Testimonials

Publication Results

The Highlights Foundation launched my writing career… I signed my first book contract shortly after [my first workshop], and within a year, I’d signed eight more contracts. The Highlights Foundation changed my life, and I’m forever thankful.” (Linda Oatman High)

“EVELYN DEL REY IS MOVING AWAY (Candlewick Press, 2020) came directly from a wonderful workshop led by illustrator Shadra Strickland. It was in mining the problems of childhood as she asked us to do that I finally found the plot of a story I had wanted to tell for years.” (Meg Medina)

“It was the place where I first felt taken seriously as a writer. I have been there many times since and it has always been a place where I get more done in a week than I do in months at home. There’s something about the place that nurtures creativity. I feel happy and full of ideas as soon as I turn in the driveway.  I was [also] fortunate that the work I received a scholarship for was ultimately published.” (Anita Sanchez)

“The impact of Highlights on my life has been tremendous. The workshops have shaped and informed me as a writer and have been enlightening. My first published [picture book], PAT, ROLL, PULL, was shaped by editor Devorah Rosenfeld during a Highlights workshop. WHISTLING FOR ANGELA, a [picture book] about open adoption was critiqued in three different workshops. It will be published this spring by Pajama Press.” (Robin Heald)

“Highlights’ Science Writing workshop helped me get a great start on my latest book…specifically self-published for my work in the classroom with SmartARTS. I got a lot of helpful feedback, and experienced the creative magic of the place. It provided enough inertia to finish the project in time for my second semester units in six schools! Such encouragement even earned Highlights Foundation my new book’s dedication.” (Tim Davis)

I sold my first piece of written work (a poem) that I wrote while attending a workshop there. I made great connections with the faculty and other participants, and learned a ton.” (Carrie Tillotson)

“Since my recent times with Highlights Foundation, I have illustrated one graphic novel and two additional children’s books during the nationwide pandemic.” (Kerry G. Johnson, scholarship recipient) 

“I’ve written numerous poems inspired during my time at the workshops and those, in turn, have spurred other inspirations. Specifically, I have a [picture book] coming out…”  (Matt Forrest Esenwine)

“My debut picture book, FLY, (January 11th, 2021) began as a manuscript that I worked on during the 2017 Picture Books and All That Jazz workshop.” (Brittany J. Thurman) 

I’ve met and worked with editors and art directors on two books with Boyds mills press.” (Leslie Helakoski) 

The book I wrote is currently on sub.” (Marzieh Abbas)

“​​I’m currently working on my debut picture book. Highlights was the first step.” (Julia Mills)

“I loved the on-site retreats for developing close relationships with other writers and having genuine conversations beyond writing craft…I sold my debut young adult novel in Dec 2020, and wrote my first picture book in Nov 2020, which came out in Feb 2021. My YA novel will come out in Sept 2022.

“My Teddy Mars series came out after doing the Whole Novel Workshop with Stephen Roxbury and then my latest book, The Infinite Questions of Dottie Bing, which comes out Fall 2022, was written and revised during two writer’s retreats.” (Molly B. Burnham) 

Malaika’s Winter Carnival and A LIKKLE MISS LOU: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice both were worked on at Highlights.” (Nadia L Hohn)

“The things I learned at Highlights Foundation workshops improved my writing, and I don’t believe I would be a published author today without those lessons.

“I credit the Highlights Foundation with helping me to create my first published–and award-winning–novel.

“My time at a Highlights Chautauqua conference nudged me towards nonfiction and the publication of my first book, a biography for young readers.” (Mélina Mangal) 

“The feedback and encouragement I received at the Highlights workshop were instrumental in leading to the sale of my book.” (Michelle Schaub)

“After over a year of taking HL PB courses I have written 30 books, have a critique group and a literary agent. I have a book in the hands of publishers!” (Julia Banta) 

“My middle-grade novel THE BUTTON BOX, co-authored with Fawzia Gilani-Williams, will be released in 2022. It was shaped significantly by my time at the Highlights conference for Jewish Kidlit and YA authors.” (Bridget Hodder)

I drafted two picture books that were later published: One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2017) and Raindrops to Rainbow (Penguin Workshop, 2021).” (John Micklos)

I do not think I would be writing if it were not for Highlights. I came to the summer conference at Chatauqua with only a desire to write. The help and knowledge I received from that time on has been so valuable. I have been published in many magazines and my poem in 2018 received the poetry award from SCBWI’s Magazine Merit Awards.” (Diana Smith)

“Working in Education was published as a direct result of a seminar at the Foundation.” (Marguerite Kistler)

“I am honored to have four of my nonfiction stories published in Highlights and are now on Audiobooks.” (Lynn Rymarz)

“It has given me space, training and a workshop community of strong writers that all contribute to me becoming a better writer. My novel `Playing Through The Turnaround’ came from Highlights time.” (Mylisa Larden) 

“I firmly believe that without taking The Whole Novel Retreat that my book Keep It Together Keiko Carter may not have sold when it did.” (Debbi Michiko Florence) 

“3 of my 6 published children’s books were worked on and critiqued at workshops.” (Norma Lewis) 

The Highlights Foundation is quite literally where the foundation of my professional writing career was laid. lt is where I learned the basics of craft, met my critique group, and got plugged into the kidlit community.”

