Middle Grade Novels: Ideas! Characters! Point of View! (& Everything In Between)

October 27 - 30, 2022


In-person 4-Day/3-Night Workshop and Retreat

Middle Grade novels ignite a passion for reading. They are clever and imaginative, yet grounded. Join celebrated middle-grade authors Erin Entrada Kelly and Laurel Snyder to develop story ideas for your next middle-grade novel. There will be ample private retreat time so that you can write, wander, and connect with fellow novelists.

  • This is an in-person workshop at our Retreat Center with lectures, writing exercises, and small group discussions.
  • We include ample time to relax, retreat, and work on your own writing.
  • Lodging and meals are included.
  • Begins with dinner 5:30pm Eastern on Thursday, October 27
  • Ends with lunch at 1:00pm Eastern on Sunday, October 30
  • 16 participants max


  • Informal feedback throughout the workshop via hands-on exercises.
  • Facilitated small group discussion. (No submission required.)
  • A 1:1 consultation with Erin or Laurel during the workshop to share questions, ideas, and goals for your middle grade stories.  (No submission required.)


Middle-grade novels are clever and imaginative, yet grounded.  Some of the very best ones find a way to weave plot and emotional arcs into one impressive narrative that ignites a passion for reading.
Middle Grade Novels: Ideas! Characters! Point of View! In-person 4-day/3-night, starts October 17 with Erin Entrada Kelly and Laurel Snyder
Join celebrated middle-grade authors Erin Entrada Kelly and Laurel Snyder to discover new ways to start and grow your middle-grade narrative.

We’ll begin with a broad overview of middle-grade novels, from those for readers just out of chapter books to those readers who are ready to tackle more complex narratives.

Our sessions will cover craft components like world-building and point of view, while keeping the excitement of writing for this age group at heart. In addition to exploring the genre itself, we’ll discuss your work in a few ways:

  • informal responses to writing exercises;
  • facilitated small group discussions; and
  • 1:1 consultations with Erin or Laurel.


  • You are just starting to write for a middle-grade audience. You’ll get a broad overview of the landscape of today’s best middle-grade novels.
  • You want to learn more about world-building and point of view. This workshop is centered on the middle-grade novel with craft-focused sessions.
  • You could use some direction on your story ideas and/or revision steps. There will be both formal and informal opportunities for you to discuss your ideas with faculty and fellow novelists.
  • You could use some creative inspiration. There will be hands-on exercises designed to spark new ideas.
  • You’d appreciate some retreat time. This course has plenty of built-in time to write, draw, hike, or rest–whatever you need.




  • One week prior to your course, 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 details about the process for peer group discussions.

Retreat Details:

Day 1: Thursday, October 27, 2022

  • 3pm – 5pm Eastern: Arrival and check in.
  • 5:30pm: Appetizers & Dinner
  • Following dinner: “The Makings of a Middle Grade Novel: An Overview” with Erin and Laurel
    • Including welcome and introductions via your favorite middle-grade titles

Day 2: Friday, October 28, 2022


  • Breakfast
  • Session #1: “Join Us In the Middle: World Building in Your Middle Grade Novel” with Laurel and Erin
  • Session #2: Hands-on writing exercise, followed by sharing


  • Lunch
  • 1:1 consultations with Erin and Laurel (ideas, revisions, and questions)
  • Writing & retreat time while not in meetings


  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • Fireside Social and Q & A


Day 3: Saturday, October 29


  • Breakfast
  • Session #3: “Point of View & Character” with Erin and Laurel
  • Session #4: Hands-on writing exercise


  • Lunch
  • Facilitated peer-to-peer discussions (Bring POV exercise or World-building exercise.)
  • Editorial guest via Zoom


  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • Fireside chat: Character-driven vs. Plot-driven Novels


Day 4: Sunday, October 30, 2022


  • Breakfast
  • Reflection & Packing Time
  • Discussion: Next steps, revisions, and questions


  • Lunch & farewells

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


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 car 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.


Middle Grade novels ignite a passion for reading and spark a child’s imagination. This workshop highlights the many ways to craft a middle-grade novel that will satisfy readers.

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


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 try to 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.

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


Erin Entrada Kelly’s website
Publishers Weekly Q&A with Erin Entrada Kelly
Imagination And Creativity Can Carry You Through’: A Conversation With Newbery Medal Winner Erin Entrada Kelly at WBUR Boston
Laurel Snyder’s website
Publishers Weekly Q&A with Laurel Snyder
5 Common World Building Mistakes
Mining Personal Fascinations for Story Material
Use Research, Imagination & Emotion to Build Your Novel

Are you looking for information about scholarships? Find out more about the Highlights Foundation scholarship program here.


Erin Entrada Kelly

Erin Entrada Kelly received the 2018 Newbery Medal for Hello, Universe, a 2021 Newbery Honor for We Dream of Space,…
Learn more

Laurel Snyder

Laurel Snyder is the author of many books for young readers, including the Geisel-award winning series, Charlie and Mouse, seven…
Learn more


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.

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workshop information

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