unconventional picture books or the non-traditional picture book structure, I think, is the one that you’re talking about. Is there a retreat that discusses them, and the task of selling them?

So this is a great question. And there are a number of different picture book working retreats. There’s one specifically kind of focused on lyrical picture books which may not be exactly the non-traditional structured picture books that you’re talking about. And there’s another one specifically for writer, writers and illustrators of picture books. None of them have a specific slant on how to sell these picture books, but I will say that all of the faculty are people who have been working in their various fields and genres for a long time. So when you go there, I think you will be able to absorb not only questions about the craft, but also questions about the industry, selling books and things like that. So I would say, the answer is, no, it’s not specifically about selling non-traditional picture books, but you can look for faculty that maybe have a slant toward what you are talking about in that case, and I was wondering if Jasminne or Elizabeth do you have any feedback on that? Like I’m sure you’ve also had topics about not just writing and illustrating the books, but about thriving in this industry. Is there anything you want to say about that in particular, or what kind of faculty bring to the table on that point?

I think just there’s, at least at the In Company retreat that I was at most recently, there was an editor and like people from publishing houses, I think there’s various like publishing professionals. And like they’re really open with their advice and their experience, because everyone may go so freely. So you can get like really expert kind of like thoughts and advice. Or you can just like brainstorm with other writers and illustrators about your strategies, about what their agents have said. So it’s just really great, like exchange of information all around.

Similarly, during the Latinx retreat this past fall. Alyssa Reynoso was one of the RA’s, and I remember once like during dinner, she just gave us all such a wonderful explanation on all the marketing that she did on her picture book Plátanos Are Love and it, and she shared things that I would have never thought of and weren’t on the agenda. But they just happened in conversation. So that comes to mind as something that I certainly walked away with being very thankful that it took place, but didn’t know I would get that going into it.

And I think that’s one of the cool things about the working retreat is you can come and and you may have your list of questions and I think throughout the course of that working retreat you’ll get most of them answered.

The way meal times are structured, and you’re sharing a table with a number of people of meal times. You get opportunities for conversation there, your interaction with faculty, whether it’s formal or informally you can learn, you know, some things just around the coffee pot per se, and then, like the fireside chat is really like that is just hang out by the fire and have a Q&A with your faculty hosts and I think a lot of those pieces come out of it, whether it’s from faculty or fellow students at the retreat talking about like what their experiences are. It’s pretty cool the way at all, it’d actually be fun to see if you made your list of questions at the end of your time here. Did you get all of your questions answered? I’m pretty sure your answer would be yeah.

Yeah, I think you’ll, the word you’ll see pop up on the different schedules–like a lot of the retreats that are on the schedule, some of them don’t quite have the full agenda planned out yet, depending on whether it’s one in November versus one in April, for example. But I think you’ll see the words “knowledge share” pop up a little bit, and that’s kind of what that means. How can you learn from different attendees, and faculty, and kind of share the different things that are going on in your journeys?

I think this is a good question. I always stress about travel, because I have dietary restrictions. Is that something that can be worked around for meals? And the answer is, Yes, but, George, I’m sure you have some things to say about that. Do you want to cover that question?

We have an awesome kitchen and we have seen all sorts of dietary needs and interests, and are always able to meet those needs, have no fear, we will, we will accommodate. There is a spot when you register where you can kind of click off things like vegetarian or gluten, free or no onions and then there’s also a comment box and our kitchen staff prints that out so that they know every time they’re cooking a meal, they’re looking to see what that is. And they’re always very accommodating. And so I think we get high marks when it comes to thinking about the variety of dietary interests and needs of our guests.

Yeah. And I think that is a good point. You can put it on your registration form for sure. But if you do want to talk to somebody ahead of time or something like that feel free to reach out because we can answer any questions that you have specifically. One question that we didn’t get to cover is you might see on our website some of the different events, say, sold out or on a waiting list, and sometimes we get questions on that like, if you add yourself to a wait list, for example, what’s the chance that you would be able to get in? That’s a good question. We add people to the wait list, and we go in order, based on who is added to the wait list to move them in. We don’t get a ton of cancellations; sometimes as it gets closer, if someone falls ill or has a family emergency or something like that, we might have a spot open up, and we try to keep that in good communication. But I will say, add yourself to the wait list if there’s something that you’re interested in because we also go back the next time we hold that type of retreat, or if there is a complementary retreat, alot of times we look at those wait lists and try to recommend different things that are there. So the chances kind of vary whether or not you would get into the retreat that you add yourself to a wait list for but I would say, please do it, and make sure we keep in communication with you from that, and we try to label them as much as possible when we can, a soon as one does sell out.