“Highlights saved my life with the regular online webinars the first two months of the pandemic in 2020. High Five published my first publication in a children’s magazine.” (Susan Twiggs) 

My first picture book–Wicked Jack–was critiqued at Chautauqua in 1991 and  Calkins Creek published Just Fine the Way They Are.” (Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge) 

“At my first Highlights Summer Camp in 2015, Kathy Erskine’s advice helped me change my style of writing from journalism (what I knew) to picture book (what it needed to be). That story will be published by Chronicle Books in Spring of 2023.” (Jilanne Hoffmann)

“Much of EVERYWHERE BLUE (Holiday House, 2021) was conceived and written during the two workshops on Novels in Verse I attended.” (Joanne Rossmassler Fritz) 

“The MG novel I sold to Chronicle last year, Sky Ropes, began at Highlights and took shape over time through continued work there with and through help from my Highlights colleagues.” (Sondra Soderborg) 

“My first book, multi-award-winning WE’VE GOT A JOB, as well as other books, including FAULT LINES IN THE CONSTITUTION, came out of Highlights workshops and what I’ve learned there.” (Cynthia Levinson)

The inspiration and learning I took away from my 2019 poetry workshop with Georgia Heard and Rebecca Kai Dotlich directly contributed to completion of my book of poetry and wildlife photos for kids, In the Jaguar’s House, to be published in 2022 by The Poetry Box.” (Debbie Hall)

“I self-published some work that I completed at the Foundation.” (Dave Beaudry)

“Attending the Summer Conferences at Chautauqua 4 times definitely contributed to me getting books published.” (Pat McCarthy)

“In June 2020, I took an online Highlights Foundation course on writing for young readers. Since then, I have finished four nonfiction work-for-hire contracts. One book is out now, and three others will be published by Spring 2023. These contracts are directly attributable to what I learned in the Highlights course….I wish you continued success in helping others achieve their writing goals and contribute to the children’s literature field.” (Libby Wilson)

“Thanks to the thorough and insightful feedback on my YA novel manuscript at the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop two years ago, Cowboy Code was picked up by a publisher and will be released this August. I had been laboring over the book for years, and it took a week at Highlights to show me where I needed to pump energy into the manuscript. Thank you, faculty and participants, for for an inspiring and valuable experience.” (Louella Bryant)

“Attending Highlights’ Whole Novel Workshop changed not only the course of my career, but also the scope of my writer friendships. I gained so much knowledge by immersing myself into the culture that is part of Highlights, and came away with the exact tools I needed to plunge in, rework my manuscript, and sign my first two-book contract with HarperCollins. I’ve since signed a second two-book contract with them and I have no doubts that what I learned at Highlights made the difference, and I am still utilizing that knowledge today. Plus, I am still friends with the people I attended with, and we continue, after all these years, to support each other, encourage each other, and cheer for each other. It is a life-altering experience. Go. You will not regret it. Plus, the food was so good I am still talking about it!” (Nanci Turner Steveson)

General Testimonials

Attending the workshop not only gave me deeper insight into writing, but it established new friendships and broadened my feeling of professionalism and capabilities. It was wonderful to get together with other writers who were more than willing to share their expertise and experiences.” (Lori Mortensen)

“I’ve been to numerous conferences and workshops over the years. This workshop was the very best workshop I’ve ever attended. I’m so happy I invested the time, money, and travel to attend—I would do it again.

“One of the reasons I love Highlights is because the world you create for writers is the world I create for young readers: Full of support, love and hope so that we may be our best selves!” (Jen Gennari) 

This workshop exceeded my greatest expectations—I am prepared to promote myself and my books to my market, in a knowledgeable and fun way. Now I know the pitfalls that may come my way, and the joys I’ll reap, if I promote myself well.” (Elissa Elliott)

The faculty/conferee ratio and the availability of the faculty are two of the best and unique features of these small workshops. It was truly an eyeopener to see things from an editor’s angle.” (Connie Wooldridge)

“I leave here changed.” (Michelle Haseltine)

“It opened a floodgate of creativity right when I desperately needed it.” (Jamie Beth Cohen)

“It’s the ultimate safe place where writers can explore and take chances.” (Sarah Aronson)

“Besides being pampered by everyone…the workshops I’ve taken have helped me become a better writer. Several books have been published since the first time I went…” (Judy Goldman)

“The Highlights Foundation has given me the tools, tips, and resources to be able to write fiction. I don’t know where I’d be without this organization.” (Heather Cherry)

“It literally supported me in jumpstarting my career change to an author.” (ET)

“Highlights renewed my motivation for my writing and introduced me to a great community.” (Emily)

“I have grown in skills, form and confidence.”

“It has allowed me to grow as a writer and academically. Since I attended the workshop at the Highlights Foundation, I have been more confident in my writing. Also, getting helpful first-hand tips from expert writers has made me a much more efficient writer. As a result, I have produced more fiction stories and better academic papers than ever before.” (Allen Zegarra)

I’d never really experienced such a feeling of community among writers and artists as I did at the workshops. It made me realize how many creative people share this love of storytelling, and how willing others are to share their insights.” (Colleen Sanders)

It’s given me a whole new, vibrant community of writer friends. I see them all annually at Highlights, then several times via Zoom throughout the year.  Storyteller-wise, my Highlights experience has compelled me to plunge into the land of close third narration (I mostly wrote in first person before Highlights). That plug into close third has in turn strengthened my first person narration. I’ve finally found a few plotters’ thought processes to get my panther self better organized. And I’m still writing & enjoying the process.” (Charlie Perryness)

“I genuinely have appreciated my on-site and online retreats at The Highlights Foundation. The professional networking alongside creative and talented peers certainly provided me with a career boost in the children’s book publishing industry.” (Kerry G. Johnson)

It has helped me believe that if others believe in me and my writing, I must be worthy. It has given me confidence and gratitude.”

