For a few days after Labor Day, I’ll make the trek back up to rural Pennsylvania to the campus of the Highlights Foundation, where they’ve begun an artist-in-residence program. The inaugural writers are Jerry and Eileen Spinnelli, Suzanne Bloom, and me.
You know Highlights, of course, from their magazine and the years you probably spent doing the hidden picture search at the dentist office. (It has been the favorite magazine feature since 1946.)
But, what I learned a few years ago is that they have a beautiful campus where writers come to workshop and compose away from all the distractions of their daily lives. I’ve been there twice: once as a guest author with Kathy Erskine and Rich Wallace. The second time (sort of) last spring as part of the faculty for SCBWI Pennsylvania, which rented the space for its annual meeting.
When I was approached in June, it took all of five seconds to say sí, como no, even though I’d already closed my calendar to anything new until 2017. Who could resist? The idea is that I hide away in the beautiful mountains, where my biggest personal worries will be reduced to ticks and which ice cream to choose as a snack. Other people will cook to feed me. I will not walk a dog, throw in laundry or respond to email. At night, I will look at the stars through a telescope in the Lodge and listen to bullfrogs.
The rest is a blissful four days of writing and then helping other authors wrestle with their manuscripts every evening. What we’ll put on the table has to do with who has signed up to come. We can talk about authentic characters, about false starts and what to do with all that stuff we cut, about biases, about plots that won’t move, characters that fall flat, fear of failure, self-loathing – really the whole enchilada of what it takes to make a book in this world. And, as if that isn’t enough, I hear that Don Tate is leading a workshop on picture books at the same time, so we can look forward to running into his crew, too.
Sure, I could close my office door right here in Richmond, let our new puppy eat the sofa, and work on my middle grade novel, which is due to my editor in December. (Yes. In fact I AM sweating that deadline.)
But I’ll tell you straight. I am so happy to have this to look forward to in September. It has been a horrendous summer, starting with the Pulse shootings, unspeakable violence by and against police, painful book controversies, and the election from hell. (The only break has been the Olympics. Thank you, gymnastics and swim teams!))
So I plan to make my time at Highlights the perfect way to bid this season goodbye and good riddance. While everyone marches back to school, I will instead march back into my happiness. I want to refocus on what matters to me deeply and what has always healed me when I’m most in need: writing.
So, friends, consider this an invitation for the last two spots available. ¡Vengan! Let’s go into the woods together.
Dates: Tuesday, September 6 – 10, 2016
Cost: $129 per night (no minimum stay etc.)
Register here or contact Jo Lloyd for info: firstname.lastname@example.org