Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Chautauqua Experience--Highlights Writers Conference

I just returned from an adventure in learning--nine days in Chautauqua, New York at the Highlights Workshop for Children's Writers and Illustrators. Check out this link to find out more about the conference.

There were 97 students in attendance from all over the United States and also places as far as Hong Kong, Spain, Uganda, and Guam. The staff was amazing and there were so many wonderful authors, editors, publishers, etc. that students had a chance to sit and talk with the staff and ask as many questions as we wanted during our meals, around classes, and other activities.
For one full week, I was entrenched in a professional and FUN experience where I could take classes in nearly every realm of writing, from characterization to voice to writing for children's magazines. I am 28 weeks pregnant and I went to New York, where it is HUMID, very, very humid. A little crazy, I know, but that is how much I wanted to attend this conference. I even stayed in a place with no air-conditioning! I am definitely dedicated to this writing thing!

I met a great crowd of talented authors. My mentor was Sandy Asher and she gave me some wonderful feedback on the chapter I submitted for critique. I was also lucky enough to speak with the Newbery Medal winner, Jerry Spinelli, and he gave me some wonderful advice on the middle-grade reader I'm working on. Check out this link to see more about the fabulous faculty in attendance. Here's a picture of me with Jerry & Eileen Spinelli.

I mentioned before that I received a scholarship that enabled me to attend this conference. I want to mention this again to encourage those of you who might be salivating over this conference the same way I used to. I still had to pay for my airfare and lodging, so if you want to go, you'll need to save, but without the scholarship there's no way I could've attended. I talked with several other students who also received scholarships and we learned where a good chunk of that scholarship money comes from on Thursday night.
After dinner at the golf course, there was an auction with all kinds of wonderful items: books, paintings, bags, hand-knit shawls, jewelry. Most of these items were donated by other authors and members of the staff. The items went for generous amounts and the money will go to fund next year's scholarships.
The highlight of my evening is when my own book went up for auction! I donated a copy of Wrong NumberWrong Number and renowned children's author, Eileen Spinelli, won the bid at $50.00!!!
My week in Chautauqua was unbelievable. I missed my family a lot--I've never been away from my kids that long and it made for some lump-swallowing when I talked to them on the phone and they told me how much they missed me. I consider last week to be a chance in a lifetime experience for me. I'm excited to share some of my notes and pictures from the week in future posts, but I would like to leave you with a few nuggets of inspiration passed on from the staff at the Highlights Writers Workshop:
  • Don't ever give up!
  • The worst thing you can do is leave a finished manuscript in the drawer
  • Take advantage of every opportunity, every open door.
  • Stay true to yourself--your goals--your dreams.
  • Write, write, write!


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