“I know that if I hadn’t found the Highlights Foundation and been pointed towards SCBWI, I wouldn’t have had the support to journey this far.” (Kristen C. Strocchia) 

“Highlights Foundation has given me the opportunity to deepen my work, both in a structured class environment, and then after I published, in a writer’s retreat.” (Molly B. Burnham) 

“This is the beauty of the Highlights Foundation–stretching and expanding our identities and skills so that we’re able to contribute to children’s writing in the way we’re meant to.” (Johari Mitchell)

“What has been most impactful to me is that a rejection is just the bridge to an opportunity to learn. The fact that the Highlights Foundation puts its money where your values are by offering scholarships and making opportunities available even to those who don’t meet their initial goals, says everything about your commitment to building people and practitioners.”  (Johari Mitchell)

I am closer to finishing than before I went to Highlights and part of it was the kindness of the people who allowed me to come. I didn’t understand how much gentleness and kindness would be important to finishing my projects, but having it modeled for me made it easier for me to reflect on how I should show it to myself.” (Breanna J. McDaniel)

“The Highlights Foundation shifted my writing from dream to reality.” (Stephanie Gibeault)

“I emerge from workshops at Highlights energized and excited to begin revisions with confidence.” (Sindhu Vijayasarathy) 

My experiences with Highlights has deepened my commitment to children’s literature, and is helping me forge my own path. The recent Amplify Black Voices program helped connect me to storytellers around the country and reignited my mission to uplift the voices of our young people.” (Mélina Mangal) 

“I was one of Highlights’ first readers. I am 80 now, and I promised myself I would write stories for my grandchildren when I retired. I have attended 2 workshops to help build my skills. I can say that I have followed Highlights all my life.” (Hope Lindsay)

The in-person Jewish Kidlit Authors conference literally changed my life. It helped me find the community I didn’t realize I was missing. I was already a traditionally-published author before the meeting, but I had not published Jewish literature before.” (Bridget Hodder)

“My first visit to Highlights Foundation gave me the confidence to pursue a MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.”

“Highlights is the place where I dreamed that it was possible to make a career out of writing kid lit.

“You have given me a sense of belonging and camaraderie with other children’s book authors.” (Jen Gennari)

“I have made lifelong creative friends.” (Nancy Bittner)

“Highlights Foundation has helped me to find a writing community where there is integrity, honesty, trust and everyone is accepted.” (Ann Matzke) 

“It’s easy for institutions to get stuck, spinning the same instructions, the same ideas. Highlights, instead, continually leans toward growth–raising the level of discourse.” (Jennifer Jacobson) 

“I feel comforted by the Highlights Foundation’s existence as a home for authors and illustrators.” (Jennifer Phillips)

“My storytelling ability has been honed here over the last ten years I’ve been coming.” (Susan G Wheeler) 

“It’s remarkable how helpful being at Highlights has been for me. It’s transformational! Thank you!!” (Pam Vaughan)

“It’s been a great place to find support and to further knowledge and education about the children’s publishing industry, especially when I was just starting out. It’s also a great place to find community and connection.” (Jacqui Lipton) 

“The opportunity to bond and share and learn from fellow writers is invaluable. We owe you a tremendous thanks for this gift.” (Naomi Milliner)

“Highlights created a community where I feel I belong and helped me believe in myself as an artist, both in art and writing.” (Thornton Blease) 

“My multiple Highlights Foundation experiences have been a balm to my spirit, nurturing my creativity, challenging my writing to bring it greater depth and soul, expanding my horizons – all while being fed and housed by the most hospitable of hosts.” (Deb Blowers)

The Highlights Foundation is an oasis for writers and illustrators. I’ve loved my time there as a teacher and as writer-in-residence. It has been a joy to see some of my workshop participants go on to publish works that we worked on together. It reminds me that writing is a process of reconnecting with childhood, a way to nurture and be nurtured, and a way of making community. Highlights offers all those things.” (Meg Medina)

“What an experience! I got more substantive feedback on my writing and illustrating in one week than in the previous eight years. Now I’m equipped to recraft my pieces so they’ll work, and I also feel encouraged as an author and illustrator. I’m headed in the right direction.” (Lynn Champagne)

This event was a great reminder of the value and importance of community in sustaining a writing career. It was so valuable to hear about other authors’ experiences and to situate myself within that wider context and also to hear thoughts I’ve had echoed by other authors. I got some very specific and valuable feedback on my manuscript that I will definitely be applying to this next round of revisions as well.

“It was, hands down, the best writing experience I’ve ever had. Too often educational encounters are competitive in nature. In this workshop I felt totally relaxed.

“After years of wrestling with an historical novel, chapter by chapter, it felt imperative to seek an overview; I grabbed the opportunity to have as mentor a favorite YA author who had achieved a triumph in the genre. The workshop was terrific–the company delightful, the time all too brief. The critique(s) were tough, astute, ultimately empowering, and the momentum has been long-lasting.” (Mary Bono)

“I just returned from the Midwest Writers Agent Fest at Ball State University where I pitched the novel I worked on at the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop 2016. I pitched to three literary agents, all of whom asked me to submit! They were all impressed that I had attended a Highlights workshop. As I prepare my submissions to the three interested agents, I can’t help but think back to what my manuscript looked like before my Whole Novel Workshop. My novel would not be what it is today without the help of that workshop. I’d also like to credit Highlights with bringing me together with my group of writer friends. Diane and I have attended three writing events together since we met last summer and I continue to keep in touch with other attendees from both workshops online via email and/or social media. I’m also still in touch with some of the workshop faculty! So thank you to you and everyone at the Highlights Foundation for everything you’ve done to improve my writing life!” (Melissa Killian)

Being on the Highlights Foundation Campus

“I’ve been to many conferences and workshops and I teach a workshop every summer but coming to a Highlights workshop has been on my bucket list for years. It even exceeded my high expectations. Hard to put into words but the whole experience was magical. Being in a nurturing bubble, totally immersed in writing was amazing. No newspapers, no TV, no laundry to do or meals to cook, just writing. And learning from amazing mentors. And talking about writing. And writing some more… Bliss.” 

