July 16, 2017

Highlights Foundation Summer Camp: A Journey Through Windows and Mirrors

My Family Motto

The Mirror or What Is:

I am so emotional. My entire childhood was spent  trying to disappear so no one would see. I disappeared into play, into books, out the door, into the woods. As long as I can remember, emotions have made it difficult to be around people.

And I’m talking, simple everyday moments. As in, I’d miss everything the teacher said the hour before lunch because I was trying to figure out how not to be the first one to get my chocolate milk from the crate at the front of the classroom. (Everyone will be watching, waiting for their own turn. All because I’m at the top of the alphabet, or I sit in the first row, first seat. I’m so tall, they will all see me.)

So, there’s me - having all the fears, all the time. This makes for many issues. It takes a lot of energy to reign those feely-fear buggers in before things get too awkward or embarrassing around people.

40+ years in, however, I’ve learned that chocolate helps. Therapy. Or a glass of pinot. My emotions and I have finally come to an understanding. This is the work that I am compelled to do – even if it requires chocolate.

Elizabeth Gilbert refers to this as Big Magic. I couldn’t agree more. Just as things quickly got out of hand for Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, my emotions flow, flood and wash me around when I write. Creation drags me up the mountain of ideas, then shoves me down into the rugged reality valley. My senses overload. I must nap, eat chocolate, pour a glass of wine. Moderation is important. My children, family, friends, and bills need me.

I am passionate, but not precious about my prose, characters, or concepts. I work slowly in order to best moderate the journey. My projects require time.

Ideally, I would write scenes in small batches, then tuck them into draws to cool like fresh-baked cookies, so I can taste them without burning my tongue. But, mostly, I’ve been known to serve up those scenes piping hot to readers in my creative fervor. What’s a roller coaster writer to do?

Disappear, of course. But not in the way you might expect.

Loft Window at The Barn Overlooking the Word Garden

The Window or What Is Possible:

Many writers go on secluded retreats to create their very own Wonderlands. On my own, I’ve often disappeared through the mirror, into story, out the window, and into the woods of creating, losing all sense of project direction.

Then, I discovered Highlights Foundation Summer Camp.

Just as books are full of mirrors and windows for readers, the Highlights experience holds the same for writers and illustrators.

This place allows time and space to nurture all creators.

There is time to reflect, time to think, time to play, time to learn, and time to grow.

There is time to explore, time to share, time to eat <<amazing>> food, even time to nap – if one must.

There are plenty of woods for active meditation, and window views that do just fine when it rains.  

There is even chocolate and pinot, with friendship and laughter stepping in for therapy.

In other words, the good people at the heart of the workshop experience know exactly how to 
support creators. Highlights has a heart and history of being there for those who wield Big Magic for young readers.

This was my first Summer Camp at The Highlights Foundation. 

I would happily be the first to return - even if it means being seen by everyone.


Thank you, Jillian Sullivan, for awakening my characters through “Tell Me…” and showing me how best to let the reader in.

Thank you, Patricia Gauch, for teaching the importance of mischief in storytelling, and reminding me to dwell in possibilities, just like Christina Katerina.  

Thank you, Jan Cheripko, for encouraging me to write what’s true and to keep sharing it.

Thank you, Peter Jacobi, for challenging me to Dream! Dare! Do! and showing me the importance of leaving a lasting impression.   

Thank you, Mitali Perkins, for whipping my lazy ascriptions and adverbs off the page. And for having a soft spot for super nerds.

Thank you, Meg Medina, for making me find the One True Story running through all of my work.  
Thank you, Shadra Strickland, for sharing the sparks of your illustrative and poetic journey with us.

Thank you, Lamar Giles, for pushing me to refine crystal clarity in my word choice.

Thank you, Linda Comacho, for reminding me to quit underselling myself since writing is an act of bravery.

Thank you, Alison Green-Meyers, for keeping us informed and cheering us on the whole week through.

Thank you, Martha & Amanda, for the unforgettable sweet and savory flavors that will last a lifetime in my heart.

Thank you, Jo Lloyd, for all your wonderful guidance before I even arrived.

Thank you, George Brown, for the terrific hospitality, help with travel woes, and opening your home at Fox Hill Farm to us.

Lastly, I’m especially grateful to Kent Brown, for continuing this fantastic family legacy that welcomes and nurtures Big Magic to The Barn.  For a creator, there’s nowhere better.

I really could go on and on – and on. But I must end with one last shout-out to all the amazing friends I met at The Barn last week.

It was a beautiful week in the neighborhood, thank you for being my neighbor!

Can’t wait to see where our journeys take us next!   

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