Programs

Filling the Writer’s Toolbox: A Picture Book & Novel Retreat

October 16 - 19, 2022

OVERVIEW:

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

Build your revision skills with renowned editor Emma Dryden and special guests.  Leave the retreat with a community of support, a concrete map for your next round of revision, and a better understanding of revision techniques to use again and again.

  • This is an in-person workshop at our Retreat Center with lectures, writing exercises, 1:1 faculty consultations, and peer-to-peer facilitated groups.
  • 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 Sunday, October 16
  • Ends with lunch at 1:00pm Eastern on Wednesday, October 19
  • 16 participants max

FEEDBACK EXPECTED:

  • Informal feedback throughout the workshop via hands-on exercises.
  • A 1:1 consultation with Emma during your workshop. This will be a 20 minute meeting with Emma to discuss your project premise and revision related questions (no written feedback will be provided).
  • Facilitated peer-to-peer discussions about your in-progress work. Submissions are due for peer groups by September 23, 2022. (Please note that peer-to-peer groups may meet over Zoom, pending facilitator needs. You will be notified within two weeks of the retreat if your peer group is meeting via Zoom.)

WHY THIS WORKSHOP?

In this workshop, renowned editor and editorial consultant Emma D. Dryden will guide participants through proven techniques for editing and revising their manuscripts.

You’ll take a deep dive into daily sessions on revision and editing your work-in-progress, including tools to help you craft engaging characters, ways to catch the heart of your reader (both kids and publishing professionals), world building, and much more!
Filling the Writer's Toolbox: A Picture Book & Novel Retreat with Emma Dryden. "I got everything I needed to take my writing to the next level: revision tools, inspiration, affirmation." “There was so much, I don’t know where to begin. Gained new perspective on my book. Am excited about the new direction it is taking me.”
You will have a variety of opportunities for feedback and discussion about your work, led by your needs.

In daily lectures, Emma will offer writing exercises and provide informal feedback throughout.

In addition, you will be matched by project theme or genre with a facilitator and peer group. Your peer group will discuss your work, including what’s working and ideas for revision. (Please note that peer-to-peer groups may meet over Zoom, pending facilitator needs. You will be notified within two weeks of the retreat if your peer group is meeting via Zoom.)

Finally, you will have the chance to meet with Emma 1:1 for a private session centering your project premise and revision related questions (no written feedback provided).

We hope that you’ll leave with a community of support, a concrete map for your next round of revision, and a better understanding of revision techniques to use again and again.

THIS WORKSHOP IS A GREAT FIT IF:

  • You have a completed draft of a picture book, or middle grade or young adult novel; any genre, fiction or nonfiction, written for children and/or teens.
  • You have taken your manuscript through at least one or two rounds of revision. This course is best for intermediate to advanced writers (either published or unpublished) who are willing to keep working to get it right.
  • You enjoy peer discussion groups which help build community, revision skills, and offer new perspectives on your work. (Please note that peer-to-peer groups may meet over Zoom, pending facilitator needs. You will be notified within two weeks of the retreat if your peer group is meeting via Zoom.)
  • You could use some creative inspiration. There will be hands-on exercises designed to spark ideas and get to the heart of your work-in-progress.
  • You’d appreciate some retreat time. This course has plenty of built-in time to write, draw, hike, or rest–whatever you need.

 

DETAILED AGENDA

Pre-Workshop

  • Prior to your submission deadline, 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.
  • Submission deadline is September 23, 2022 for your peer group discussion. (Please note that peer-to-peer groups may meet over Zoom, pending facilitator needs. You will be notified within two weeks of the retreat if your peer group is meeting via Zoom.)
    • Submission details:
      • Picture Book Authors or Author/Illustrators (Fiction or Nonfiction): Send in a cover letter and one completed project to discuss during our group, up to 1,200 words. (We encourage you to bring as many in-progress picture books that you have to the retreat. While we will only discuss one in our group, you’ll have time to revise more than one project.) If you have illustrations, you are invited to send sample sketches and bring images of any final art you would like to share.
      • Novelists (or other long-form writing for children or teens): Send in a cover letter; one page synopsis; 2,500 words from the beginning of the novel AND the last 250 words of the novel. (It is important you send both the sample from the beginning and ending.)

Retreat Details:

Day 1: Sunday, October 16, 2022

  • 3pm – 5pm Eastern: Arrival and check in.
  • 5:30pm: Appetizers & Dinner
  • Following dinner: Welcome and Opening Presentation: First Lines, Last Lines, and the Promise Fulfilled
    • So often agents and editors stop reading a manuscript after the first page. Why? What’s missing? Emma will start this session with a presentation about the importance of first lines and first pages, focusing on what the first page promises to the main character and to the reader. Emma will then comment on two or three first and last typewritten and appropriately formatted pages of participants’ manuscripts. This session will provide the sort of thoughts and comments agents and editors have when they consider submissions. Participants will be encouraged to read aloud. Includes handouts, worksheets, writing exercises, and Q&A.
  • Followed by: Sharing and discussion

Day 2: Monday, October 17, 2022

Morning:

  • Breakfast
  • Presentation #2: Hearing Voices, Hearing Characters
    • Voice is elusive and very hard to define, yet it’s as important as character in terms of compelling agents and editors to read beyond the initial query. Emma will start this session with a discussion of all aspects of voice —narrative voice, character voice, and the overall voice of our stories. This will be followed by an exploration of the Character Interview Questionnaire and related Character Worksheets, which participants will use to go deeper into their characters’ voices, hearts, and minds. Participants will be encouraged to read aloud. Includes handouts, worksheets, writing exercises, and Q&A.
  • Peer Group Discussions Part One (Please note that peer-to-peer groups may meet over Zoom, pending facilitator needs. You will be notified within two weeks of the retreat if your peer group is meeting via Zoom.)