“How to sum up my first visit to the Highlights Foundation? In one word: magical.” (Joanne R. Fritz)

“It was like a spa for writers…I felt like a pampered princess all week.” (Hannah Karena Jones)

“A million thanks to the Highlights Foundation for their work in raising writers in the Barn – shaping and celebrating, teaching and lifting up. I left the Barn with a new lease on my writing life.” (Kelly Hochbein)

“Just what I needed…How terrific to be in such a beautiful place, given delicious food, and everything else I needed so that I could devote all of my attention to my manuscript…It was this writer’s idea of heaven! (Deborah Heiligman)

“I felt so well cared for, seen, and known on this visit. Everyone who works in the Barn is so generous of spirit and kind. On top of LOVING the Jim Giblin cabin and the perfect food, the people made this trip truly warm and welcoming. Thank you for everything!”

“The workshops I have attended have helped me in my writing, and communing with other writers has been like a balm.”

“Aside from the inspirational and educational effects – which cannot be overstated – the poetry workshops I’ve attended have helped me make connections and develop relationships that have not only benefitted me as a writer, but have benefitted me as a human being.” (Matt Forrest Esenwine) 

“I attended my first Highlights Workshop in the summer of 2017. The workshop itself was incredibly insightful, but it was the long lasting friendships, wealth of information and industry connections that have continued to have influence over my life. Since that first workshop, Highlights has had a huge impact on my career as an author. Through virtual gatherings at the start of the pandemic to becoming an instructor in 2021, my writing and connections have been enriched.” (Brittany J. Thurman)

“Some of my most joy -filled memories as a writer are connected to highlights workshops.” (Leslie Helakoski) 

“The writing and revising juices are always flowing when I’m there [Highlights Foundation Campus.] And I’m a busy bee whenever I get on campus, working on my project with every spare second. (Kristen C. Strocchia) 

Being in that country air, having those meals, learning as much as I did, super grateful to all of you!”

“My Highlights experiences have cheered, inspired and energized me. I feel surrounded by acceptance, encouragement, wisdom and laughter, all the time being nurtured by the fresh air, delicious food, and wine, and new friendships.” (Teddi)

“When I first arrived in Boyd’s Mills, I had no idea what to expect. What I found was a feeling similar to finding a secret door into a world where I belonged. People who thought and wished and dreamed and who loved words and putting them together just like I did! Each time I wind through the woods and turn onto the drive, I feel that same magic; I feel like I’m home.” (Sally R Flannery)

“Highlights gave me new space and perspective because of the time I spent away from the things that were carrying my focus at home. I was able to sit and chat with people who shared their ideas and tips for finding focus and connection to their writing and that was reinvigorating for me.” (Breanna J. McDaniel) 

“Highlights felt like family from the first time I walked on campus. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. This solidified my impression that the children’s book community was my home and point of connection around creativity.” (Carrie A. Pearson)

“Nothing compares to a Highlights workshop when you need to connect with others making a similarly challenging journey. I’ve attended three Highlights Foundation workshops. After each one, I went home encouraged, validated, and energized to keep going.” (Carol Doeringer)

“The WHOLE NOVEL WORKSHOP 2021 was transformative. I felt like a colleague as opposed to an attendee and the access to the faculty was like no workshop or retreat I’ve ever experienced.” (Deborah Topolski)

“Highlights has provided the ideal place for anyone who wants to renew his or her writing spirit. The peace that surrounds the cabins, the excellent companionship at meals, and the welcoming staff creates a home for people who want to focus on their work.” (Anne Armezzani)

“Highlights has a special place in my heart as a safe, inclusive, supportive environment for me to focus on my writing goal with limited distractions. The food is amazing as well.” (Rita C. Orrell) 

“Having solitude and being free of the chores and responsibilities I’d have at home gave me more creative energy. Did I mention the fabulous food?” (Carol Nissenson) 

“I didn’t know how electric and inspiring the company of other writers (and strugglers) could be. I learned all of that, and so much more, at Highlights.” (Bill Thomas)

“These days, the Personal Retreats are practically necessary for me to recharge and find focus to get a lot of writing done. I NEED Highlights!” (Debbi Michiko Florence)

“My Personal Retreat was the perfect time to embrace a burst of creativity and productivity in gorgeous, peaceful surroundings.” (Hannah Bae) 

“The natural scenic beauty, the wonderful accommodations, the friendly staff, and the opportunity to interact with other writers was restorative and reinvigorating.” (Aaron Schnore)

“I found magic in my cabin, in the woods and streams and paths, and in the other attendees, who felt like sisters and brothers after the first day. At a time in my life when I’d been writing for many years without much success, Highlights helped me believe in myself again.” (Joanne Rossmassler Fritz) 

“Highlights is a sacred space where I can be and write and laugh and enjoy nature and friends.” (Clay Morrell)

“Having the time to write and edit without distraction has definitely helped me as a storyteller.” (Judith Lagana) 

“The Highlights campus is my “go-to” place when nothing else is working.” (Deb Blowers)

“The change of scenery reset my creativity, and I wrote more words for longer periods of time than I’ve ever written before. The community of writers showed me how to discipline myself by sharing their work, finding quiet places on campus, and participating in power hours. (Monique Fields)

“It was inspirational and invigorating. I took risks because I could — wrote a picture book in verse and revised a chapter book outline. I don’t think I would have/could have done that outside this artistic space. The time and space gave me such freedom. (Pooja Makhijani) 

“The community Highlights builds are unlike any other. I’m most thankful for the friends I’ve met at Highlights. Also, every single instructor I’ve worked with has been phenomenal!” (Gloria Muñoza)

“As a writer who often feels I work in a vacuum, the camaraderie and kidlit-centered beauty of the place was invigorating. I truly didn’t want to leave. Will definitely be back!”

“Highlights creates an atmosphere where I don’t have to worry about anything but working on my craft.” (Theresa Milstein)

“The whole week was an absolute dream – excellent food, housing, views, and company!”

“I had an amazing time sitting by the creek, getting my work done. I got three times as much done at Highlights as I would have gotten on my own. So fabulous.” 

The grounds were beautiful, the staff was helpful and kind, and the experience was everything I wanted!!!” 

