Summer Camp in Writing: Create and Dream!

In-Person | Picture Books, Early Readers and Chapter Books, Novels, Nonfiction, Poetry, Business of Publishing
Our Summer Camp in Writing is a time to find the kind of encouragement for your stories that only a generous mentor can provide. To find inspiration and support. To be with a community that understands the long process of turning dreams into books for children. To work 1:1 and fine-tune your words and pitches while you have some fun.

Overview

In-person 5-Day/4-Night Workshop and Retreat

Get away for five days at our Summer Camp in Writing for fiction and nonfiction storytellers who are looking for inspiration, guidance, mentorship, community, fun, creativity, and…a place to dream!

At the Highlights Foundation, “summer camp” is different than S’mores by the fire and hiking in the woods. (Though we do that, too.)

Our Summer Camp in Writing is a time to find the kind of encouragement for your stories that only a generous mentor can provide. To find inspiration and support. To be with a community that understands the long process of turning dreams into books for children. To work 1:1 and fine-tune your words and pitches while you have some fun.

  • This is an in-person workshop at our Retreat Center with hands-on sessions, mentorship, and ample time for independent writing, meeting informally with fellow creatives, and resting.
  • Lodging and meals are included.
  • Begins at with dinner 5:30pm Eastern on Sunday, July 14
  • Ends with lunch at 12:00pm Eastern on Thursday, July 18
  • Pre-retreat Zoom to answer questions about submissions and discuss our summer camp community will be held on Friday, June 7 at 12 noon Eastern (this will be recorded for those who cannot attend live)
  • 22 participants max

Save $100 Until May 15!

Early Bird pricing of $1,549 is available until May 15th.  The cost will increase to $1,649 on May 16, 2024.

Why This Workshop?

This five day, in-person summer camp in writing is centered on mentorship, inspiration, and community with:

  • opportunities for learning and interaction
  • ample self-paced time to make progress on a project and/or play with your creativity
  • feedback that includes 1:1 mentorship with your faculty reader at the beginning and end of the program, facilitated peer discussions, plus informal feedback throughout

Mornings will be structured around lectures and meetings with fellow creatives (including your faculty reader and small groups). Afternoons will be for independent writing and revising, as well as fiction, nonfiction, and publishing sessions (with hands-on exercises).

You will:

  • Take in educational and inspirational keynotes by our faculty. These will refresh your passion for the craft of writing, and motivate you to keep going.
  • Participate in breakout sessions with tracks in fiction, nonfiction, and getting started as a professional writer.
  • Explore writing through a range of topics, including nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and more!
  • Receive guidance on how to submit manuscripts and proposals to publishers and/or agents.
  • Work one-to-one with faculty on a project of your choice. Faculty reader/attendee pairings will be made thoughtfully according to your work and your goals. (Turning your submission in by June 10, 2023 allows us to make this pairing.)
  • Participate in small group discussions with a thoughtfully chosen group of fellow attendees. This small group style is designed to help you lead a discussion of your work with other writers, assisted by a workshop facilitator. Writers can share the same project they are using with their faculty mentor, or a new project.
  • Have ample free writing time so that you can dream and work on your own projects. Summer camp includes time for retreat, mentorship, and inspiration!
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)

See more testimonials and stories from past attendees about their Summer Camp experiences.

Feedback Expected

Guidance and mentorship will be offered in two ways, both through our faculty readers and in your facilitated peer group. Our feedback sessions offer you support, and give you space to ask questions to help problem-solve, brainstorm new ideas, and work through challenges. You will receive comprehensive submission details closer to the start of Summer Camp.

  • Picture book writers can submit one full picture book manuscript of up to 1,200 words. This submission should also contain a cover letter (including where you are in the project, your connection to the topic/theme, and specific questions you have for your faculty reader).
  • Those writing longer nonfiction or fiction can submit up to 2,500 words from a current work in progress for their faculty reader. This submission should contain a cover letter (including where you are in the project, a summary of the complete project arc if you know it, your connection to the topic/theme, and specific questions you have for your faculty reader).
  • If you are between projects or just starting out, you can submit a book proposal with a short writing sample or a one-page list of ideas you are considering as a full-length project. This submission should also contain a cover letter.
  • In addition to submitting one of the above choices to your faculty reader, you will submit pages for your peer groups. These submissions can be from the same work-in-progress given to your faculty reader, or a new project altogether (please follow the same length guidelines and cover letter requests).
  • Submissions are due June 10, 2024 to allow ample time for readers to take in your story.

