A few weeks ago I had the fabulous experience of serving as a Teaching Assistant, along with Karyn Henley (see previous post), at a Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop. Our talented faculty were authors Kathi Appelt, Alan Gratz, Jeanette Ingold, and editor Martha Mihalick. Sixteen students brought completed novels to the workshop, with time to revise based on the individual feedback they received from faculty mentors and the group input as we workshopped the first twenty pages.
I was deeply impressed by the experience, and wanted to share some of it with you – including an interview (below) with author Helen Hemphill, who has taken the awesome responsibility of organizing and staffing the faculty portion of Foundation events (you can find a schedule of upcoming events here.)
|Our workshop group in mid-March|
The facility is lovely. Each participant is provided with a comfortable rustic but fully equipped cabin with its own bath (a main house was undergoing renovations but will provide extra rooms soon.) A brand new conference center - the "Barn" - houses the kitchen and dining areas, plus extra space for lectures and workshop; there are lots of lovely nooks for hiding out and working, reading, or meditating. The atmosphere lends itself to spiritual renewal. And the food...the Highlights folks have gone to great lengths to prepare gourmet meals (and they will individualize for those with allergies or dietary needs), from the wine and hors d’oeuvres before dinner to the nourishing breakfasts to the always-available snacks and coffee.
I heard rave reviews about the experience from participants, most of whom were unpublished and early in their writing careers. I saw many make huge leaps of craft and commitment during our five days together.
I’m turning the floor over to Helen who graciously agreed to answer a few questions.
Please tell us generally about the Highlights Founders Workshops – what your plans are for 2012 and beyond.
|The porch of the cabin I shared with Karyn...lovely!|
You have a great mix of classes for beginners and pros, for fiction and non-fiction, and for various genres. Will the template be the same for each year?
We are working on our programming for 2013 and have some interesting new ideas in store for both writers and illustrators! The Barn gives us much more flexibility in our plans, but our aim is to offer tracks in both fiction and nonfiction each year so that writers of all levels may hone their skills. Of course, we will have specialized programming for illustrators as well! I’m excited about one of our possible offerings in 2013--a literature-based weekend where teachers, critics, editors, librarians, and writers gather to discuss the elements of what makes a good book. I’m sure this weekend will offer up some great discussion!
|A sweet spot to sit outside the Barn, cabins in the background.|
The Highlights Foundation is known for its exceptional level of hospitality and its dedication to good teaching. While we like to make it look easy, it takes a great deal of planning and detail to make a workshop run well. We do take an individual approach to each program to make sure the experience will be one of outstanding value to our attendees. We talk a lot about the details and try to anticipate the needs and expectations of the writers and illustrators we serve.
The grounds are gorgeous. Kent (Brown, executive director of the Highlights Foundation) mentioned plans in the works. Can you tell us what is coming for the future?
We’re not quite ready to make a formal announcement, but there is more construction happening at the farm! Currently, the original farmhouse is being totally renovated for use as a smaller meeting space. But we also have some bigger plans in the works. Your readers will just have to check out our web site, or better yet, come to a workshop to see for themselves! A Founders Workshop is the perfect place to focus on creative work, learn something new, and have a great time. A complete list of 2012 Founders Workshops is on our website at www.highlightsfoundation.org or you can call Jo Lloyd for information at 570-253-1192.
Thanks so much Helen!