Programs

Summer Camp in Fiction: Explore, Play, and Inspire

July 6 - 10, 2022

OVERVIEW:

This Summer Camp is FULL. Click here if you’d like to join the Waitlist.

Get away for five days at our Summer Camp in Fiction for inspiration, guidance, mentorship, community, fun, creativity, and growth.

At the Highlights Foundation, “summer camp” is different than s’mores by the fire and hiking in the woods. (Though we do that, too.)

Our summer camp is a time to find the kind of encouragement for your writing that only a generous mentor can provide. To find inspiration and support. To be with a community that understands the long process of creating. To work 1:1 and fine-tune your words and pitches while you have some fun.

  • This is an in-person workshop at our Retreat Center with keynotes, breakout sessions, mentorship, and ample time for independent writing, meeting informally with fellow creatives, and resting.
  • Lodging and meals are included.
  • Begins at with dinner 5:30pm Eastern on Wednesday, July 6
  • Ends with lunch at 1:00pm Eastern on Sunday, July 10
  • 24 participants max

FEEDBACK EXPECTED:

Guidance and mentorship will be offered in two ways, both through our faculty readers and in your facilitated peer group. The goal of our feedback sessions is to offer you support, as well as ask questions to help you problem-solve, brainstorm new ideas, and work through challenges.

  • Novelists and those writing longer fiction can submit up to 2,500 words from a current work in progress prior to the start of camp for faculty critique. This submission should also contain a cover letter and one-page synopsis.
  • Picture book writers or author/illustrators can submit one full picture book manuscript of up to 1,200 words with a cover letter.
  • In addition to submitting one of the above to your faculty reader, you can submit pages for your peer groups. These submissions can be from the same work-in-progress as given to your faculty reader, or a new project.
  • You will receive comprehensive submission details closer to the start of Summer Camp.  Submissions are due June 16, 2022 to allow ample time for readers to take in your story.

WHY THIS WORKSHOP?

This five day, in-person summer camp in fiction is centered on mentorship, inspiration, and community with:

  • opportunities for learning, feedback, and interaction
  • ample self-paced time to make progress on a project, or play with your creativity
  • lots of opportunities for feedback (1:1 mentorship by your faculty reader at the beginning and end of the program, facilitated peer discussions, plus informal feedback throughout)

Mornings will be structured around lectures, workshops, and hands-on activities. Afternoons will be for independent writing and revising, as well as meetings with fellow creatives (including your faculty reader and small group).

You will:

  • Hear inspirational and educational keynotes by our faculty. These will refresh your passion for the craft of writing for children and teens, and motivate you to keep going.
  • Participate in breakout sessions focused on creating rich characters, developing voice, constructing settings, structuring plot, and more.
  • Work one-to-one with faculty on a project of your choice. Faculty reader/attendee pairings will be made thoughtfully according to your work and your goals. (Getting your submission in by June 16, 2022 allows us to make this pairing.)
  • Participate in small group discussions with a thoughtfully chosen group of fellow attendees. This small group style is designed to help you lead a discussion of your work and needs in community with other writers, assisted by a workshop facilitator. Writers can share the same project they are using with their faculty mentor, or a new project.
  • Have ample free writing time built into this course so that you can stretch and work on your own projects. It is meant to be the perfect pairing of “retreat” and guided lectures.

THIS WORKSHOP IS A GREAT FIT IF:

  • You are a fiction writer of picture books, chapter books, novels, and multi-genre fiction projects. With a large faculty that publishes across genres, there is a little something for everyone at Camp.
  • You’ve always wanted to write a children’s book. This workshop provides an immersive start in the world of children’s literature.
  • You have an in-progress or finished manuscript and would like feedback. Your faculty mentor will give you feedback, answer questions, and support you in setting goals. Your peer group can help you consider your revision goals and plans.
  • You need a jolt of creativity or a reminder of purpose. Summer Camp can be about getting work done if you want it to be, but it can also be about renewing your spark and purpose in writing for kids and teens.

DETAILED AGENDA:

Pre-Workshop:

  • You will receive a link to our virtual classroom where you can introduce yourself to fellow writers, engage in Highlights Foundation related resources (including our Community Standards), and view submission details related to this course.
  • You can also attend an informal Zoom session prior to camp to ask all of your questions, and get some important information and guidelines for participating in group discussions. This informal Zoom session will be recorded for those who cannot attend live.
  • Submission deadline: June 16, 2022.  Novelists and those writing longer fiction can submit up to 2,500 words from a current work in progress prior to the start of camp for faculty critique. This submission should also contain a cover letter and one-page synopsis. Picture book writers or author/illustrators can submit one full picture book manuscript of up to 1,200 words with a cover letter. In addition to submitting to your faculty reader, you can submit pages for your peer groups. These submissions can be from the same work-in-progress as given to your faculty reader, or a new project. Comprehensive details about your submissions will come to you approximately one week before the June 16th submission deadline.

