It’s June at last! School is finally out and like lots of families, my kids are looking forward to camp. I have a soft spot in my heart for the traditional American trees-and-dirt summer camp experience. I went often as a child. My favorite job of all time was working at a summer camp. But I confess that as I’m getting my own family ready for their summer I find myself thinking, wait a minute, when is it my turn?
Perhaps the best known is the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua held each year for a week in mid July in a beautiful small town in southwestern New York State. This is probably the largest summer workshop geared specifically for the needs of children’s authors. Chautauqua is designed for individuals at all levels of experience, from beginning to published, who are interested in writing and illustrating for children.
The conference includes seminars, small-group workshops, and one-on-one sessions with some of the most accomplished and prominent authors, illustrators, editors, critics, and publishers in the world of children’s literature.
The faculty is large numbering 23 members this year and their depth and breadth of experience is impressive. They include award winning authors, editors, illustrators, poets and publishers. Faculty are chosen not just for the strength of their published work but for their dedication to teaching and mentoring fellow writers. Workshops cover the range from the basics of craft for beginners to advanced writing techniques and information about the book industry and the needs of the child reader.
If you are looking for a workshop focused solely on children’s books and you prefer the ambiance of small town more than the great outdoors, Chautauqua might be the perfect choice for you. You can learn more about the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua here.
On the other hand, if you love the mountains and are longing to get away from it all and immerse yourself in a community devoted to all types of writing from memoir to poetry slam, the Fishtrap Summer Workshop might be what you are looking for. Nestled in the Wallowa Valley with breathtaking views of the Eagle Cap wilderness, it is the Switzerland of Oregon and the setting for a 25 year tradition of celebrating western writing.
Each year there is a theme that all the genres revolve around. This year it’s Migrations and Passages. Thirteen faculty members will lead week long workshops in poetry, historical fiction, memoir, essay, and nature writing. I’m very honored to be among the faculty, teaching coming of age fiction. This is the only writers workshop that I know of that encourages families to attend and has workshops especially for the young writer and teens.
For people who just can’t break away from work for an entire week, the Fishtrap Workshop ends with a long weekend Gathering with special guests, extra workshops, faculty readings and discussions, and of course music and campfires! It is a magical collaboration across genres, generations and cultures. Many participants come back year after year. There is still room to register for this year’s workshop in which begins July 10th. For more information go to the Fishtrap website.
Maybe it’s just not summer to you without a trip to the beach. In that case the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers Workshop might be just what you’re looking for. It’s a more intimate workshop focused on children’s books exclusively. Dan Greenburg, the affable and enthusiastic host of the workshop, gathers an award-winning mix of authors, agents and editors to lead a week of writing workshops in an ocean front classroom.
The hallmark of the workshop is its retreat-like atmosphere with ample opportunity for one on one consultation with faculty members, and a mix of community and independent mealtimes. It’s hard to beat the Oregon coast in July for great weather and spectacular views. And it’s hard to beat $800 for a week of writing workshops. For slightly more money graduate credit is available for this workshop. Still undecided? Check out the view!
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These three workshops are only the tip of the iceberg. You might also look up Kindling Words West in New Mexico, The Iowa Summer Writing Festival in Iowa City or the Book Passage Children’s Writers and Illustrators conference in San Francisco. Oh the possibilities of summer!