“So grateful to everyone at the Highlights Foundation for providing such a sanctuary for creativity during these challenging times for myself and my friends.” 

“I was able to relax, be social, get my writing done, and draw in my sketch book. I had quiet, no interruptions, books to read, and a rocking chair. The food was delicious!”

“You think of every detail, and make the stay so easy and delightful.”

“I got more done in 3 days than I’ve done in a month. Highlights is a great place to re-charge energy into a craft or work-in-progress.”

“The Highlights Retreat was exactly what I needed to renew, recharge and re-ignite my joy for writing!” 

“I cannot recommend the retreats enough. I really felt all the stress of regular life fall away. The space was so inviting and the food was filling and delicious. Feeling cared for really allowed the creativity to get flowing.” 

“The overall climate of Highlights is energetic with creative people’s vibes, yet peaceful.”

“The grounds were beautiful. The staff was so friendly and helpful, and it was the perfect balance of rustic and being treated nicely while having time and space to focus on writing. (Jodi Lipper) 

“Highlights feels like being taken care of by family.” (Sara Gómez Woolley) 

“My favorite part is the setting. I loved being able to look out on the woods as I wrote in my cabin. I loved taking walks along the trail from the word garden to the creek. That’s a happy place for me, that little slice of trail. And I loved just taking it in and breathing deeply. A little serenity now.” (Jason Hussong)

“I am so happy to have found the Foundation and will recommend it to anyone interested in personal space and time to work on their project(s).” (Jane)

“Everything about the Highlights retreat experience is magical–the cabin, the food, the company.”

“The grounds were beautiful; nice places to walk. Food was top rate, and accommodating. Staff are friendly and helpful.” 

“The setting and cabin brought just the right light and air to fuel my writing.  The food and space nourished my body and soul. Not only did I accomplish and create much while there, I left with a renewed spirit and energy. Thank you!!”

“This was my first retreat, and I don’t belong to any groups (online or in-person) and I rarely share what I’m writing about with anyone. To do so in such a welcoming environment was a life-changing experience.” (Jim Cantrell)

“If you are indecisive about attending, just do it. If you want somewhere to knuckle down and write, this is the place for you.” 

“The experience was incredible, as always. The space is so inspirational and magical, and I always feel so loved and cared for with the food and all the little touches make the stay perfect. This was my sixth trip to Highlights, but it was my first time playing in the Art Coop, and it was so much fun! Opens up the creative juices.” (Rebecca Whitecotton)

“How had I never known that the perfect writer’s retreat existed at Highlights Foundation Campus? I had such a wonderful time finishing my novel at the campus, and felt fully supported by the staff, the faculty that was onsite with me, and the beautiful surroundings. I couldn’t be happier and more grateful for the days that I spent there.” (Venessa Kelley)

“I’ve never had an experience quite like this.  Honestly everything you could want or need is taken care of.  You just have time to create. It was phenomenal.  I’ll certainly return again and again!” (Paula Cohen)

“I’m already looking at my schedule to see when I can return. This was absolutely what I needed: a safe place to rest and recuperate from life so that the words could come and find me. (Marianne Kirby)

“Highlights offers a comfortable, calm, and naturally beautiful environment in which to pursue and explore creative projects. It is also a wonderful place to “hit reset” during a transitional time. You can socialize as much or as little as you wish.” (Ellen Dreyer) 

“It was all positive! Highlights is a magical place and I’m so grateful to be able to come and work while leaving the pressures and mundane tasks of everyday life behind.” 

“The whole environment – physical, and people – is wonderfully nurturing, and the peace and care given by the Highlights organization and staff create a space for writers to focus in a way that just isn’t possible at home!” 

“The staff at Highlights was (as always) friendly, accommodating, and concerned about the experiences of the guests.” (Meg Wiviott)

“I completed the structure for my second book. I could not have done this if the environment did not allow for stretches of time to think clearly, walk away and then revisit the project. I did not worry about where to eat, when to sleep, whether to socialize, etc. It’s all there, waiting for you, and it is your decision. What a treasure!” (John Bonanni) 

“The setting was gorgeous, the cabin was pristine, the food was unbelievable, the staff was extremely friendly and attentive. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend in the woods.” 

“The food, the peace, the staff, the cabin, the creative atmosphere — in other words, everything!” (Krista Threefoot)

“Highlights is a magical place where creating is the focus and the reason to be there. It is a gift to be in that atmosphere.” 

“Fantastic – I’m still marveling over my five days at the Foundation. The Highlands retreat facility is an absolute gem and a terrific find. I can’t believe something so ideal for writers of any genre or profession is available here in the NY/PA/NJ/CT/VA/WV/MD region of the USA” (Brad Ivie) 

“We were nurtured and given the space to blossom and flow. The retreat was incredibly productive. I made a breakthrough in my writing. We had both space and community when we sought it.” (Tessa Rossi)

“Everything was wonderful. I loved the quiet, the trails, the cabins, the surroundings. Everyone on staff was so friendly and helpful.  The food was delicious, nutritious, and exceptional in every way. “ (Renee Walsh)

“The Highlights Retreat Center creates the perfect atmosphere for finding your creative space and putting aside all the drudgeries of life (like cooking and dishes).” (Danielle Girard) 

“Extraordinary. This was an oasis – an opportunity for reflection, a chance to breathe and move forward. A beautiful place with caring people.” (Susan Polos) 

“I walked every day, I wrote more than at home, I made new friends, I got to have someone else feed me and save that energy for my work. Thank you! (Lisa Katzenberger) 

“I felt warmly welcomed. I felt that I was cared for. I had ample places to squirrel away to write, read and think. I was insanely well fed! Healthy food too! Loved the solar panels and the geothermal.” (Joy Yagid) 

“The Highlights Foundation has managed to carve out a wonderfully kind, inspiring and supportive place for anyone looking for some time to tune out the noise and just engage with their creative projects. I can’t wait to visit again!” (Sarah-Jane Koulen)

“It was the reset I needed to plunge back into my novel. My cabin was so cozy, the food incredible, the others on retreat so interesting and respectful.” (Elizabeth Falk)

“For a person who is used to taking care of people all the time, it almost made me cry. To have the walkways shoveled and the food so delicious and hot and on time, and just the space for light and quiet and warmth… indescribable how welcome you make me feel.” (Laura Anderson)

“I was thrilled to arrive to my name on the cabin!” (Tracy L. Thompson)

“Terrific facility and the food was EXCEPTIONAL. So great to have snacks, coffee, wine without limit… really made for a welcoming environment.”