Retreat Schedule:
Mornings will be structured around lectures/keynotes, workshops, and hands-on activities. Afternoons will be for independent writing and revising, as well as meetings with fellow creatives (including your faculty reader and small group).

There will be several inspirational keynotes throughout the workshop by various faculty and guests.

There will also be 7-10 breakout sessions throughout the week led by our faculty and special guests. Each breakout session is designed to help you grow as a writer through hands-on exercises. You pick the sessions to attend live that most appeal to you.  Sessions that you do not attend live will be recorded and placed in your virtual classroom for you to view for up to 30 days following the retreat.

Your faculty reader will meet with you at the start of the week and at the end of the week. During each session with your mentor, you should feel free to ask questions and help guide the conversation.

  • You will receive written feedback on your submission and you’ll discuss this feedback during your first faculty reader meeting on the first full day of camp.
  • Your second meeting on the last morning of camp will be time for you to talk openly about revisions and changes made during the workshop.
  • Your faculty reader will support your goals for the week, whether you want to flesh out one piece for submission or identify the strongest concept for your work-in-progress.

You’ll meet with your peer group for workshopping between meetings with your faculty reader, over the course of two afternoons.

  • This small group-style is designed to help you lead a discussion of your work and needs in community with other writers, assisted by a workshop facilitator.
  • Writers can share the same project they are using with their faculty mentor/reader, or a new project.

During the workshop, there will also be informal moments to meet and discuss your work with attendees and faculty apart from your faculty reader and peer groups. You will have the opportunity to share your work during breakout sessions and during an open mic session. We encourage you to engage in these opportunities.

(All times Eastern Standard Time)

Wednesday, July 6

  • 3pm – 5pm Eastern: Arrival and check in.
  • 5:30pm: Appetizers & Dinner
  • Following dinner: Opening Session & Introductions with Alex Villasante
  • Meet with small group facilitators to set up sharing schedule throughout the workshop

Thursday, July 7
Morning:

  • Breakfast
  • Inspirational Keynote
  • Breakout Sessions (Your Choice of Topic)

Afternoon:

  • Lunch
  • Free writing time (optional writing prompt)
  • 1:1 Meetings with Faculty Reader

Evening:

  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • After Dinner: Inspirational Keynote

Friday, July 8
Morning:

  • Breakfast
  • Inspirational Keynote
  • Breakout Sessions (Your Choice of Topic)

Afternoon:

  • Lunch
  • Free writing time (optional writing prompt)
  • Peer Group Meeting #1

Evening:

  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • After Dinner: Panel discussion with S’mores by the fire (weather pending)

Saturday, July 9
Morning:

  • Breakfast
  • Inspirational Keynote
  • Breakout Sessions (Your Choice of Topic)

Afternoon:

  • Lunch
  • Free writing time (optional writing prompt)
  • Peer Group Meeting #2

Evening:

  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • Open Mic on the patio

Sunday, July 10
Morning

  • Breakfast
  • Final Mentor Meetings
  • Closing keynote

Afternoon

  • Lunch and farewells

Note: Breakout topics and lecture themes are still being developed by faculty. Past Summer Camp session topics have included:

  • Waking the Inner Voice: It’s Time
  • Dream, Dare, Do—Writing Takes Vision, Courage, and Energy, Each to the Fullest
  • Creating Character
  • Picture Book as an Act of Mischief: Bringing the Right Voice & the Right Play to a Picture Book
  • Propulsive Language: Making Stories MOVE
  • Creating a Sense of Place
  • Minor Characters and Transitional Scenes
  • Writing is Re-writing: Maximizing Revision
  • Beginnings & Endings: Pathways to the Reader’s Mind & Heart, & Gaining Welcome Entrance
  • Writing from the Senses (with a sense walk)
  • Dialogue Busters: Crafting Conversation in Fiction
  • Literature, Lessons, and Life: How the Desire to Write One Good Sentence Pursued Me
  • JUST Fiction: Writing Race, Culture, and Power in Children’s Books
  • Have You Scene This: Scene Writing Exercises
  • The Power That Comes with Information, the More and the Richer
  • What Does Your Character Desire?
  • Submission Basics: How to Start and End Your Query Letter
  • The Importance of the Page Turn
  • What I Really Want to Write About: Finding Stories That Matter

A note about workshop agendas and how they change and evolve. 

