Celebrating 39 Years of Summer Camp

It was a weeklong summer workshop at the Chautauqua Institute in 1985 that marked the very start of what is now the Highlights Foundation.  While the organization has grown exponentially since 1985, “Summer Camps” will always hold a special place in our hearts. This year, we’re welcoming 60+ faculty and student campers to Boyds Mills in July, and we’re also reflecting on what 39 years of programs at the Highlights Foundation has created.  If the Highlights Foundation has made a difference for you, we invite you to reflect and celebrate with us, and support our mission as we continue to do this work together. Thank you for being a part of our community.

Summer Camp at the Highlights Foundation

Summer Camp Attendees in 2018 In Front of the Barn

It’s not just 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 or illustration that only a generous mentor can provide. To find inspiration and support. To be with a community that understands the long process of creating. To work 1:1, and fine-tune your project while you have some fun.

From Summer Camp Alumni

…I was in this very awkward moment of my career waiting on the next book. I didn’t know at the time that it would be a whole other year and a half, but I was feeling a little bit like I’m not quite sure what’s next. I felt like I needed to shift… I had three picture books, but I wanted to gain more understanding about novels. I was a little bit unsure about this shift. And I decided to go to a summer camp that was completely focused on fiction. Not just novels, but also picture books….


What I found was a sense of fellowship and belonging in a space that I didn’t feel as though I was qualified to try to walk down… I met so many wonderful people there who were supportive. I just had a wonderful time. I remember the workshops that I went to—and I took it in, and nothing felt as though it was too much. It all came in nice doses. And then I could go back to that porch and that rocking chair and take more in. And I went home like I could begin again.

Daria Peoples, Summer Camp in Fiction Alumni (2019) and now Summer Camp in Illustration Faculty (2022-2023)

I’ve gone to a lot of different conferences. Thousands and thousands of people. So overwhelming, and even if you hand out your business card, no one’s going to remember.  At Summer Camp, it’s like everyone at Highlights treats you like family the moment you step on campus. It’s just very welcoming, and magical.


You know there’s just so much bonding without even realizing it. When you see people and you’re eating lunch with them, breakfast, dinner—I mean there’s nowhere where you can be so close to the instructors. They’re eating at the meals with you! So you can chat with them outside of lectures. Having that one-on-one with them—that’s been huge, and probably even more so than sitting in the lectures themselves.


There’s just so many points at which you’re interacting with people that you can’t help but make connections, and I love it.

Harlan DeChamps, Summer Camp Alumni

I just got a request from an agent to send her more work. Everything that I sent her was something that I had either created or gotten feedback from while I was at Highlights.


I would return every single year If I could. You just get hooked. Because life gets in the way, and the great thing about Highlights is that it motivates you to take the time just to write, and to be you. 


Writing dreams come true, and know that yours will too. 

Judie Offerdahl, Summer Camp Alumni

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Cat's photos

“I not only found a community and a safe space but I found MY community and MY safe place. One that has continued to teach me about craft, friendships, mentors, etc. but one that has also made me feel at home.” (Cat Galeano)

Padma's photos

“Highlights is where I found my writing family…” (Padma Venkatraman)

Debbie's photos

“Disney has nothing on Highlights – it’s the real magical place on earth! It’s an investment in your writing/illustrating career and definitely worth every penny. Even my suitcase was sad to leave.” (Debbie Meyer)

More From Past Summer Campers

I sold the manuscript I workshopped (and read aloud) at Summer Camp. My peers’ feedback was instrumental. Also, several of us picture book writers connected on text. We encourage each other regularly.” (Pooja Makhijani)

My debut novel We Deserve Monuments was workshopped at Summer Camp in 2018. My next YA novel Thirsty was revised at a personal retreat. Every time I leave, I feel so renewed and inspired.” (Jas Hammonds)

“I brought my novel-in-progress to Summer Camp and was mentored by Anna-Marie McLemore. The mentorship and writing relationships I created helped give me the confidence to submit it to Pitch Wars, a competition that ended up connecting me with my literary agent.” (Kaitlin Bartlett)

I met my agent, Linda Epstein, there! What a heavenly meeting! Together she has helped me develop my writing, and found a home for my next Anthology: Everything Under The Moon: Fairy tales in a queerer light (Affirm Press, Oct 2023). It’s only a matter of time before other things are placed! I live in Australia and found Highlights by accident (I needed a writers retreat in the USA close enough in time to the Winter Institute so I could apply for a grant to take me to both). It turned out to be the life changing part of the trip and now I can’t wait until I’m able to return. I adored my time there and have made many lasting connections.” (Michael Earp)

“I have had the pleasure to attend several workshops at the Highlights Foundation, [including] Summer Camp in Nonfiction (twice!)… Every experience I have had has made me a better writer. A more savvy one, too. Since my first visit, I have completed several work-for hire books and I just got a contract with Holiday House for my proposed book, Cancer Detectives. I am positive that my time at Highlights helped me to write a better proposal, query letter, and sample chapters. I also appreciate how much my experience at Highlights enhanced my confidence and bolstered my courage so that I was willing to send a proposal in the first place!” (Donna Bozzone)

Alison and Carolyn Yoder

Carnival, Summer Camp, and Carolyn Yoder: or Why You Need to Find a Creative Mentor

“As a writer I’ve had many creative mentors but the guidance that I received at that Summer Camp, across the picnic table from that editor, will never be replicated. If you are starting out, trying to find your story, trying to figure out who you are as a writer, I recommend Summer Camp with the Highlights Foundation. I know that you too will receive many one-on-one sessions, time to write on your porch, good food, the soothing sound of the creek nearby, and best of all, a mentor that will make you work.” (Alison Green Myers)

Highlights Summer Camp in Fiction: Almost the Best Version of Myself

“I was full of smiles (& happy tears) all week because I was in a safe space. Sharing it with fellow book people. And I can’t wait to go back.” (Hallie M. Bertling)

A Polaroid of Summer Camp Attendees 2022
Summer Camp Fireplace photo with the words Inspiration, Guidance, Mentorship, community, Creativity, Growth

At Summer Camp, you’ll enjoy:

  • Mentorship and feedback
  • Keynotes and breakout sessions
  • Ample time for independent work, meeting informally with fellow creatives, and resting.
  • Lodging and meals included.

    These camps are ideal if you need a jolt of creativity or a reminder of purpose.

    They can be about getting work done if you want them to be, but they can also be about renewing your spark and purpose in writing or illustrating for kids and teens.

    Register Now for One of Our Summer Camps

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    Our Mission in Action

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    The Highlights Foundation positively impacts children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about our impact.