This Workshop is a Great Fit If…

  • You’re new to writing for children and/or teens. You’ll get a 1:1 critique that will help you look at your work-in-progress in a new way, and have time to make significant progress on your writing.
  • You have an in-progress or finished manuscript and would like feedback. Your faculty reader will give you feedback, answer questions, and support you in setting goals. Your peer group can help you consider your revision goals and plans.
  • You’re an experienced writer who is curious about how to get started in children’s publishing. You will find out about the children’s market and meet fellow writers passionate about bringing stories to kids and teens.
  • You need a jolt of creativity or a reminder of purpose. Summer Camp can be about getting work done if you want it to be, but it can also be about renewing your spark and purpose in writing for kids and teens.
  • You’d appreciate some retreat time. This course has plenty of built-in time to write, doodle, or dream–whatever you need.

Detailed Agenda

All Times are Eastern Standard Time.  Click on the headings below to explore the agenda in more detail.

Retreat Schedule Overview
Mornings will be structured around lectures and meetings with fellow creatives (including your faculty reader and small groups). Afternoons will be for independent writing and revising, as well as fiction, nonfiction, and publishing sessions (with hands-on exercises).

Mentorship and Feedback

Your faculty mentor will provide written feedback on your submission and you’ll discuss this feedback during your 1:1 meetings at the beginning and ending of the program. During the workshop, there will also be informal moments to meet and discuss your work with attendees and faculty apart from your faculty mentor.

Your peer group discussions put you in control of leading the conversation to gain what you need most to move forward with your revision (and/or completion) of your story. Our feedback sessions offer you support, and give you space to ask questions to help problem-solve, brainstorm new ideas, and work through challenges. All peer group discussions have an engaged facilitator to keep the conversation focused, keep time, and most importantly, build a safe environment for sharing.

Pre-Workshop
  • You will receive a link to our virtual classroom where you can introduce yourself to fellow creatives, engage in Highlights Foundation related resources (including our Community Standards), and view submission details related to this course.
  • Friday, June 7, 2024 at 12pm (noon) Eastern: Pre-retreat Zoom to answer questions about submissions and discuss our summer camp community. (This session will be recorded for those who cannot attend live.)
  • Submission deadline: before the workshop, preferably by June 10, 2024.
    • Picture book writers can submit one full picture book manuscript of up to 1,200 words. This submission should also contain a cover letter (including where you are in the project, your connection to the topic/theme, and specific questions you have for your faculty reader).
    • Those writing longer nonfiction or fiction can submit up to 2,500 words from a current work in progress for their faculty reader. This submission should contain a cover letter (including where you are in the project, a summary of the complete project arc if you know it, your connection to the topic/theme, and specific questions you have for your faculty reader).
    • If you are between projects or just starting out, you can submit a book proposal with a short writing sample or a one-page list of ideas you are considering as a full-length project. This submission should also contain a cover letter.
    • In addition to submitting one of the above choices to your faculty reader, you will submit pages for your peer groups. These submissions can be from the same work-in-progress given to your faculty reader, or a new project altogether (please follow the same length guidelines and cover letter requests).
    • Submissions are due June 10, 2024 to allow ample time for readers to take in your story.
Day 1: Sunday, July 14
  • 3pm – 5pm Eastern: Arrival and check in.
  • 5:30pm: Appetizers & Dinner
  • Following dinner: Opening & Welcome Activity from the Highlights Foundation
    • Followed by meeting with your small group for informal introductions.
Day 2: Monday, July 15
Morning:

  • Breakfast
  • Keynote
  • 1:1 Meetings with Faculty Reader (retreat time for those not in meetings)
    • Optional Writing Prompt

Afternoon:

  • Lunch
  • Free writing time
  • Breakout Sessions (Your choice of topic, with themes of Fiction, Nonfiction, or Getting Started as a Professional Writer. [Session titles coming soon.]  Select one live, with access to a recording of the session you miss.)

