Writing Stories to Empower Through Trauma: A Workshop in Memory of Rebecca Dykes

November 3 - 7, 2022


In partnership with the Rebecca Dykes Writers, this program has been thoughtfully formed to offer a safe environment for writers to gather and find ways to express themselves through stories that empower survivors of gender-based trauma, and explore the effects of violence on our communities as a whole.

If this is an area of writing that you are looking to approach respectfully and responsibly–while centering your child and teen readers–we invite you to apply for five days of inspiration, meditation, mentorship, and creativity on the beautiful campus of the Highlights Foundation.

  • This is an in-person workshop at the Highlights Foundation Retreat Center with a supportive faculty (including mental health professionals) and ample time for independent writing, meeting informally with fellow creatives, and resting.
  • You will receive a link to a questionnaire that all attendees should complete upon registering. This questionnaire is an effort to ensure that your goals and needs can be well-served by the content that will be offered during the workshop in a non-clinical setting.  Please provide responses to the best of your knowledge.  We’ll confirm your registration and workshop attendance within 14 days of receiving your completed questionnaire.
  • Arrive by 5:30 pm Eastern on Thursday, November 3, 2022
  • Departure at 1:00pm Eastern on Monday, November 7, 2022
  • Program price: $1499; Lodging and meals are included.


  • A 1:1 on-campus consultation with one of our experienced faculty members;
  • A facilitated small group discussion will take place on three afternoons to share sample pages, offer questions about revisions, and bring ideas for moving your work forward;
  • Informal feedback will also be offered via optional sharing opportunities during creative exercises.


This five day, in-person program offers support, growth, and story development that centers the work on empowering our readers.  Rebecca Dykes Writers seek ways to engage communities in respectful and responsible dialogue about gender-based violence that has overwhelmingly impacted female-identifying persons. Rebecca Dykes Writers is dedicated to providing resources and support for writers wishing to help young people navigate their experiences, questions, and concerns about gender-based violence.
Rebecca Dykes Memorial Workshop: Writing to Empower. In-person 5-Day/4-Night Workshop and Retreat, November 3-7, 2022. with Heather Demetrios, Isaac Fitzsimons, Sera Rivers, Alexandra Villasante, Jane Huong, Michelle Hazen and Alaina Kozma
The program includes:

  • a diverse array of engaging writing presentations by faculty experienced in child-centered storytelling
  • opportunities for group discussion and 1:1 consultations
  • introductory activities to establish safety protocols, provide story/sharing content warnings, and details about connecting with our on-site support staff
  • ample self-paced time to make progress on a project, and retreat on the Highlights Foundation’s grounds

With a thoughtful and open approach to instruction, we will address ways to avoid re-traumatizing both readers and the writers who do the work. Creatives will discuss how to talk to parents, schools, librarians, and others about gender-based violence, and the need for more stories to be available for our kids and teens.

Mornings will be structured around lectures and small group work. Afternoons will be for independent writing and revising, and meetings with fellow creatives.

We encourage you to register for this program if:

  • You are a writer in any genre, interested in creating stories that explore empowering children and teens specifically in the area of gender-based violence.
  • You are comfortable working in a collaborative setting while crafting sensitive stories.
  • You are aware that the program will take place at a writing retreat center, not in a clinical environment.

*Please note that scholarships have already been awarded to this program.


  • On Monday, October 24 at 7:30pm Eastern we will host an optional meet & greet via Zoom to answer any last minute questions you have before attending the retreat. (This session will be recorded for those who cannot make the live Zoom session.)
  • Within 7 days of the retreat, you will receive a link to our virtual classroom where you can introduce yourself to fellow writers, and engage in Highlights Foundation and Rebecca Dykes Writers-related resources (including Community Standards).


Tentative Program Schedule:

  • Please bring projects at any stage in the writing process that you wish (idea, draft, revision, etc.). You will have time to meet and share work in small groups and 1:1 with a faculty member, plus ample time to work independently.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

  • 3 – 5pm Eastern          Arrival
  • 5:30pm                         Appetizers followed by dinner
  • 7:15pm                         Welcome & HF Community Guidelines; How to Support One Another This Weekend;          Informal Introductions, fireside (weather permitting)
  • 8pm                              Opening Discussion with Michelle Hazen, Mental Health for Writers


Friday, November 4, 2022

  • 8 – 8:45am                   Breakfast
  • 8:45 – 9:30am             Opening Meditation/Forest Walk: Heather
  • 9:30 – 11am                  Presentation #1: Bringing Family to Your Story: Real and Really Real; Followed by Q & A
  • 11:15am – 12pm           Small Group Discussion #1 with Heather, Sera, Isaac


  • 12pm – 12:45pm         Lunch
  • 1pm – 4pm                   Free writing time and informal activities
  • 4pm – 5:30pm             Optional 1:1 Consultations (Sign Up) with Michelle, Alaina, Jane, Heather


  • 5:30 – 7pm                  Appetizers & Dinner
  • After Dinner                Informal gathering, fireside (weather permitting)


