Telling It True: The Art of Storytelling in Narrative Nonfiction

October 3 - 6, 2021


  • In-person at our Retreat Center with lectures, writing exercises, faculty consultations and feedback, with ample time to relax, retreat, and work on your own writing.
  • Begins at 5:30pm Eastern on Sunday, October 3, 2021
  • Ends at 1:00pm Eastern on Wednesday, October 6, 2021




A well-told true story can inspire, delight, teach, and enthrall readers through captivating events and compelling narrative threads. It’s an exciting time for nonfiction in the children’s book world. Teachers are craving more of it. Authors are experimenting with structure and story-telling technique. And kids are realizing that nonfiction can read with the same page-turning momentum as great fiction. The process starts with the idea and research–lots of it. From there, the art of storytelling takes over.

In this workshop, you’ll:

  • Learn how to take your mountain of research and carve a storyline through it that will enthrall kids and be faithful to the sources.
  • Use the tools of the fiction writer to build character, explore theme, and shape a gripping informational story.
  • Submit a chapter of your work-in-progress for roundtable critique, as well as 1:1 feedback from faculty.
  • Complete hands-on exercises to practice using the tools of the fiction writer to build character, explore theme, and shape a gripping story.
  • Find out how to weave exposition seamlessly into narrative.
  • Engage in faculty-facilitated roundtable critiques of a chapter of your work-in-progress.
  • Have free writing time to create or revise.
  • Network with faculty, peers and special guests.

Prior to the workshop you will be asked to submit pages for your peer critique groups and for your faculty 1:1s. You will receive detailed submission information at least 4-weeks prior to your in-person workshop.


  • You want to stretch! If you’re a short-form nonfiction writer, we’ll help you investigate what it takes to go long-form and weave exposition into narrative.
  • You’re a fiction writer with an idea for a true story. Narrative nonfiction is all about using the tools of the fiction writer to tell gripping true stories. This course gives you a head start!
  • You LOVE to do research–but you don’t know when to stop. Our faculty are well versed in taking research and carving a storyline through it. Lectures and hands-on exercises will let you give it a try.
  • You want some time to relax, retreat, and work on your own projects. The Highlights Foundation retreat center is the perfect place to do all of the above! (If you are more interested in online courses, please visit our online class listings here.)


Kids love reading about real people and events! This workshop will show you ways to put together accurate research and use storytelling tools to create compelling true stories.


Pre-workshop details: Prior to the workshop you will be asked to submit pages for your peer critique groups and for your faculty 1:1s. You will receive detailed submission information by September 1, 2021, with submissions due by September 10, 2021.

Communications pre-workshop will take place in our virtual classroom where you will provide your submission, bio, and receive Highlights Foundation resources.

Sunday, October 3
By 5pm, Arrival & check in

Appetizers & Dinner
After dinner: Introductions and welcome

Monday, October 4
Lecture 1: Process: From Idea through Revision
Panel: The Editor/Author Relationship

Editor Guest
Roundtable workshop #1

Appetizers & Dinner
After dinner: Fireside chat

Tuesday, October 5
Lecture 2: The Elements of Story: Pacing, Scene, and POV 
Special Guest Paula Yoo

Roundtable workshop #2
1:1 consultations/ Independent writing time

Appetizers & Dinner
After dinner: Fireside chat: When Research Takes Over

Wednesday, October 6
Closing panel: The Writing Life

FAQs About Highlights Foundation Workshops:


True Storytelling: Tod Olson and Leda Schubert in Conversation
12 Signs That You Are Destined to Write Middle Grade Nonfiction
Theme in Narrative Nonfiction
7 Ways to Make Your Nonfiction Stand Out

Paula Yoo’s Website

Steve Sheinkin’s Website

Tod Olson’s Website


“I’ve been to many conferences and workshops and I teach a workshop every summer but coming to a Highlights workshop has been on my bucket list for years. It even exceeded my high expectations. Hard to put into words but the whole experience was magical. Being in a nurturing bubble, totally immersed in writing was amazing. No newspapers, no TV, no laundry to do or meals to cook, just writing. And learning from amazing mentors. And talking about writing. And writing some more… Bliss.”



Tod Olson

Tod Olson is author of the forthcoming Into the Clouds: The Race to Climb the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain (April…
Learn more

Steve Sheinkin

Steve Sheinkin is the award-winning author of fast-paced, cinematic nonfiction histories for young readers. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny,…
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Paula Yoo

Special Guest Paula Yoo is an author, screenwriter, and musician. Her latest YA non-fiction book, From a Whisper to a Rallying…
Learn more


All-inclusive registration includes workshop tuition, lodging, meals, beverages, and snacks..

Free shuttle is service available from the local airport, train, and bus station, or you can park on site. Get more logistics information here.

Pay in full or secure your spot with a deposit of $200 and payment plans as low as $75/month. We'll be in touch with details after you register.

Do you want help finding a workshop or resources that will fit your needs? Talk to one of our ambassadors.

workshop information

Begins on Sunday, October 3, with dinner and ends on Wednesday, October 6, with lunch.