“There’s magic in the air. Go. You’ll see.” (John Roche)

“Be prepared to be charmed and to resist leaving.” (Chris Barash)

“Such a serene environment. I felt so creative, and well taken care of.” 

“Amazing experience. Such a beautiful setting. Everything was perfect and the staff was so pleasant. Shout out to the amazing chef you have. What a great cook and her personality is infectious.” (Susan Smola)

“The number one best thing about a Highlights retreat is the opportunity to be part of a community of creative souls, whether old friends or people you’ve just met at breakfast. Thank you for nurturing that community.” (Kate Albus)

“Highlights is my happy place.” (Lynne Rosenberg) 

“I don’t think 5 stars are enough to express our delight.”

“I’ve come for unworkshops and now personal retreats at least once a year for about a decade, and each time, I have been able to dive deep into my writing in a concentrated way that is difficult to replicate at home. I made great progress on a novel revision.” (Ellen Dreyer)

“I accomplished more writing in 3 days there than I have in the last 3 months. Your staff are the friendliest and most attentive group I’ve ever met. The grounds, the new contacts, the food all made my heart full…the only distraction I had was thinking about what deliciousness awaited me next meal.” (Deb DiTomaso)

“You can feel the care of the staff at Highlights on every trip to campus. From umbrellas in cabins for rainy days, to making sure we got our s’more fix, everything was delightful!” (Anne Appert)

“The staff is what consistently continues to impress me. They go above and beyond in everything they do. When I’m there, I don’t have to worry about anything but learning, nurturing my creativity, and writing.”

“High On Life At Highlights”
(A Poem By Rebecca Gardyn Levington)
A cozy cabin getaway.
A seat. A snack.
(I think I’ll stay.)
No dishes here.
No chores to do.
Just silence,
And
a stunning view.
This time is mine,
this sweet retreat.
I think.
I eat.
I write.
Repeat

Online Workshops

“The experience was terrific. I learned a great deal. When I enrolled, I had been concerned about being able to get the full “workshop feeling” since the course was offered online rather than in person. My concerns were for naught. I felt that we made a good community even though we were not in the same room together! The presentations were thoughtful and thought-provoking. I appreciated the mix of craft and the nuts and bolts of publishing that instructors (special shout out to the fabulous Alison Green Myers and Harold Underdown!!!!), and guests shared with us. Discussions were substantive and fruitful. We did some powerful writing exercises together. The critiques of the writing samples we submitted were productive, direct, and kind. It is an art to give honest feedback without taking the air out of a writer! It was done so very well. I even met some nice people, remotely of course, but we set up a writing group that carried on long after the workshop was done. I recommend this workshop with enthusiasm!”

“I had a great time and learned a lot during the summer of 2019 attending a nonfiction summer camp via Zoom. I met other writers and formed a critique group that still meets monthly. (Carrie Kroehler)

“I’ve only taken one course, but it provided me with such a comprehensive look at the importance of multidimensional relationships and rich, thoughtful relationship arcs/character motivations. My current work was requested by the editor running the workshop, so hopefully published someday.” (Jess Callans) 

“Every time I’ve been to Highlights or taken a class online, I’ve made fabulous connections with other writers, and advanced my craft skills.” (Cathy C. Lentes)

“It made me realize I can do it. I gained an understanding that allowed me to move past my hesitation of the unknown. I feel empowered by the Crash Course in Children’s Publishing.”(Amita Snyder)

“Highlights has widened my vista of the children’s literature world by seeing and hearing about craft and about creators’ back stories during a time the world was shut down. It opened up the possibility of taking a writing class without having to travel.”

“The course that I took through the Highlights Foundation, ‘Getting Your MG or YA Novel Unstuck’, changed my life!” (Violet Lemay) 

“#HFGather has given me many tools and connected me with lots of writing resources. The blog is a wealth of information as well.” (Beverly Smith)

“The workshop I did with THF has changed the way I view my teen collections at the library and how I curate those collections. I completed my first diversity audit (a first for our library) and was able to identify where I need to do more curation to accurately reflect our community and the world.” (Nisa Kesseler) 

“I am taking a course on How to Get Unstuck With Your YA novel. I am finding the lessons taught helpful in working on this book.” (Joan Russell) 

“The Nonfiction workshop with Jennifer Swanson gave me a totally new process to research and write a nonfiction book.” (Susan Twiggs) 

“Cordelia Jensen’s online workshop in novels in verse really helped me. Once I revised my manuscript per her advice, I got an agent – in fact, two agents contacted me.”

“The Getting Unstuck workshop has provided me with tools/ideas to use in the first draft of my novel. Love that it is a class I can access at my convenience and that I can replay the recorded workshops at any time.” (Esther Yoon Smith)

“Thank You Highlights! I’ve been to 2 on-site workshops and hope to do that again some day. But virtual was great and accessible to people who maybe can never travel there.”

“The virtual classes are wonderful and accessible…especially for teachers, like me, who fit classes in after a day of teaching.”

“This course [Craft, Community and Career] reconfirmed for me how wonderful this community of childrens’ writers is. There is no other profession in which support, advice and cheerleading each other on in our journey is offered so warmly and generously. Highlights facilitates that by bringing us together in our common goals.”

