Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Highlights Foundation Workshop: Perfecting the Picture Book Text

L to R: Anne Marie Pace, Kristy Dempsey,
and Kathy Erskine
Workshop Leaders and Authors:
Kristy Dempsey and Kathy Erskine
with Special Guest and Author: Anne Marie Pace

I worried that this, my second Highlights Foundation workshop, would not live up to my first experience (Picture Books & All That Jazz) BUT . . .

There is a special magic in the air at the Highlights Foundation Barn, in the beautiful surroundings, and in the food. The type of magic that encourages leaps in learning, sparks new ideas, sets pens and keyboards in action. The kind of magic that creates a sense of camaraderie, compassion, friendship.

The Barn: a beacon in the fog.
Our workshop leaders, Kristy, Kathy, and Anne Marie, shared their expertise on picture book concepts. Such as: generating new ideas, first lines, story structure, language, character, and voice. They talked about illustrations (including whether to art note or not to art note), revision, and publishing. We received one-on-one and group critiques, in which we received lots of priceless feedback!

AND . . .

·         We toured Highlights Magazine, and met with Boyds Mills Press assistant editor Cherie Matthews.

·         We learned tips from illustrator Lori Richmond and Bloomsbury Publishing editor Brett Wright, and chatted with them over breakfast and lunch.


·         We Skyped with authors, glimpsed their lives and methods, and received their books!

o   HeidiStemple: You Nest Here with Me

o   TamekaBrown: My Cold Plum Pie Bluesy Mood

o   KellyStarling Lyons: Hope’s Gift

o   LindaUrban: Little Red Henry

o   KatyDuffield: Loud Lula (Though a Skype visit was scheduled, Hurricane Matthew blew those plans away.)

·         We Skyped with an agent, discovered what agents do, what they look for!

o   EmilyMitchell: Agent with Wernick and Pratt

·         It’s always heartwarming to connect with fellow workshop attendees. Like Mark Malcolm. His sense of humor. His voice and intonation. His love of words and people (minus bullies). His impromptu kazooing. His ability to create entertaining poetry in minutes. He, alone, made the trip worthwhile.
·         AND the food! Amanda and Alison delivered again. Always a variety of delicious, nutritious cuisine. One morning Kent Brown, Jr., Highlights Foundation executive director, held open the egg and the bacon container lids for me. During our stroll towards the gluten free bread, he told me that my picture was in the kitchen and did I want to see? Turns out that all of the attendees’ pictures and names, and food allergies hung in the kitchen for the staff to reference. They take food issues seriously and work hard at creating meals to meet needs and satisfy all.

So was this workshop worth its cost and my time? Did it meet my expectations? Yes, yes, yes, and so much more. In addition to all the wonderful experiences listed above, there’s also an energy one gets by being around others sharing the same passions. Since I’ve been home I’ve revised stories, and poured out new ideas. And did I mention we get to send manuscripts to the agent and editors we met during our workshop? Yes, worth so much more.

Our Workshop Treasures