Picture Book Writers and Illustrators: A Working Retreat

August 25 - 28, 2022


In-person 4-Day/3-Night Working Retreat

Picture book writers and illustrators: set aside time to focus on your picture book project! Here is a special retreat just for you.

Join author Darcy Pattison, author/illustrator Leslie Helakoski, and editor Trisha de Guzman to work on your picture book manuscript during this retreat.  It also includes one consultation, one guided manuscript workshopping of a picture book, and more.

  • This is an in-person retreat for picture book writers and illustrators who have at least one draft of a picture book manuscript, or a dummy (mocked-up picture book).
  • Included in the cost of the retreat is a 1:1 consultation with an editor, a facilitated group discussion about your work, and the opportunity for a first page review by an editor.
  • This is not a fully structured workshop. The focus will be ample time to work on your own stories, connect with fellow creatives, and retreat.
  • Lodging and meals are included.
  • Begins at 5:30pm Eastern on Thursday, August 25
  • Ends at 1:00pm Eastern on Sunday, August 28
  • 16 participants max


All creatives need time and space to accomplish their goals. We invite picture book creatives to gather in a community of fellow writers and illustrators, and spend time focused on crafting picture books.

At the heart of this working retreat is the “work.”

Days will be spent on individual projects, whether that means sketching in the Art Coop, drafting new words on the porch of your cabin, or finally getting to the revisions that your work-in-progress needs.

In addition to your personal time, we’ve invited author Darcy Pattison, author/illustrator Leslie Helakoski, and editor Trisha de Guzman to retreat alongside you. Darcy or Leslie will lead small group workshopping discussions to help move your story forward. You will meet individually with our editor for a private consultation to discuss your story ideas and writing. The retreat will conclude with an optional first-pages session with our editorial guest.

Along with your 1:1 meetings and small group discussions, you will have the chance to gather informally over meals and after dinner each night to chat about stories.

Your retreat will be well appointed with space to create as every accommodation option includes a personal workspace. You’ll find various spaces around the grounds to get work done or take a nature walk if you need a change of pace or some inspiration.


  • You are a picture book creative, at any level, in any style. This workshop is open to picture book writers and illustrators who are just beginning and those who have more experience. Of most importance is at least one completed draft of a manuscript or dummy (mocked up picture book.)
  • You are looking for feedback from a picture book creative. You have the opportunity to workshop your story in a small group facilitated by Darcy or Leslie, and meet with an editor for a 1:1 meeting to discuss your ideas and writing.
  • You enjoy discussing stories with fellow picture book creatives. Bring your up-to-date manuscript to be read aloud during our facilitated group discussions. You’ll gather ideas and feedback about your story in this supportive environment.
  • You’d like a retreat where you can get to work. This retreat is not filled with lecture.  At its heart, this retreat is time to work on your own projects with the added bonus of workshopping your stories and hearing feedback from our faculty.



  • You will receive a link to our virtual classroom where you can introduce yourself to fellow picture book creatives and engage in Highlights Foundation related resources (including our Community Standards).
  • Remember to bring at least one picture book manuscript with you for feedback sessions. You will workshop one picture book in your small group with strong feedback from Darcy and Leslie. You will have the opportunity to discuss that manuscript (or others) in your 1:1 consultation, and that manuscript (or another) in the first pages session.
  • We encourage you to bring additional projects with you to the retreat at various stages in-progress, as you will have time to draft, revise, and polish your work during independent time.

Retreat Details:

  • The retreat includes one meeting with an editor and small group workshopping of your story with fellow storytellers and Darcy Pattison and Leslie Helakoski.
  • You are encouraged to participate in a first pages discussion with our editorial guest.
  • You are encouraged to meet informally with fellow creatives to discuss stories, work, and wander the woods together!
  • All times are Eastern Standard Time.

Thursday, August 25

  • 3pm – 5pm Eastern: Arrival and check in.
  • 5:30pm: Appetizers & Dinner (with introductions over dinner)
  • Following dinner: Expectations and goals for our time together.


Friday, August 26


  • Breakfast
  • Small group workshopping (half the group) and Writing/Illustration time


  • Lunch
  • Writing/Illustration time and 1:1 meetings


  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • Informal gathering fireside (weather permitting)


Saturday, August 27


  • Breakfast
  • Small group workshopping (half the group) and Writing/Illustration time


  • Lunch
  • Writing/Illustration time and 1:1 meetings


  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • Informal gathering fireside (weather permitting)


Sunday, August 28


  • Breakfast
  • Writing/Illustration time
  • Optional first pages discussion with editorial guest


  • Lunch & farewells

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


All in-person Highlights Foundation workshops and retreats (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 retreat fee 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.

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.


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Nonfiction Picture Books: Get it Right with Research


“The faculty was excellent – knowledgeable, focused, and generous with their time.”

“Darcy and Leslie encouraged, enlightened, and energized in a most personable way.”

“This conference was great! A perfect mix of learning and practicing our craft.”

“Darcy and Leslie were extremely accessible for advice, critique and casual conversation.”


Darcy Pattison

Children’s book author and indie publisher Darcy Pattison writes award-winning fiction and non-fiction books for children. Five books have received…
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Leslie Helakoski

Leslie’s award-winning books are known for their humor and word play. Woolbur (HarperCollins) was nominated for book awards in 13…
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Trisha de Guzman

Trisha de Guzman is an Editor at Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan. She has…
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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.