Comparing Workshop Types at the Highlights Foundation

There are a few main ways workshops at the Highlights Foundation are categorized. This includes:

Details that explain all of these elements are included in each program description, but here is an overview that may help you with the breadth of our offerings (especially if you’re new to our community).

The Highlights Foundation has both in-person and online offerings. In-person offerings are held at our home base, the Barn and Retreat Center at Boyds Mills in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Online offerings are held…well…wherever you happen to be!

In-Person Offerings

The Barn and Retreat Center at Boyds Mills is our physical home base. On the traditional and contemporary lands of the Lenape Nation, the property resides in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It is sustainably cared for by the descendants of the Highlights for Children, Inc. founders. The property is rich in family history, and a wonderful place that feeds the mind, body, and soul. It’s tucked in the northern-most terrain of the Pocono Mountains, situated a couple of hours away from NYC and Philadelphia.

We hold in-person workshops, personal retreats, and larger gatherings here.

In-Person Workshops

In-person workshops generally vary from 3 to 7 days in length, depending on the offering. They’re faulty-led, with detailed agendas and structure. The length/agenda are detailed in each workshop description, and very specific to the workshop being offered. No two are ever the same.

Our in-person workshops are generally modestly-sized in nature; ranging anywhere from 8-30 people, depending on topic. These details will also be noted in the workshop description.

The price of in-person workshops include all programming, activities, accommodations, and three farm-fresh meals per day (plus drinks and snacks). You can add nights on to your stay at an additional cost, based on availability.

In-Person Retreats

If you’re looking for less structure than a workshop, but you still want to spend time with us in person, a retreat might be right for you.

We offer:

  • Community Retreats, which are mostly unstructured free work time with a few scheduled “meetups” or activities by genre or topic (i.e. a lecture or roundtable opportunity with a faculty member who is in attendance, group mealtimes, or a group hike).
  • Personal Retreats, which are fully unstructured but still give you a chance for ad hoc community opportunities with others there at the time if you choose (i.e. mealtimes in the barn, group workspaces, etc.).  More information about these retreat opportunities can be found here.

Retreat prices include accommodations, three farm-fresh meals per day (plus drinks and snacks), and any programming/activities specifically mentioned (in the case of community retreats).  You can add nights on to your stay at an additional cost, based on availability.

Online Offerings

You can take our online workshops and courses from literally anywhere you are, as long as you have access to a computer with an internet connection. On any given session, you’ll find attendees from across the US and the globe, all communing and learning together.

Depending on the workshop you choose, our online offerings generally use a combination of Zoom for LIVE sessions, an online course platform for self-paced/recorded sessions, resources, message boards, and email for specific communication.

There are generally two categories of online courses: facilitated, and on-demand.

Facilitated Online Courses

These workshops, courses and sessions can range anywhere from one hour to 10 weeks, depending on topic. Along with our faculty, we pick the best online format we can for the topic.

For example, we may plan a two-session mini online course on some aspect of character, but an 8-week online intensive on novel revision.

The length, structure, type of feedback, and community engagement vary widely for our facilitated online workshops. What you can count on: a start and end date.

Most courses have some aspect of LIVE engagement associated with them. We will record lectures and hands-on exercises, so if you have to miss one of those LIVE sessions, you will be able to watch the playback within 24 hours. Optional sessions (like office hours, brainstorming sessions, and informal small group critiques) are typically not recorded. We will try our best to work with your schedule if you are unable to attend those LIVE sessions.

If you can’t attend LIVE sessions at the times they’re offered, we do recommend keeping pace with the overall schedule of the course. This will make your participation in community aspects like message boards, writing exercises, etc. more relevant. Learn more about the time commitment needed to get the most value out of a Highlights Foundation offering here.

On-Demand Online Courses

If your schedule doesn’t match with the live programming, and/or you need more time to study the craft of writing, an on-demand course might be the right fit for you.

