If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews

10/07 M.E. Browning, Shadow Ridge

10/14 Alexia Gordon

10/21 Adam Meyer

10/28 Barbara Ross, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door

October Guest Bloggers

10/03 Kathleen Kalb

10/17 S. Lee Manning

10/31 Sharon Dean

WWK Weekend Bloggers

10/10 Jennifer J. Chow

10/24 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Highlights Foundation Summer Retreat

by Paula Gail Benson
My welcome!

Summer is the time to learn and explore in new venues. Last year, I thoroughly enjoyed the few days I spent in the Yale Summer Writing program with Lori Rader-Day as my instructor. I was so enthusiastic about that experience that one of my local writing critique partners became a member of Lori’s class this year.

I had been thinking seriously of returning myself, when I came across information about the Highlights Foundation and the forty or so programs it offered each year. In particular, I noticed Writing the Middle Grade Mystery being taught by Mara Rockliff and Sheila Turnage. Mara writes chapter books as Lewis B. Montgomery, a pseudonym adopted from three favorite children’s authors (think Narnia, Charlotte’s Web, and Anne Shirley). The third book in her Milo and Jazz mystery series, The Case of the Poisoned Pig, was nominated for an Agatha award. Sheila Turnage’s protagonist is rising sixth grader Miss Moses “Mo” LoBeau, of Tupelo Landing, N.C., who was found following a flood, raised by the Colonel and Miss Lana, continues to search for and write letters (launched in bottles) to her unknown “Upstream Mother,” and, in the first book, Three Times Lucky, winner of the Newbery Honor, creates the Desperado Detective agency to solve a murder. After reading the books by these wonderful authors, I decided I couldn’t resist the lure of the Highlights experience.

Highlights? Could there be a connection with the magazine Highlights for Children so often found in doctors’ offices? (The place where fellow blog mate Carla Damron had her first publication!)

Yes indeed. The Highlights Foundation is one of the successful associated businesses in a publishing empire that includes not only the original monthly magazine (targeted for 6 to 12 years olds), but also High Five (for ages 2 to 6), Hello (for infants), and Boyds Mills Press, a trade children’s book publisher. They all began from the efforts of founders Garry and Caroline Myers and continue today as a family controlled business with the editorial offices in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, and the marketing division in Columbus, Ohio. (For more information about the company, see my post from yesterday at The Stiletto Gang.)

Myers' Home
The Myers family homeplace, located in rural Boyds Mills, just outside Honesdale, in the mountains and close to the border of New York state, has been dedicated as a writers’ retreat and learning center. Programs are available for authors, teachers, librarians, illustrators, and anyone interested in children’s literature. The setting offers participants the ability to relax and completely immerse themselves in the subject they’ve chosen to study. Space also is available for those not taking a workshop, who just want a special place to concentrate on their writing.

Just as the magazine’s focus is on what’s best for children, the Highlights Foundation has developed a retreat to nurture and encourage writers. During the time you spend there, your every need is provided, so you can devote yourself to your writing. For people arriving at the airport, a cadre of drivers is dispatched to give transportation to and from the retreat (all included in the workshop cost). On the way in, I had the most delightful retired rural mail carrier and, for the return trip, I shared the ride with a classmate.

My Desk and Rocking Chair
The accommodations may be a private cabin or a room in the lodge. All feature comfortable beds, rocking chairs, and a writing desk. A computer and printer were available where I stayed in the lodge. I have to admit enjoying my proximity to a refrigerator that remained stocked with water, soft drinks, and adult beverages (wine and beer) as well as a bowl of chocolates that was frequently refilled. Our class also took place in the lodge, in a spacious, airy room with long tables arranged in a horseshoe to facilitate communications.

Breakfast, lunch, appetizers, and dinner were served in the barn. The meals were lovingly prepared and featured local produce. Each night, our chef described the meal, noting that all preferences (solicited from participants in advance) had been taken into consideration. The evening we had meat loaf, it came in four options: regular, vegetarian, gluten free, and garlic and onion free. It was delicious. One lunch had kale soup. We learned that a member of the catering staff lived on the farm that supplied eggs and poultry. Before coming to prepare and serve our food, she had packed 1,200 eggs. The excellent cheeses came from a local creamery.
Kale Soup for Lunch!

Classroom in the Lodge
The Barn
Our class was limited to twelve people. We were at all different places in our writing journeys. One member had been an Edgar nominee, several had numerous publications, and some were just getting started. The days were structured with morning classes, afternoon time for critiques or writing, and evening speakers. We received copies of books from each person who spoke.

I came to the experience with an idea and ten pages. I left with extensive notes for revising my manuscript and an improved understanding of the children’s and YA markets. I am so incredibly grateful for the excellent instructors and caring classmates, all of whom I now value as friends.

Even if you write for adult markets, I encourage you to look at what the Highlights Foundation offers. I felt my time there very much enriched my writing skills, and I hope to return.
The Refilled Chocolate Bowl!

Have you had a summer (or other season) writing experience that has been particularly meaningful?  


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Great location and tempting workshops. I'll think about it for next year. I've driven through the area many times, and as a child, attended a YMCA camp closer to the Delaware Water Gap.

I'm headed to the Midwest Writers Workshop tomorrow for three intensive days of lectures, panels, and one-on-one critiques.

Gloria Alden said...

This sounds wonderful, but I have a feeling it would cost more than I could afford. I love reading children's books and always had two or three going at the same time that I read to my third grade students - chapter books because some of my students didn't read well and when I read to them they enjoyed the stories they would have had trouble reading. Over the years I read the same books over and over to new classes and never was bored with them. I've written and published one middle-grade book that kids and adults love, and have started a second one.
The only writers workshop I've attended was Seascape twice. I've gone to a one day event at a college north of me twice but was not impressed with it and never went again.

Warren Bull said...

it sounds great. I have never tried anything like it but this has be thinking,.

KM Rockwood said...

Another great find! Thank you for letting us know how it worked for you.

I loved your story about the Yale experience, and now this one.

Middle grade mysteries are something I'd like to explore.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Margaret, I've read about the Midwest Writers' Workshop. So many wonderful speakers. Please let me know if you get to attend Jess Lourey's sessions.

Gloria, the great thing is that the Highlights Foundation offers scholarships. My instructor Mara Rockliff told me if you can show the need, you can attend a workshop for a fraction of the cost. It's all outlined on the website.

Warren, you would love it. Wonderful environment for writing and relaxation.

Thank you, KM. I feel so lucky to have experienced these two places. I hope to have the chance to return!

Kait said...

Oh, it sounds wonderful, and what a terrific setting! I had no idea that Highlights offered anything like this. Makes me want to learn to write YA or middle grade. Thank you for the introduction, Paula, so glad that you could make it!

Paula Gail Benson said...

Me too, Kait. It was a terrific experience.