ABOUT OUR RETREAT CENTER:

All in-person Highlights Foundation workshops (including this one) are held at our Retreat Center: The Barn at Boyds Mills.  This site was the home of the original founders of Highlights for Children Garry and Caroline Myers, and is located in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania on the traditional and contemporary lands of the Lenape Nation.

Your workshop tuition includes lodging, farm-fresh meals with snacks, and shuttle service from our local airport or bus/train stations if you need it.  For more information about attending a workshop or retreat here, visit the Barn at Boyds Mills website.

HOW THIS WORKSHOP IMPACTS KIDS:

Writing for children and teens is often referred to as a labor of love. It is rewarding work because your stories can have a big impact on the lives of children, but it is hard work. Get support, motivation, reassurance, and sense of community from fellow creators who share your passion.

Why do we mention this? Learn about the Highlights Foundation mission. 

COMMITMENT REQUIRED FOR THE BEST EXPERIENCE:

As an in-person event at our Retreat Center, you’ll have a chance to step away from everyday life to experience the workshop. We build in breaks and independent time so you have space for your personal needs. While we encourage participation in all group events, we know that as an adult learner you can decide if you need more time to yourself. Please let someone from our staff or faculty know if you plan to step away from group activities.

The Highlights Foundation strives for a safe and inclusive environment. You will have access to our Community Standards prior to the workshop where we ask for your respectful engagement with fellow creatives, including our faculty and staff.

Another commitment that will help you get the most from this workshop is submission deadlines for mentorship and small group discussions. The submission deadline is June 16 in order to allow faculty and members of your small group ample time to familiarize themselves with your work in advance of your meetings.  If this is an issue, please let us know.

Read some ideas about planning for the right level of commitment. 

RELATED RESOURCES

Summer Camp Reflections
Carnival, Summer Camp, and Carolyn Yoder: Or why you need to find a creative mentor
Summer Camp Scenes
A Happy Camper
Alison Myers welcomes the group to 2019 Summer Camp

Nervous about critiques? See how the Highlights Foundation approaches the process here.

FROM OUR COMMUNITY:

“I’ve never found a more supportive or knowledgeable faculty at any other workshop or conference.”

“The mentoring staff members were amazing. All were open, honest, and encouraging. They didn’t just tell us what we wanted to hear – they told us things to make our writing sizzle.”

“They were wonderful: available, friendly, encouraging, and FUN!”

“Just about every faculty member made sure to sit with us at each meal and get to know us. Anyone I asked to read made time for me. Everybody seemed knowledgeable and like they truly wanted me to succeed. Definitely feel that most of them went above and beyond.”

“My mentor was a great match for me. She had important suggestions but also was positive about what was working. She hit the nail on the head about where I needed to head with the mss.”

“As always, this Highlights experience was amazing. I met wonderful writers and created new friendships. I loved the open mic, it gave me the courage I needed to make my own voice heard.”

“Everyone…and I mean EVERYONE was so incredibly knowledgeable and inspiring and encouraging and humble and helpful and considerate. It was indeed a pleasure to have been a participant.”

“I’ve never found a more supportive or knowledgeable faculty at any other workshop or conference.”

“The mentoring staff members were amazing. All were open, honest, and encouraging. They didn’t just tell us what we wanted to hear – they told us things to make our writing sizzle.”

The Highlights Foundation offers a number of scholarships to our programs. Find out more about scholarships here.

Faculty

Shadra Strickland

Shadra Strickland studied, design, writing, and illustration at Syracuse University and later went on to complete her M.F.A. at the…
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David Bowles

David Bowles is a Mexican-American author from south Texas, where he teaches at the University of Texas Río Grande Valley.…
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Sona Charaipotra

The author of the YA doc dramedy Symptoms of a Heartbreak, Sona Charaipotra is not a doctor — much to…
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Nikki Shannon Smith

Nikki Shannon Smith is the author of eleven books, ranging from picture books to young adult. Her work includes the…
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Jennifer Robin Barr

Special Guest Jennifer Robin Barr is a Philadelphia-area writer focusing little-known nuggets of history. Her debut novel, Goodbye, Mr. Spalding…
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Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the former editor in chief of Multicultural Review. Her young adult novel Gringolandia was a 2010 ALA…
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Alexandra Villasante

Alexandra Villasante has always loved telling stories–though not always with words. She has a BFA in Painting and an MA…
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$1,399.00

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

Free shuttle service is 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

Our all-inclusive price means we provide transportation to and from the airport, lodging, all meals, unlimited snacks, and wireless Internet access.

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