“What a great new supportive base of writer friends! I love the positive vibe and the spirit of “let’s do this together” that I found in this class [Craft, Community and Career.] I have never had a writing community at all before, and I feel like I’ve come home!”

“The flexibility of taking this class [Crash Course in Children’s Book Publishing] virtually was great!” (Amber Watson)

“This course [Crash Course in Children’s Book Publishing] should be the first step for anyone considering a career in children’s publishing as a creator.”

“I really like the virtual class.  Not the full Highlights experience, for sure, but it’s less expensive, more convenient and the same great learning! Tech support was excellent.  For certain kinds of classes, online works so well.”

“Cordelia’s [Jensen] verse-novel classes provided structure, depth, encouragement, and inspiration, which personally I needed more than ever.” 

“An EXCEPTIONAL COURSE in every way!!  Although I’ve never written a Verse Novel, all of the concepts and tools taught are applicable to any method of storytelling and I came away feeling very inspired!” 

“For being online, this was a terrific experience:  individual conferencing, small group feedback, chat sessions, office hours, breakout sessions, and keynotes were all included! Marvelous!” (Dig Deep:  Nonfiction Writing, Marcia Wuest) 

“An absolutely outstanding course [Find Your Poetry Muse.] Beautifully prepared, wonderful readings, warm and inclusive and congenial, challenged me with fascinating exercises and pushed me to write and write and write Thank you to our talented and skillful teacher, Gail [Carson Levine,] and to the Highlights organization.” (Esther Sokolov Fine) 

“After writing for many years with little publishing success, this class [Getting Your Novel Unstuck] woke up the “I think I can” feeling that has been missing.”

“This was the most useful workshop [Getting Your Novel Unstuck]  I have ever attended with so many tools I had not seen before.” 

“This was a clear, accessible course [Relationships in Middle Grade/YA] with expert guidance from our teacher Kat [Brzozowski,] and also excellent guest lecturers.  It was of high value with things I can apply right away as well as helpful feedback.” 

“Lightbulbs went off as I listened to this presentation [Picture Book Revision-Mini Online Course.] I can’t wait to take what I learn and fix my manuscript–because I think I know what’s wrong with it now!” 

“I used to think Highlights was a magical place but taking a course online taught me , it was not the place but always the people!”

“The Rhyming Picture Book Mini was very good. Cost effective. Time effective. Informative.” (Jeff Howat) 

“Writing the Rainbow is my first Highlights class and I absolutely LOVED it!” (Eric Rosswood) 

“I’m thankful to the speakers and to the Highlights Foundation for these [Beginning Your MG/YA Novel] presentations. I feel a lot further along in my writing journey because of it already.”

“I loved the weekend’s workshop, Beginning Your MG/YA Novel. It was exactly what I needed to get me inspired for my new YA manuscript. I’m using some of the tools and lessons from Chris [Tebbetts] and Erin [Dionne] right now.” (Ren Hanami)

“The Verse Novel Revision Class has been just wonderful. I enjoyed learning alongside other Verse Novelists so much. Yesterday was our final workshop, and I’m sad to see it end because it’s been such a great time of inspiration and camaraderie.” (Christiana Douchette) 

Our Faculty

The faculty members were knowledgeable, supportive, generous with their time and in answering our questions, and in bringing resources and writing exercises that to us that helped to elevate our skills and understanding of not only what more we could do but why it’s useful to do it.”

“The faculty/conferee ratio and the availability of the faculty are two of the best and unique features of these small workshops. It was truly an eyeopener to see things from an editor’s angle.” (Connie Wooldridge)

The workshop leaders provided a special balance between honest feedback and sincere encouragement. Masters of their own craft, they take the time to get to know attendees and offer helpful, specific, advice. In a word, inspiring! The accommodations were perfect!” (Robyn Black)

“The faculty for [my workshop] were absurdly perfect. Cannot commend or acknowledge them enough for my growth these last [6 months]. The most patient and encouraging staff I’ve ever worked with. They asked brilliant, insightful, deep deep questions to nudge us – all while being humble and kind beyond words.

“I don’t get to create in my ‘real job,’ so these workshops were like an escape into a dream world where people write and earn a living at it. I loved meeting them because people who Highlights hire are always wonderful, down-to-earth folks, just like the Highlights staff.”

“The Foundation’s top-notch programs, faculty, and critique sessions were key learning steps.”

“There were many things I didn’t know or understand and the instructors have made available everything a serious beginning writer needs.

“The Whole Novel Workshop was pivotal in helping me revise Keep It Together Keiko Carter – I honestly believe it was because of this workshop AND Jennifer Jacobson’s astute and insightful guidance that I was able to sell the book as quickly as I did.” (Debbi Michiko Florence)

Highlights faculty are knowledgeable, kind, constructive, and encouraging, all the qualities needed in great teachers.”

“The faculty is amazing and I can take my writing to another level after the retreat.

“The week I spent at Summer Camp was amazing. My mentor not only read and gave me feedback on my novel, he’s been an ongoing source of encouragement. I felt that all the mentors there that week went out of their way to get to know all of us.

“They did a tremendous job of giving us amazing sessions about all three aspects of Craft, Community, and Career. I learned so much from them. I also appreciated the fact that I felt like they were in this with us. They also really gave us much more time in the sessions and [in forums] than I ever expected!”

“I loved the way Highlights makes everyone safe and welcome. The [faculty] also had a respectful and warm regard for each other, and that made the whole experience so supportive.

“The faculty for [my workshop] was amazing! Their warmth and support, their willingness to share their creative processes as well as their vulnerabilities and frustrations all contributed to a very nurturing climate.”

The faculty had the ability to both lead us as instructors with more experience and wisdom, as well as connect with us on an equal level in the writing or publishing experience. Their unique insight as Latinx creators provided me with a more deeply personal understanding than other craft workshops I’ve attended elsewhere.”