Saturday, November 5, 2022

  • 8 – 8:45am                  Breakfast
  • 8:45 – 9:30am            Meditation/Forest Walk: Heather
  • 9:30 – 11am                 Presentation #2: Trauma & Transforming Your Life-Story to Fiction; Followed by Q & A
  • 11:15am – 12pm          Small Group Discussion #2: Heather, Sera, Isaac


  • 12pm – 12:45pm        Lunch
  • 1pm – 3pm                  Free writing time and informal activities
  • 3pm – 4:30pm           Optional 1:1 Consultations (Sign Up): Michelle, Alaina, Jane, Heather
  • 4:30 – 5:30pm           Facilitated group discussion: Healing & Hope


  • 5:30 – 7pm                 Appetizers & Dinner
  • After Dinner               Guest speaker, Jane Houng (mother of Rebecca Dykes)


Sunday, November 6, 2022

  • 8 – 8:45am                  Breakfast
  • 8:45 – 9:30am            Meditation/Forest Walk: Heather
  • 9:30 – 11am                 Presentation #3: Support Systems & Secondary Characters; Followed by Q & A
  • 11:15am – 12pm          Free writing time and informal activities


  • 12pm – 12:45pm        Lunch (Please sign up for tonight’s reading)
  • 1pm – 4:30pm            Free writing time and informal activities
  • 4:30 – 5:30pm            Facilitated group discussion: Working with student writers and readers


  • 5:30 – 7pm                   Special Dinner in the Lodge
  • After Dinner                 Open Mic Sharing & Discoveries in the Lodge living room


Monday, November 7

  • 8 – 8:45am                  Breakfast
  • 9  – 10:30am               Closing Keynote: Confronting Traumatic Expectations & Finding Joy; Followed by Q & A
  • 10:45 – 11:45am         Reflections, Sharing, & Closing Thoughts
  • 11:45am – 12:45pm   Lunch & Departures

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

Following the course you’ll be invited to take part in our Community Office Hours on Thursdays at 7pm Eastern, beginning Thursday, November 10 through Thursday, December 15.


All in-person Highlights Foundation workshops (including this special partnership) 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. For more information about attending a workshop or retreat here, visit the Barn at Boyds Mills website.


As an in-person event at our Retreat Center, you’ll have a chance to step away from everyday life to experience the program. 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.

You will receive a link to a questionnaire that all attendees should complete upon registering. This questionnaire is an effort to ensure that your goals and needs can be well-served by the content that will be offered during the workshop in a non-clinical setting.  Please provide responses to the best of your knowledge.  We’ll confirm your registration and workshop attendance within 14 days of receiving your completed questionnaire.

*Please note that scholarships have already been awarded to this program.

ABOUT Rebecca Dykes and the Rebecca Dykes Writers:

What happens when a writer loses her daughter to violence?

She tells the story.

If you have been affected by femicide or gender-based violence, she wants to help you tell your story too.

Jane Houng, mother of Rebecca “Becky” Dykes, is the founder of Rebecca Dykes Writers, an organization aimed at ending femicide one word at a time.

Since the death of her daughter in December 2017, Jane has dedicated her life to Becky’s humanitarian legacy.

Since Becky’s death, Jane has collaborated with women from all over the world in efforts to support the most vulnerable population on the globe: underserved women and girls who are most at risk for experiencing violence.

Jane founded Becky’s Bathhouse, a wellness center and shower facility serving refugee women and children in residing in Mavrovouni refugee camp on the Greek Island of Lesvos. Over the past three years, Becky’s Bathhouse has served more than 15,000 refugee women and children, from over a dozen countries.

Her current projects are in response to UN Women’s call for making a global collective effort to fight for VAWG, focusing on prevention and collection of data that can improve services for women and girls.

For Jane, the most powerful aspect of carrying on Becky’s legacy is hearing the stories of women who have survived gender-based violence, and connecting with families who have lost loved ones through violence. As a storyteller herself, she knew that the best way to fight violence against women is to tell stories.

Becky herself had posted the words “me too” on her Facebook page, just two months prior to being raped and murdered by her taxi driver in Lebanon. Since Becky can no longer tell her story, or explain her “me too,” Jane will do it for her. And she wants to help others too.

Jane is committed to fighting femicide by using her words, storytelling, and every available resource at her disposal to tell her daughter’s story and help others tell their stories of gender-based violence.


Trauma, grief and making an impact through it all, an interview with Jane Houng
Interview with Jane Houng & Heather Demetrios on the Vermont College of Fine Arts blog


Heather Demetrios

Heather Demetrios is a critically acclaimed author, writing coach, and certified meditation teacher based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her publishers…
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Isaac Fitzsimons

Isaac Fitzsimons (Fitz-EYE-mons) writes so that every reader can see themselves reflected in literature. His debut novel, The Passing Playbook,…
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Sera Rivers

Sera Rivers (she/her) is a Senior Literary Manager at Martin Literary & Media Management and is currently accepting queries for…
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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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Jane Houng

Special Guest Jane Houng is a long-term resident of Hong Kong and China. She received an MFA in WYCA at…
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Michelle Hazen

Special Guest Michelle Hazen is an author, certified book coach, and editor who delights in helping people fall madly in…
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Alaina Kozma

Special Guest Alaina Kozma has worked in public libraries since 2003. Much of her work has focused on teen programs…
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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.

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