Creating Picture Books with Humor and Heart: A Working Retreat

In-Person | Picture Books
Hone in on the process of creating funny and emotionally satisfying picture books during this productive working retreat.

April 23 - April 26

Highlights Foundation Campus

$1299

Overview

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

Join editor and writer Sunita Apte (Reycraft Books/Benchmark) and award-winning, bestselling authors Emily Jenkins and Elise Broach for this writing retreat focused on creating funny and emotionally satisfying picture books. There will be three opportunities for feedback, and ample private retreat time so that you can write, wander, and connect with fellow picture book enthusiasts.

  • This is an in-person workshop at our Retreat Center with lectures, writing exercises, and small group discussions.
  • 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, April 23, 2023
  • Ends with lunch at 1:00pm Eastern on Wednesday, April 26, 2023
  • 16 participants max

Why This Workshop?

Hone in on the process of creating funny and emotionally satisfying picture books during this productive working retreat.

Engage in thoughtful presentations and take part in hands-on activities that move your picture book manuscripts forward. Mornings will be structured around presentations, manuscript workshopping, and hands-on activities. Afternoons will be reserved for independent writing and revising, and meetings with faculty and fellow writers.

At this writing retreat, you will learn:

  • Techniques for powerful beginnings and endings.
  • Ways to create a compelling story arc.
  • How to establish a distinctive style/voice.
  • Tools for creating unique but relatable characters.
  • How to identify your hook.
  • Tips for accessing your inner comedian.
  • Ways to use rhythm and repetition.
  • How to focus on the emotional lives of children.
  • Revision techniques to strengthen humor and emotion.

You will have ample free writing time built into this course so that you can stretch and work on your own projects. It is meant to be the perfect pairing of “retreat” and instruction.

You’ll also get feedback on two manuscripts: a one-to-one with a faculty member for the first, and a group workshopping session for the second.

Feedback Expected

  • Informal feedback throughout the workshop via hands-on exercises.
  • One faculty critique on a completed picture book project.
  • One whole group workshopping session on a separate picture book project.
  • Before the workshop, you’ll be asked to submit two complete picture book manuscripts, up to 1,000 words each.  These will be due by March 31, 2023. You will designate one for the faculty critique and one for the workshopping session by the entire group. Please draft a cover letter with each submission that states a little bit about your reason for writing the story, where you are in the project, and questions you have for your readers.
  • One pitch session with faculty.  To prepare for this, please also bring an idea or two for picture books that you haven’t written yet or that you’ve been stuck on for feedback at the pitch session.

It’s a Great Fit If…

  • You have multiple finished picture book drafts. Craft lectures and free time for writing means you’ll need to have some drafts to work on and revise.
  • Your inner comedian wants to break free. Kids love humor, and this workshop will show you how to use it to create emotionally satisfying stories for kids.
  • You love picture books and want yours to stand out. We’ll be taking a look at great picture books and analyzing what makes them work. You’ll hear from faculty about developing your voice, your style, relatable characters, and more.
  • You’re ready to share you work and get feedback for revision. Attendees are asked to bring two complete picture book manuscripts of 1000 words or fewer, one for individual critique with a faculty mentor and one for workshopping with fellow students.
  • You could use some creative inspiration. There will be hands-on exercises designed to spark new ideas.
  • 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

All Times are Eastern Standard Time.

Pre-Workshop
  • One week prior to your course, 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 details about the process for whole group workshopping.
  • Submission deadline: March 31. You’ll be asked to submit two complete picture book manuscripts, up to 1,000 words each.  One of those manuscripts will be the basis for your 1:1 consultation with faculty; the other will be workshopped with peers. Please draft a cover letter with each submission that states a little bit about your reason for writing the story, where you are in the project, and questions you have for your readers.
  • You are expected to read and become familiar with one manuscript from each member of the group in advance of the workshop.
  • You are asked to bring many projects with you at various states in process (ideation, drafts, revisions), as there is ample time to work on independent projects.
Day 1: Sunday, April 23
  • 3pm – 5pm Eastern: Arrival and check in
  • 5:30pm: Appetizers & Dinner
  • Following dinner: Opening session with Elise, Emily, and Sunita, ending with a read-aloud for inspiration!
Day 2: Monday, April 24

Morning:

  • Breakfast
  • Beginnings, Endings, and Everything in Between with Elise Broach
  • What Makes Editors Want to Buy A Manuscript with Sunita Apte

Afternoon:

  • Lunch
  • Writing prompt and short consultations with editor
  • One-to-one critiques
  • Writing and Retreat time while not in meetings

Evening:

  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • After Dinner: How to be Funny with Emily Jenkins
Day 3: Tuesday, April 25

Morning

  • Rhythm, Repetition, and the Emotional Life of the Child with Emily Jenkins
  • Manuscript workshopping as a whole group (first four manuscripts)
  • Picture Book Read-Aloud and Analysis
  • Writing and Retreat time

Afternoon

  • Lunch
  • Manuscript workshopping as a whole group (next four manuscripts)
  • Writing and Retreat time while not in meetings
  • Manuscript workshopping as a whole group (next four manuscripts)

Evening

  • Appetizers & dinner
  • “What’s the hook?” (Pitch session to panel of Emily, Elise, and Sunita)
Day 4: Wednesday, April 26

Morning

  • Breakfast
  • Revising for Humor and Heart with Elise Broach
  • Manuscript workshopping as a whole group (final four manuscripts)
  • Ask Us Anything: Writing, Editing, and Publishing Q&A with Elise, Emily, and Sunita

Afternoon

  • Lunch and farewells
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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.

How It Impacts Kids

Funny and emotionally memorable picture books can be an incredible vehicle to connect with a young reader and inspire them. This workshop helps you explore ways to create these types of books, and make a difference.

Testimonials from Our Community

“This was a faculty that left a compelling imprint on all of us not just with their knowledge of the industry but with their genuine love of books, a love that they transferred to each and every participant.”

“I learned that it isn’t easy to write a picture book but with encouragement and insight from facilitators like that, it can (and will) happen – I’m convinced!”

“All presenters were great. I liked that they had different styles and perspectives and that they didn’t shy away from sharing when they disagreed with each other and why.”

 

DETAILS

April 23 - April 26

$1299

Highlights Foundation Campus

362 Boyds Mills Road
Milanville, PA 18443

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.

Pay in full, or secure your spot with a deposit (unless otherwise noted).

LOCATION

All in-person Highlights Foundation workshops and retreats (including this one) are held at our Retreat Center: The Barn at Boyds Mills.  This site was the home of the original founders of Highlights for Children Garry and Caroline Myers, and is located in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania on the traditional and contemporary lands of the Lenape Nation.

All-inclusive registration includes workshop tuition, lodging, meals, beverages, and snacks. Free car service is available from the local airport, train, and bus station, or you can park on site. You’ll receive more information about logistics after you register.

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

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