Afternoon

  • Lunch
  • 1:1 meetings with Emma or creative retreat time
  • Peer Group Discussions Part Two (Please note that peer-to-peer groups may meet over Zoom, pending facilitator needs. You will be notified within two weeks of the retreat if your peer group is meeting via Zoom.)

Evening

  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • Author & Illustrator Panel: Ask Us Anything 

 

Day 3: Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Morning

  • Breakfast
  • Presentation #3: Internal and External World-building
    • All stories—be they fantasy or reality, picture book or novel–need to exist within a consistent context. This session explores the physical, psychological, and emotional contexts for our stories and our characters. Emma will start this session with a presentation about world-building, followed by participants trying out some methods for building believable settings and believable inner worlds. Participants will be encouraged to read aloud. Includes handouts, worksheets, writing exercises, and Q&A.be encouraged to read aloud. Includes handouts, worksheets, writing exercises, and Q&A.
  • Peer Group Discussions Part Three (Please note that peer-to-peer groups may meet over Zoom, pending facilitator needs. You will be notified within two weeks of the retreat if your peer group is meeting via Zoom.)

Afternoon

  • Lunch
  • 1:1 meetings with Emma while not in groups, or creative retreat time
  • Guest Editor Q & A: Submissions

Evening

  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • Open Mic/ Celebrations and Sharing!

Day 4: Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Morning

  • Breakfast
  • Presentation #4: Renew, Refresh, and Revise!
    • Hang onto your hats! In this session, Emma will be guiding participants through a wide and varied array of revision techniques and tools. Some will be familiar; some will be new. Some will be fun; some will be uncomfortable. All will be valuable in encouraging participants to see their work anew, which is a key to successful revision. Participants will be encouraged to read aloud. Includes handouts, worksheets, writing exercises, and Q&A.
  • Sharing and discussion

Afternoon

  • Lunch & 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 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.

HOW THIS WORKSHOP IMPACTS KIDS:

Our young readers–kids and teens–deserve the very best stories. Emma Dryden’s suggestions will help you shape your story to its very best!

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 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.

Another commitment that will help you get the most from this workshop is participating in the 1:1 consultation and peer group discussions. The submission deadline in advance of your peer group is September 23 in order to allow fellow writers time to familiarize themselves with your work in advance of your meetings.  If this is an issue, please let us know. For your private consultations with Emma she will have already familiarized herself with the premise of your story, the meeting will be focused on your ideas and questions (no written feedback provided).

Please note that peer-to-peer groups may meet over Zoom, pending facilitator needs. You will be notified within two weeks of the retreat if your peer group is meeting via Zoom. You will access the Zoom sessions from the comfort of your private accommodations at the retreat center and faculty will meet with you over your screen.

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

RELATED RESOURCES

Interview with Emma D. Dryden: Revision, Getting Unstuck, and Knowing When Work is Ready to Submit
Ask an Editor: Emma D. Dryden
Interview with Emma D. Dryden

FROM OUR COMMUNITY:

“Emma Dryden had a well-planned workshop that allowed for a LOT of input from [guest] faculty and time for participants to work on revisions. The pacing was thoughtful and productive.”

“Everyone was AMAZING! Knowledgeable, encouraging, supportive, friendly, engaging…I was blown away by how much I learned from everyone. (And by how warm and sincere everyone was).”

“I got everything I needed to take my writing to the next level: revision tools, inspiration, affirmation…When someone used the word “magic” to describe Highlights Foundation Workshops, I couldn’t agree more.”

“Filling the Writer’s Toolbox with Emma Dryden provided invaluable info, support, and thoughtful direction to jumpstart my manuscript revisions. Seriously inspiring! The Peer Group that I was assigned has become my go-to support group and we’re still meeting months after the class ended. I’m so grateful to Emma and the Highlights Foundation for this experience.”

“There was so much, I don’t know where to begin. Gained new perspective on my book. Am excited about the new direction it is taking me.”

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

Faculty

Emma D. Dryden

Emma D. Dryden founded drydenbks LLC (www.drydenbks.com), a premiere children’s editorial & publishing consultancy firm, after 25 years experience as…
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Rona Shirdan

Special Guest Rona Shirdan is living her best life as a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader. She is the mother…
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Lisa Cinelli

Special Guest Lisa Cinelli is an award-winning painter, childrenʼs book author/illustrator and a Teaching Artist. She is happiest exploring story…
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Meera Trehan

Special Guest Meera Trehan read as much as she could as a child, memorized poems, and ate enough cookies to…
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$1,199.00

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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