Thursday, October 18, 2012

At the Highlights Foundation Novels in Verse Workshop, part I

Last weekend, I returned from my first ever Highlights Foundation experience.  It was amazing.

I didn't know what to expect, and the week before I left, I started to have doubts.  Since my adult fiction and spiritual writing have been taking off in different directions, I've felt fragmented, and the YA author self has faded to the background.  Would it be self indulgent or a waste of time to spend a week working on my YA?  In the midst of my self-doubt, one thought rang loud and clear: if I didn't go, I'd never have this opportunity again.  I'm not ready to close the door on my YA fiction: it's a genre I love, and my novel in verse is a project I have loved and labored over for years.  Despite my fear, I flew to Pennsylvania and got ready to face the unknown.
My little retreat

It was the best experience I almost never had.

The workshop officially began with dinner on Sunday night, and ran through brunch the following Friday.  I had thought that it might be a retreat, and it was in some ways, but not in the traditional sense.  Nineteen of us (three amazing faculty who I'll discuss in my next post, plus sixteen quirky, wonderful writers) hit the ground running Sunday night with a discussion of our favorite poems.

I tumbled into my cabin that night overstimulated and ecstatic.  The week was off to an amazing start.

Here's a sampling of the week:
  • Sessions on poetry, revisions, storytelling in verse, and the oral tradition
  • Open mic night, book signings, and lunch with publishing professionals
  • A tour of the Highlights offices (SO cool)
  • Amazing food, amazing people, and high energy
  • Plenty of beautiful trails to wander about during down time (not that there was a lot of it, but I still managed to get in a walk each day)
  • Writing critiques
  • Wonderful writing prompts
  • Inspiration akimbo!
Written by a previous participant in the journal in my cabin: it became my touchstone.
I said early that this both was and wasn't a retreat.  Let me explain: the schedule did not allow for much retreat time.  We worked hard all week.  But because I was unplugged from my routine and my familiar places, I found snatches of retreat in the evenings, and each afternoon when we had some time to ourselves.  And I learned something about myself: I don't think I could take a true writing retreat.  This was perfect: I was constantly stimulated with information and conversation, and yet I had a few precious hours each day that I could spend writing.

More about the poetry rocks to come!

And, boy, did I write.

Stay tuned for rest of this series: the experience was just too big to post about once!  Part II: the amazing, astonishing, astounding faculty, and part III: secret corners and a poem or two.

What's the best writing experience you've ever had?


  1. Replies
    1. It was amazing! Real life has been hard to adjust to :)

  2. Replies
    1. Yes, it was! So glad to have met you, Kathy!

  3. My friend pointed me to your post as I am writing a novel in verse. I didn't know about this conference. Looks so fabulous.

    1. Welcome, Deo! You should sign up for emails from the Highlights Foundation in case they run another similar workshop in the future!

      What's your novel in verse about?