Highlights Writers Workshop at Chautauqua Institute
on the shore of the lake with my roommate, Ellen Ramsey, from Pennsylvania. Children writers from all over the world participated in a week of intensive workshops, lunchtime lectures and one-on-one mentor sessions. The faculty consisted of a who's who in children's literature including Donna Jo Napoli, Patty Lee Gauch, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrator Floyd Cooper. Jerry and Eileen Spinelli kicked off the event at a BBQ.
Participants submit a manuscript ahead of time and get matched with a mentor for the week. I submitted my first attempt at a retelling of a folktale, the Brownie of Bladnoch (see post on that story), which resulted from a trip to Scotland. Why I thought I should submit fiction when I consider myself a non-fiction writer I'll never know...and to be partnered with the editor-in-chief of Highlights magazine, Chris Clark, was a real treat!
I focused my energy on non-fiction writing especially for magazines and attended sessions with Highlights science editor Andy Boyles and Cobblestone editorial director Lou Waryncia. A field trip to the nearby Roger Tory Peterson Institute was especially thrilling for me.
I have used Peterson field guides since my first days as a naturalist in the Cleveland Metroparks System and to view his paintings and drawers of bird specimens was exciting.
The remains of the extinct passenger pigeon and Carolina parakeet brought back memories from 40 years ago of school visits as a Metroparks naturalist celebrating National Wildlife Week.
Other events included a boat ride on Lake Chautauqua and the opportunity to watch the production of Amadeus (including dress rehearsal) performed in the outdoor amphitheater. On the last evening, Kent Brown, director of the Highlights Foundation and grandson of the Highlights magazine founders, auctions off incredible prizes from weekly mentoring sessions with the faculty to original artwork by the guest illustrators.
I was fortunate to participate in this workshop at Chautauqua in 2010. With the construction of new meeting space at the Honesdale, PA site of the original homestead of the Highlights magazine founders, the Chautauqua experience will be replaced by three week-long intensive masters classes in fiction writing, non-fiction writing and novel writing. To learn more about these and other Founders workshops (over 25 for 2012), visit www.HighlightsFoundation.org.