Programs

Summer Camp in Nonfiction: Explore, Dig Deep, Inspire

July 15 - 19, 2022

Program is fully booked. Click here to join the waitlist.

OVERVIEW:

Get away for five days at our Summer Camp in Nonfiction 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 turning research into narrative. 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 Friday, July 15
  • Ends with lunch at 1:00pm Eastern on Tuesday, July 19
  • 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. Our feedback sessions offer you support, as well as give you space to ask questions to help problem-solve, brainstorm new ideas, and work through challenges.

  • Those writing longer nonfiction can submit up to 2,500 words from a current work in progress. This submission should also contain a cover letter.
  • Picture book writers can submit one full picture book manuscript of up to 1,200 words with a cover letter.
  • If you are between projects or just starting out, you can submit a book proposal with a short writing sample or a one-page list of ideas and interests you are considering as the focus of your nonfiction project. This submission should also contain a cover letter.
  • In addition to submitting one of the above choices to your faculty reader, you will 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 altogether (please follow the same length guidelines).
  • You will receive comprehensive submission details closer to the start of Summer Camp.  Submissions are due June 20, 2022 to allow ample time for readers to take in your story.

WHY THIS WORKSHOP?

This five day, in-person summer camp in nonfiction 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
  • feedback that includes 1:1 mentorship with your faculty reader at the beginning and end of the program, and 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 nonfiction for children and teens, and motivate you to keep going.
  • Participate in breakout sessions focused on research tips, nonfiction forms and structures, evaluating primary source material, and more.
  • Explore factual writing through a range of topics, including nonfiction voice, biography, memoir, nature and science writing, and narrative nonfiction.
  • Receive guidance on how to submit nonfiction manuscripts to publishers who want to see them.
  • 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 20, 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 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 love nonfiction and are eager to write TRUE stories. This workshop provides a comprehensive immersion into the world of nonfiction children’s books.
  • You have an in-progress or finished manuscript and would like feedback. Your faculty reader 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 nonfiction for kids and teens.
  • You are working on a biography, a nature or science-themed book, a social justice book, and/or educational work for kids or teens. Our faculty is well-versed in these genres and markets and can help you craft an engaging book for kids and strategize ways to get it to market.

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 20, 2022. Those writing longer nonfiction can submit up to 2,500 words from a current work in progress. This submission should also contain a cover letter. Picture book writers can submit one full picture book manuscript of up to 1,200 words with a cover letter. If you are between projects or just starting out, you can submit a book proposal with a short writing sample or a one-page list of ideas and interests you are considering as the focus of your nonfiction project. This submission should also contain a cover letter. In addition to submitting one of the above choices to your faculty reader, you will 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 altogether (please follow the same length guidelines). You will receive comprehensive submission details closer to the start of Summer Camp.  Submissions are due June 20, 2022 to allow ample time for readers to take in your story.

Tentative 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 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)

Friday, July 15

  • 3pm – 5pm Eastern:     Arrival and check in.
  • 5:30pm:                          Appetizers & Dinner
  • Following dinner:         Opening Session & Welcome with Alison Green Myers, followed by meeting with your faculty reader for introductions

Saturday, July 16
Morning:

  • Breakfast
  • Inspirational Keynote: Don Tate, “My Journey: Painting Pictures with Words, Writing Stories with Pictures”
  • Breakout Sessions (Your Choice of Topic)
    • Rob Sanders: Nonfiction: Not So Secret Secrets to Staying in the Scene
    • Andrea Page: Gathering Native Voices: WOW Readers with Meaningful Sentences

Afternoon:

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

Evening:

  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • After Dinner: Inspirational Keynote: Dana Rau, “From the Mixed-Up Process of Mrs. Nonfiction Writer”

Sunday, July 17
Morning:

  • Breakfast
  • Inspirational Keynote: Carole Boston Weatherford
  • Breakout Sessions (Your Choice of Topic)
    • Don Tate: Picture Book Biographies: Five Things To Consider
    • Dana Rau: Using Lists as a Back Door into a Project

Afternoon:

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

Evening:

  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • After Dinner: Work-for-Hire & Educational Publishing Opportunities, a panel discussion with S’mores by the fire (weather permitting)

Monday, July 18
Morning:

  • Breakfast
  • Inspirational Keynote: Andrea Page, “Becoming a Writer: Braiding Memories, Emotions, and Actions”
  • Breakout Sessions (Your Choice of Topic)
    • Carole Boston Weatherford
    • M.O. Yuksel: Inspiration + Mentor Texts = Picture Books

Afternoon:

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

Evening:

  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • Open Mic on the patio

Tuesday, July 19
Morning

  • Breakfast
  • Final Mentor Meetings
  • Closing keynote: Rob Sanders, “Telling the Stories That Only YOU Can Tell”

Afternoon

  • Lunch and farewells

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:

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 nonfiction. 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 20 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

12 signs that you are destined to write middle grade nonfiction
Theme in Narrative Nonfiction
STEAMing Into Nonfiction
3 Diversity Fellows Talk About Summer Camp Mentorship
Seven Ways to Make Your Nonfiction Stand Out
The hard-but-satisfying work of creative nonfiction
True Storytelling

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

FROM OUR COMMUNITY:

“My interactions with my faculty mentor were positive and helpful! Heidi had thoughtful suggestions and was encouraging about my project.”

“I was matched with just the right mentor for me. Her background and passions matched mine, and she helped me see possibilities that I hadn’t been able to see on my own.”

“The faculty were not only very knowledgeable but warm and generous. Very high-quality faculty! My mentor was really helpful and encouraging and helped me to see approaches for my idea that I couldn’t have seen myself.”

“The faculty were engaged, generous with their time and wisdom, and human. It was really refreshing/important that many of them not only presented but also participated in various parts of the camp; that sent a great “we are all learning, all journeying together” message. Also wonderful that you had such a diversity of faculty in terms of race, nationality, gender, orientation, and expertise/place in the world of children’s books.”

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

Faculty

Carole Boston Weatherford

Carole Boston Weatherford is an award-winning author of children’s books, including Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White…
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Rob Sanders

Rob Sanders is a teacher who writes and a writer who teaches. He is known for his funny and fierce…
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Don Tate

Don Tate is an award-winning author, and the illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed books for children. Books he’s illustrated include…
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Dana Meachen Rau

Dana Meachen Rau has written more than 350 books for children in a variety of genres—early readers, picture-books, historical fiction,…
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Andrea Page

Andrea Page (Lakota, Standing Rock Nation) is a children’s author, retired teacher, and Co-President of Rochester Area Children’s Writers and…
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M.O. Yuksel

Special Guest M.O. Yuksel is the author of the critically acclaimed picture book, IN MY MOSQUE, illustrated by Hatem Aly…
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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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