In 2008, nine writers gathered for a retreat at the Highlights Foundation in Pennsylvania. So inspired by the experience, they decided to offer a scholarship to a Highlights Foundation’s Unworkshop during various dates throughout 2014.
These wonderful women took the time to answer some questions:
MUF: It’s been six years since you first gathered at Highlights. Do you return every year?
ALL: Unfortunately we haven’t returned all together but many of us have been to other valuable Highlights conferences. With our schedules and responsibilities, as well as the fact that we are far-flung across North and South America, it’s hard to find dates that work for all of us to return together. But we keep trying!
MUF: What is it about writing alone together that is so great?
ALL: The best part of each day, besides all the writing we accomplished, was meeting together toward the end of the afternoon for conversation. We talked about what we had written, what we were struggling with, breakthroughs we’d had. We read from our manuscripts and cheered one another along. Our specific goals and work styles might have been different, but having a roomful of cheerleaders is empowering.
The most important thing to note is that we did not all know each other before we went on our retreat. So the door is open for the recipient of this scholarship to meet new people who will be new ears and eyes and become new supporters in this writing journey.
MUF: Tell me your favorite thing about the Highlights Foundation space—the natural setting, the food, the cabin?
ALL: All of it! But more even than the setting and food and being completely taken care of is the magic of the place, the synergy with other writers there, the support you feel from the folks at Highlights who take your goals seriously. It’s as if you’re an ambassador at the UN for Children’s Writers because that’s how you’re treated—you’re important, what you’re doing is important, and writing quality literature for children is almost like saving the world because, in some way, that’s we’re trying to do for kids by giving them great stories to make them think, make them laugh, and give them hope.
MUF: What prompted all of you to offer this scholarship?
ALL: Katy Duffield threw out the idea of doing something to promote the Highlights Unworkshops because our retreat was so significant for each of us. Then in the conversation, we realized we could pool resources to be able to provide a retreat for someone. And we were off and running with the idea of a scholarship, along with the extras of writing prompts, encouragement, and potential Skype conversations during the retreat.
MUF: How will you choose the winner?
ALL: We’ll read the author statements, choose the ones that speak to each of us individually and then we will decide together on one recipient from those finalists.
MUF: Unplugging is so hard these days. How can we create unworkshop-like experiences at home.
ALL: Linda Urban has shared a wonderful idea to help with unplugging—and all you need is a timer. Simply set the timer for 45-60 minutes and focus on your writing task. Sounds too easy to be true, doesn’t it? It IS easy, but it’s also amazingly effective. Every time I’ve used the timer, I’ve written for a lot longer than the 60 minutes. You can read more here.
The nitty gritty details: To qualify for consideration for this prize, send a statement by March 31, 2014 to retreat email@example.com explaining why this retreat could be important to you as a writer/illustrator of children’s literature. Share a little about the project you would plan to work on during the retreat and your experience writing or illustrating for children. The winner receives 5 nights stay at a Highlights Foundation Unworkshop, daily writing prompts/encouragement from the members of our retreat group (picture book, non-fiction, middle grade, and young adult authors) for the length of your workshop, and hopefully even a Skype gab session with one or more of us during your Unworkshop (depending on dates and availability). You would be responsible for your own transportation to Boyds Mills. The recipient will be announced on April 15, 2014.