And what do I need to bring? That was another question. We have all the food we do…we talked about that, so you don’t need to bring food some people do choose to bring, if there’s like a specific snack that they wanted, or something like that, you can bring one. There’s different refrigeration facilities either in your cabin or in the lodge, or something like that. But, I don’t think there’s a ton that you have to bring from that perspective.

We do have a list on our website of different things you can bring as far as layering, making sure you have shoes for hiking. If you want to go a list of things that you haven’t maybe thought of, so I’ll post that link in the chat as well.

And then how many people will attend an event? George, do you want to take that one or Cat? Do you want to take that one, either one?

Let’s go. George? And I know that the answer varies.

Well, the the answer varies, but we have 30 bedrooms on campus. So most of the time we have 30 or less people here. Once in a while, people do come and share rooms. But typically it’s people on their own. And workshops vary. Some are very small. There might only be 10 or 12 people, and sometimes there may be 20 or 30 participants. But either way, it’s really about the intimacy of the of the retreat and that community-building.

And you, both Jasminne and Elizabeth, referred to the community piece of it. And, Elizabeth, I love to talk about, you know, you’re talking about with your wife and like after half an hour the conversation kind of moves on and like here, like you can talk about page turn or plot or character all day long, and you’ll always find somebody who not only gets what you’re saying but wants to keep going with that conversation. And I think, like creating that space and having that space is where you’re talking about those relationships and friendships that form like kind of can geek out about your story, and people get it.

And then I think this is the last question we’ll take. But do you get to choose whether you stay in a cabin or in the lodge? Or is that specific to each workshop?

If you book yourself a personal retreat, then you get to pick the type of lodging related to that cause. That’s like a one-to-one thing, and we’re able to do it for that. If you register for a workshop, you can put in the comments if you have a particular preference, especially if it’s an ADA preference, like, if you have a need for mobility or any sort of thing like that, please do make sure to let us know in that case. So in registration, let us know. But those aren’t guaranteed because we’ve got more people on campus, then to try to juggle into the different accommodation types. So we try our best to honor those requests when we can. But we have the hard part of making sure everybody has space on campus for that.

And we did just get another one: will scholarships be announced? It’s coming. I believe that tomorrow we’re sending out acceptances and things like that. Not a public announcement, because we normally get permission from people to make our big press release announcement. But those should be going out this week, notices about scholarships. So I know everybody’s excited about that, and we are excited, too, and it’s coming. I promise. Anything else you want to say about that, George? I know it’s a big week at the Highlights Foundation.

I love it. I can’t wait. Yeah. The scholarship program has been a great, wonderful part of our history for 35 plus years. And the last 2 or 3 years the program has really picked up steam, the way we’ve run the program. So we have some wonderful…it’s so many great applications and some really wonderful scholarship winners. So I can’t wait for that news to get out. Stay tuned.

It’s coming. I just wanted to thank everyone so much. I know Cat’s gonna close this out here, but I wanted to personally thank Jasminne, Elizabeth, for planning this with us and being with us today, and I’ll turn it over to Cat to close out.

We want to thank you for, want to thank you for spending time with George, Christina and I during this live Q&A, and for considering a stay at our retreat center for one of our in-person offerings this year. Thank you to our special guests, Jasminne Paulino, and Elizabeth Lilly, for sharing your on-campus experiences with all of us. This session will be available to re-watch at your leisure on our website as well as in listening form on our podcast called Gather, which you can find all of that on our website highlightsfoundation.org, where you can also register to attend any and all of our offerings that we have. Thank you so much for joining us, for spending this afternoon with us, and we cannot wait to see you again.

Thank you. Everyone. We appreciate it.


Bye, everyone. Thank you.

Listen to a podcast version of the Q&A:

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