“The faculty made everyone feel so welcome and comfortable. They really set the tone for a vulnerable learning experience centered on community.

“To me the Whole Novel Workshop was a miraculous experience of affirmation. I had lost my way with my book. It had been through so many revisions, it felt like a huge, tangled mess, and I am not one who enjoys cleaning up messes! But Sarah and her team helped me find my way through it, helped me see its strengths and places I might try something new. During the workshop, I was able to jump into my next revision with renewed hope and energy. Now I’m riding that energy around the final corner and am excited about my novel’s future!” (Dale Marie Bryan)

From Scholarship Recipients

“I received a scholarship when I was at a huge crossroads in my writing life, wondering if I could or should ever write fiction again. The mentorship, knowledge, and training that I received from the Highlights Foundation is what I still lean on, three years later, when I find myself questioning my calling.” (Laura Lee Anderson) 

“Thanks to the Highlights Foundation, I’ve forged enduring, collaborative partnerships with other creators. On a personal note, I doubt I’d have come this far without Highlights. While Highlights is a  supportive environment for all creators, the administration and staff go that extra mile to welcome, include and support so many creators of color. I’ve benefited from their generosity in too many ways to count.” (Sindhu Vijayasarathy) 

“My personal retreat was invaluable. I am so grateful to Renée Watson and Highlights for providing this opportunity. Without the scholarship, there is no way that I would have been able to take time off work and dedicate so much time to my writing” (Monique Fields)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing scholarship opportunities for all kinds of artists — from emerging writers to published authors. I would not have been able to take the time off work, fly to Pennsylvania and pay for the retreat without this opportunity. I will be eternally grateful. For me, the opportunity isn’t a scholarship. It’s a gift.” (Monique Fields)

“The entire experience was magical. I’d wanted to spend time at the center for years, but cost was always a deterrent; I’m so grateful for this opportunity.” (Pooja Makhijani)

“Having someone in your corner can spark a fire inside that gets you to see yourself in a whole new way. I’m more confident after receiving encouragement from so many at Highlights.” (Debbie Meyer)

“Thank you for supporting those of us who needed that boost of encouragement and guidance to stay on the path we were meant to be on. Know that your support and financial donations do make a difference in these adults who are working on projects that will eventually make a difference in the life of a child. By paying it forward and giving someone the Highlights experience, you have just created a little magic on earth. (Debbie Meyer) 

“A huge credit to Highlights. Camp was a completely SAFE SPACE. non-discriminatory. non-judgmental. a zero-harassment policy. We all came from unique backgrounds (race, religion, so many different states and cities, a range of neurodiversity, differently-abled, sexual orientation, etc.) and it was beautiful. (Hallie M. Bertling)

“I’ve never shared space with so many creative AAPI women writers all at once before! I’m grateful to have found another generous, kind, and supportive community.” (Denise Hanh Huynh) 

Being able to attend this retreat (especially with my limited funds) was such a gift. It reignited my passion for writing and art, and gave me the confidence boost I needed to get back to work.” (Sid Champagne) 

“Your support is encouraging budding artists to create and share stories that are needed.  Without the scholarship, I would not have been able to afford this class. As a scholarship recipient, I am excited to one day pay it forward for the next generation as a donor. (Morgan Lau)

“THANK YOU! I feel like this scholarship changed my life and I couldn’t have done that without your generosity, so thank you.” (Jamila Beale)

“For those who support the Highlights Foundation scholarships…I want to express my deepest and sincerest gratitude for making courses possible for someone like me who hopes to create picture books with impact for young people. I will look forward to joining you as a supporter because giving back is very important to me. Thank you for giving to such important and emerging work! THANK YOU!” (Khahlia Sanders) 

“I would like to express my gratitude to those who support The Highlights Foundation for doing the important work of investing in those (i.e., authors and illustrators) who invest in children:  Authors and illustrators feed children’s imaginations and teach them the act of empathy—both of which empower them to make the world a better place.” (LaTonya R. Jackson)

“In 2012, I received a scholarship to attend my first writing workshop at the Highlights Foundation with Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson. It’s fitting that I completed the 6th and final book in that “standalone” this past weekend during a Personal Retreat. Words flow in those cabins. Creativity blossoms in the air. The setting, the company, and the cuisine add a writing experience like no other. Highly recommend!”

“I was a bit dubious about joining an on-line workshop. I’ve been teaching on-line and have found it a less than optimal experience. But I got so much out of the sessions–the office hours, the brain trust, the one-on-one mentoring, the talks. It was energizing, insightful, and emotionally resonant. I can’t say how glad I am that I participated. Thanks!!!!!!!  And thanks so much for the scholarship which was the catalyst I needed.”

Inspiring Kids: a Mission in Action

Our mission is to positively impact children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about how our community is inspiring kids everyday.

Powwow Day wouldn’t be in the world if I hadn’t gone to where the magic happened in Cabin 7, and revised that manuscript instead of working on a NIV while I was there.”

-Traci Sorell, Highlights Foundation Scholarship Recipient, Author, and now Highlights Foundation Faculty

Traci Sorell with her book Powwow Day to her right, and a bookcase filled with books behind her. It is a screen shot from a YouTube video.

FROM SCHOLARSHIP TO WORKSHOP TO BOOK

“I sold it to Karen Boss at Charlesbridge shortly after I left that weekend. Kathy Erskine, Alma Fullerton, and the workshop attendees helped so much in listening to me share it, as well as making wonderful revision suggestions,” she added.  Read the full story here.

Visiting Our Campus

Our campus (The Barn at Boyds Mills) is tucked away in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.  It's a few hours from both New York City and Philadelphia, but worlds away from everyday life.

Line drawing of the Barn at Boyds Mills

Our Mission in Action

Scholarships
Equity & Inclusion in Kidlit
Sustainability

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.

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