May 20th, 2013
It’s been less than 48 hours since I returned from the week-long Highlights Whole Novel Workshop for fantasy (mouthful!) and jet lag isn’t the only thing that lingers in my blood. I’m so excited by the experience that I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and actually BE in my body.
With only ten participants for the week, and four outstanding faculty (Franny Billingsly, Laura Ruby, Anne Ursu, and assistant Christine Heppermann), we had the luxury of frequent in-depth discussions with them during the week. Terms like psychic distance, emotional geography, and essential wound, buzzed the air like a swarm. They were generous and heartfelt guides through deep and muddy waters. Thanks, ladies!
After not even touching my YA manuscript in the last year, it was most satisfying to get input from pros who saw exactly where to poke and prod at its weaknesses. It forced me to examine it more closely than ever and then come up with solutions on my own. Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment in the name of progress.
And then when I needed a mini-diversion so my head wouldn’t explode, there was nature, just outside the door: lush green forest walks along a mossy-banked tumbling creek, orioles, eastern bluebirds, and nesting robins outside my writing window, barred owls echoing in the night, and red-spotted salamanders on the paths scattered with woodland violets. All were perfect mini-diversions from thinking too much about writing.
The best thing about the workshop (and generally true for anyone I’ve met in the children’s literature world), was that it was a safe place to be creative. Especially since we were all fantasy writers. Everyone got excited about doors to other worlds, talking mice, post apocalyptic survivors, mermaids, ghosts, and generally misfits of all kinds. Growing up is tough, but having great stories at your disposal makes it better. That’s a job Kid Lit folks take pretty seriously.
My great workshop experience wouldn’t have been possible without many awesome people. 1) Kent Brown at the Highlights Foundation: Thank you very much for the scholarship that allowed me to participate in the fantasy workshop. Your generosity, attentiveness, and humor infused the whole week. 2) Indiegogo: Thanks for having a platform that allowed me to raise enough cash to be apart of the workshop! and 3) All the generous and pretty damn cool folks who contributed to my Indiegogo campaign by retweeting, sharing on Facebook, sending me words of encouragement, and donating cold hard cash. For a more complete list of who they are specifically, visit the Acknowledgments and Gratitude page of this blog.