Working Retreat: Lyrical Picture Books and Poetry

In-Person | Picture Books, Nonfiction, Poetry, Illustration, Working Retreats
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallan, Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and Leeza Hernandez will create and connect with you during this Working Retreat, with sessions on lyrical word choice, to rhyme (or not), leaving room for your illustrator, poetry and more.

September 26 - September 29

Highlights Foundation Campus



In-person 4-Day/3-Night Working Retreat

This program is a celebration of words: lyrical, poetic, pun-tastic words! Join an exceptional group of picture book creatives, including Sudipta Bardhan-Quallan, Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and Leeza Hernandez to create and connect during this “Working Retreat.” With sessions on lyrical word choice, rhyme (or not), leaving room for your illustrator, and poetry, picture book creatives and poets alike can join together to learn and work here.

A “Working Retreat” is lightly structured with at least one lecture each day, informal conversations, optional consultations with faculty, and plenty of time to create in the comfort and care of the Highlights Foundation retreat center.

  • This is an in-person retreat for creatives looking to expand their knowledge of picture book and poetry conventions.
  • This “working retreat” has light instruction and ample time to work on your individual projects.
  • Lodging and meals are included.
  • Begins at 5:30pm Eastern on Thursday, September 26
  • Ends after lunch on Sunday, September 29

Why This Working Retreat?

All creatives need time and space to accomplish their goals. We invite creatives who are eager to explore the rhythm and buzz of words to join us.  Among this impressive faculty, we cover poetry, picture books, illustration, nonfiction, fiction, and fun.  Sudipta Bardhan-Quallan, Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and Leeza Hernandez are eager to spend this time with you, and celebrate picture books and poetry together. Each faculty member will offer one presentation, with additional surprises in store!

At the heart of this working retreat is the “work.”

Days will be spent on individual projects. You choose what that means for you!  Maybe you’ll draft new words on the porch of your cabin, sketch in the Art Coop, finally get to the revisions that your work-in-progress needs, wander, or rest.

Finally, you can join fellow creatives for informal gatherings by the fire in the evening, at meals, or throughout the retreat as you wish to discuss creativity, share your work, and more!

This working retreat includes:

  • Presentations on lyrical word choice; to rhyme or not to rhyme; leaving room for your illustrator; and, poetry!
  • Generative writing exercises and discussions.
  • Shared studio and writing time with informal feedback.
  • Independent time to write, revise, and discuss your work.

Your retreat will be well appointed with space to create, as every accommodation option includes a personal workspace. You’ll also find various spaces around the campus to get work done, or explore the grounds if you need a change of pace or some inspiration.

“Attending a retreat at the Highlights campus felt like a portal fantasy, in the best way possible. Everyone was so friendly, and I felt so taken care of while I was there. The campus itself had wonderful spots to get creative work done (shout out to the Art Coop…I nerded out big time in there!), and I loved the routines we had where we got to do individual creative work and then come together during meals and after hours to bond and connect. It was just such a beautifully crafted atmosphere…The faculty was [also] amazing all around. They provided great insight in their presentations, and they were warm and welcome to discuss anything about the craft. I deeply enjoyed their company and their brilliance.”

What's It Like on a Working Retreat at the Highlights Foundation?

See a virtual tour of the campus, testimonials, and more information about the experience.

Feedback Expected

  • Optional consultations can be scheduled with one of our faculty mentors. These opportunities are available at an additional cost, and can be added at the time of registration or during your retreat stay. No submissions will be required or accepted for these 1:1 consultation opportunities, but you will fill out a questionnaire in advance (in our virtual classroom) to prepare. Consultations will include time to discuss where you are in your stories, and ideas for moving forward with drafting, revisions, and/or submissions.
  • There will be informal feedback opportunities and time to share work during generative creative exercises, and as you connect with fellow attendees.

It’s a Great Fit If…

  • You’re new to writing for children and want to build your knowledge of word choice, lyrical language, and poetry.
  • You are a poet and/or picture book writer looking for inspiration, support, and guidance on your work(s)-in-progress.
  • You have a love for language and want to spend time with fellow creatives exploring the many opportunities available when crafting story for kids.
  • You’d like a retreat where you can get to work. This retreat is not based on lecture. It’s time to work on your own projects, with the added immersive experience of presentations, generative writing exercises, and time to connect with fellow creatives over meals and informal gatherings.

Detailed Agenda

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

  • You will receive a link to our virtual classroom where you can introduce yourself to fellow creatives and engage in Highlights Foundation related resources (including our Community Standards). You can also fill out a questionnaire if you opt for a 1:1 consultation with a faculty mentor (at an additional cost).
  • We encourage you to bring projects with you to the retreat at various stages in-progress, as you will have time to draft, revise, research, and polish your work during independent time. This retreat is not filled with lecture.  At its heart, this retreat is time to work on your project.
Day One: Thursday, September 26, 2024
  • 3pm – 5pm Eastern: Arrival and check in
  • 5:30pm Eastern: Appetizers & Dinner
  • Following dinner: Expectations and goals for our time together
Day Two: Friday, September 27, 2024

  • Breakfast
  • Presentation with Georgia Heard
  • Optional Consultations
  • Working Retreat time: read, write, connect


  • Lunch
  • Presentation with Leeza Hernandez
  • Open Studio Time (art and words together!)


  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • Informal gathering fireside (weather permitting)
Day Three: Saturday, September 28, 2024

  • Breakfast
  • The Joyful Crafting of Poetry: Imagination, Wordplay & Figurative Language with Rebecca Kai Dotlich
  • Optional 1:1 Consultations
  • Working Retreat time: read, write, connect


  • Lunch
  • Working Retreat time: read, write, connect
  • Roundtable story and idea sharing


  • Appetizers & Dinner
  • Open Mic on the patio (weather permitting)
Day Four: Sunday, September 29, 2024

  • Breakfast
  • Presentation with Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
  • Final questions and closing


  • 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 retreat. It is important to recognize that this is not a “jam-packed” workshop; rather it is a Working Retreat that combines opportunities for learning with ample time to retreat and work on your own projects.

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.

If you would like additional support from faculty, you can add on a private 1:1 consultation at an additional cost. There is no submission required, though we will ask you to fill out a short questionnaire in the virtual classroom prior to your consultation.

How It Impacts Kids

Children love word play and lyrical language. This workshop will feed you with ideas and inspiration to play in your picture books and poetry, too!

Testimonials from Our Community

“Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard are amazing apart and absolutely magical together. Smart, approachable, creative and supportive. Would attend ANY workshop with either of them again.”

“Sudipta and Leeza are knowledgeable, engaging and effective presenters. They were well-prepared and provided us with a lot to think about. I have an MFA and have studied PB writing extensively, yet their material was new to me. Thank you.”

“Deep expertise, extremely generous with their time, insights. Perfect pair–very different but complimentary skills/experiences. And funny!”

“Learning how an illustrator may approach a picture book manuscript was eye opening. This was an excellent topic. I would recommend it to all picture book authors.”

“The cottage was perfect, the surroundings peaceful and relaxing. I was able to find a balance of work and play. So much thought and consideration has gone into providing an inspiring, rejuvenating environment.”


September 26 - September 29


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.


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
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.