Our on-demand courses are built so that you can pace yourself through the pre-recorded videos and printed materials available in the virtual classroom. You’ll be given access to the course login for a specified amount of time, and you can do the sessions/work whenever you want to.

While these courses generally have less community interaction than their facilitated or “live” counterparts, we try to include faculty office hours or 1:1 consults if applicable. These will be detailed in the offering’s description, and can be scheduled or used at your convenience within certain guidelines.


Beyond in-person and online, workshops are generally divided into categories by genre/format/topic. They include:

  • Picture Books
  • Early Readers & Chapter Books
  • Novels
  • Nonfiction
  • Poetry
  • Illustration
  • Essential Conversations

The titles of each of our workshops generally capture what genre/format they cover.

Some workshops might be a broad slice about a genre or format in general (i.e. Picture Books A-Z), while others might be a narrower slice about a specific aspect about a genre or format (i.e. a workshop about Novels in Verse, or Sci-Fi).

Some courses focus on the business of publishing, and these are workshops that are 1) about breaking into or the processes/logistics of the industry itself, or 2) for KidLit professionals, or 3) for published authors/illustrators in need of general professional development/self-care. A great example is our Crash Course in Children’s Publishing (a great fit for beginners looking for insight into how the industry works with an introduction to the elements of craft). These can be specific to a genre or format, or cover a range. All details will be noted in workshop descriptions.

Our Essential Conversations series includes the rich learning and support needed as creators of work for children, including identity, inclusion, anti-bias, and anti-racist programming. The Essential Conversations programming may offer in-community symposiums (i.e. Jewish Symposium for Jewish Writers). Some Essential Conversations may focus on discussions related to a specific topic (i.e. Amplify Black Stories). Other Essential Conversations programs may overlap with genre/format (i.e. Writing the Rainbow for Picture Book Authors and Illustrators).

All of these details are included in each program description (with filters at the top of our general workshops page) so you can find the best one for your needs.

Experience Level

You may find yourself asking: is this workshop for experienced writers and illustrators, or beginners?

There are some Highlights Foundation workshops that may be better suited to beginners, depending on the nature of their topic. For example, our Crash Course in the Business of Children’s Publishing is perfect for those just starting out in children’s books. This doesn’t mean that the people who attend have no experience in books; many come as teachers, parents, or from another writing discipline like journalism. This course offers an overview of the children’s book industry, from types of books through benchmarks of craft.

Other workshops might be tailored for different experience levels, like published or debut authors and illustrators.

However, many of our workshops can overlap in experience level. That’s because our workshops are rooted in community, and intimate in nature. In most cases, our faculty are given a list of their attendees ahead of time, with any background info and writing samples they have submitted. This way, our faculty can tailor their presentations to those in attendance. And some of our offerings, like our Summer Camps and Retreats, are celebrations of craft and community that transcend genre and experience level.

Our workshops can also help writers and illustrators cross over into other genres/formats. For example, you might be a novelist with a hunger to break into the educational market; or a picture book writer with a fantastic idea for an early reader. We’d love to help you find and explore the right format for your story, regardless of experience level.

All of these details will be included in our program descriptions.

Finding an Offering that Fits

If you’d like help picking the Highlights Foundation workshop or course that’s right for your situation, we are here to help. Sign up to talk with an Ambassador for a conversation about your needs, and we’ll be happy to offer some guidance.

Workshops for Writers & Illustrators

> Online
> In-Person
> On-Demand (Self-Paced Online)

New to the Highlights Foundation? Try these:

About Children's Publishing | The Whole Novel Workshop | Summer Camp


Need help deciding on a workshop?  Ask an ambassador!

Visiting Our Campus

Our campus (The Barn at Boyds Mills) is tucked away in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.  It's a few hours from both New York City and Philadelphia, but worlds away from everyday life.

Line drawing of the Barn at Boyds Mills

Our Mission in Action

Equity & Inclusion in Kidlit

The Highlights Foundation positively impacts children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about our impact.

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