In-person 4-Day/3-Night Workshop and Retreat
To write for children, we need to reconnect with the clever, imaginative, and curious core of our childhood selves. Join celebrated middle-grade authors Erin Entrada Kelly and Laurel Snyder for a four-day retreat focused on generative writing inspired by the sleepaway camps of our youths. Write, wander, and connect with fellow novelists as we swap ghost stories around the campfire, engage in character development exercises, and play games designed to generate new pages and revive old ones.
This retreat is designed for middle-grade writers at all levels, from beginners to published authors. You are welcome to bring your work-in-progress and/or blank pages from stories you have yet to write.
- 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.
- No submission required.
- Begins with dinner 5:30pm Eastern on Sunday, October 1
- Ends with lunch at 12:00pm-1:00pm Eastern Wednesday, October 4
Why This Workshop?
Middle-grade novels are clever and imaginative, yet grounded. Some of the very best ones find a way to weave plot and emotional arcs into one impressive narrative that ignites a passion for reading.
One way to write authentic stories is to connect with the emotional truth of the middle-grade reader.
Join celebrated middle-grade authors Erin Entrada Kelly and Laurel Snyder to discover new ways to start and grow your middle-grade narrative, with a retreat focused on generative writing inspired by the sleepaway camps of our youths.
We’ll begin with a broad overview of middle-grade novels, from those for readers just out of chapter books to those readers who are ready to tackle more complex narratives.
Our sessions will cover craft components like world-building and point of view, while keeping the excitement of writing for this age group at heart.
Please note that a small portion of the workshop is set to involve outdoor exploration and/or hands-on craft activities. We request that you make note during your registration of any accommodations that can help support you during these happenings.
- Informal feedback throughout the workshop via hands-on exercises.
- A 1:1 consultation with Erin or Laurel during the workshop to share questions, ideas, and goals for your middle grade stories. (No submission required.)
It’s a Great Fit If…
- You are just starting to write for a middle-grade audience. You’ll get a broad overview of the landscape of today’s best middle-grade novels.
- You want to learn more about world-building and point of view. This workshop is centered on the middle-grade novel with craft-focused sessions.
- You could use some direction on your story ideas and/or revision steps. There will be informal opportunities for you to discuss your ideas with faculty and fellow novelists.
- 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.
All Times are Eastern Standard Time.
- Approximately one week prior to your course, you will receive a link to our virtual classroom where you can introduce yourself to fellow writers and engage in Highlights Foundation related resources (including our Community Standards).
- There are no submissions due ahead of the course; however we encourage you to bring your projects in progress for your writing/retreat time on campus.
Day 1: Sunday, October 1
- 3pm – 5pm Eastern: Arrival and check-in
- 5:30pm Eastern: Appetizers & Dinner
- Following dinner: “The Makings of a Middle Grade Novel: An Overview” with Erin and Laurel, including welcome and introductions via your favorite middle-grade titles
Day 2: Monday, October 2
- Session #1: “Join Us In the Middle: World Building in Your Middle Grade Novel” with Laurel and Erin
- Session #2: Hands-on writing exercise, followed by sharing
- 1:1 consultation with Erin and Laurel (ideas, revisions, and questions)
- Writing & retreat time while not in your meeting
- Appetizers & Dinner
- Stories around the Campfire: Social and Q & A
Day 3: Tuesday, October 3
- Session #3: “Point of View & Character” with Erin and Laurel
- Session #4: Hands-on writing exercise
- Writing & Retreat Time
- Appetizers & Dinner
- Fireside chat: Q & A with Laurel & Erin
Day 4: Wednesday, October 4
- Reflection & Packing Time
- Discussion: Next steps, revisions, and questions
- Lunch & Farewells
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
Middle Grade novels ignite a passion for reading and spark a child’s imagination. This workshop highlights the many ways to craft a middle-grade novel that will satisfy readers.
Testimonials from Our Community
“I really enjoyed this workshop, learning about writing for a Middle Grade audience while spending time with other writers. The food was wonderful, as always! And I enjoyed being on campus in the fall. Simply magical!”
“I learned so much! I left feeling so inspired and full of energy. Plus, I made excellent connections with other writers.”
“Laurel and Erin were amazing! It is hard to list a favorite part of the workshop but I’d have to say my 1:1 meeting helped me figure out where to go next with my middle grade novel.”
- Erin Entrada Kelly’s website
- Publishers Weekly Q&A with Erin Entrada Kelly
- Imagination And Creativity Can Carry You Through’: A Conversation With Newbery Medal Winner Erin Entrada Kelly at WBUR Boston
- Laurel Snyder’s website
- Publishers Weekly Q&A with Laurel Snyder
- 5 Common World Building Mistakes
- Mining Personal Fascinations for Story Material
- Use Research, Imagination & Emotion to Build Your Novel