Evening:

  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • After Dinner: Fireside chat
Day 3: Tuesday, July 16
Morning:

  • Breakfast
  • Keynote
  • Small Group Meeting #1 (retreat time for those not in meetings)

Afternoon:

  • Lunch
  • Free writing time
  • Breakout Sessions (Your choice of topic, with themes of Fiction, Nonfiction, or Getting Started as a Professional Writer. [Session titles coming soon.]  Select one live, with access to a recording of the session you miss.)

Evening:

  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • After Dinner: Optional ART Prompt
Day 4: Wednesday, July 17
Morning:

  • Breakfast
  • Keynote
  • Small Group Meeting #2 (retreat time for those not in meetings)

Afternoon:

  • Lunch
  • Free writing time
  • Breakout Sessions (Your choice of topic, with themes of Fiction, Nonfiction, or Getting Started as a Professional Writer. [Session titles coming soon.]  Select one live, with access to a recording of the session you miss.)

Evening:

  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • After Dinner: Open Mic on the Patio (weather permitting)
Day 5: Wednesday, July 18
Morning

  • Breakfast
  • Final Mentor Meetings (writing and packing time for those not in meetings)
    • Optional closing writing prompt
  • Closing keynote

Afternoon

  • Lunch and farewells
Previous Breakout Topics and Keynotes
Note: Breakout topics and keynotes are still being developed by faculty. Past Summer Camp session topics have included:

  • Dream, Dare, Do—Writing Takes Vision, Courage, and Energy, Each to the Fullest
  • Creating a Sense of Belonging in Your Stories for Kids
  • Telling the Stories that Only YOU Can Tell
  • Waking the Inner Voice: It’s Time
  • Picture Book as an Act of Mischief: Bringing the Right Voice & the Right Play to a Picture Book
  • Propulsive Language: Making Stories MOVE
  • Writing is Re-writing: Maximizing Revision
  • Beginnings & Endings: Pathways to the Reader’s Mind & Heart, & Gaining Welcome Entrance
  • Literature, Lessons, and Life: How the Desire to Write One Good Sentence Pursued Me
  • JUST Fiction: Writing Race, Culture, and Power in Children’s Books
  • Submission Basics: How to Start and End Your Query Letter
  • The Importance of the Page Turn
  • What I Really Want to Write About: Finding Stories That Matter
  • Educational Writing & Work-for-Hire (and everything in-between!)
  • The Poetry of Facts
  • Gathering Native Voices: WOW Readers with Meaningful Sentences
  • and many, many more!
}

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 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

Writing for children and teens is often referred to as a labor of love. It is rewarding work because your stories can have a big impact on the lives of children, but it is hard work. Get support, motivation, reassurance, and sense of community from fellow creators who share your passion.

Testimonials from Our Community

“I was matched with just the right mentor for me. Her background and passions matched mine, and she helped me see possibilities that I hadn’t been able to see on my own.”

“The faculty were not only very knowledgeable but warm and generous. Very high-quality faculty! My mentor was really helpful and encouraging and helped me to see approaches for my idea that I couldn’t have seen myself.”

“The faculty were engaged, generous with their time and wisdom, and human. It was really refreshing/important that many of them not only presented but also participated in various parts of the camp; that sent a great “we are all learning, all journeying together” message. Also wonderful that you had such a diversity of faculty in terms of race, nationality, gender, orientation, and expertise/place in the world of children’s books.”

DETAILS

July 14 - July 18

$1649

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.

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. Shuttle service is included from the local airport and bus stations, or you can park on site. You’ll receive more information about logistics after you register.

Our Mission in Action

Share Your Story, Inspire a Child
Scholarships
Equity & Inclusion in Kidlit
Partners & Sponsors

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.