In October 2007, I had the opportunity of attending my first writer’s workshop hosted by Highlights Magazine. I loved my experience so much that I decided to attend another workshop the following September.
Honesdale is a beautiful little town located in the Poconos Mountains region of Northeastern PA about two hours west of New York City. Funny thing is, after my first visit, I realized that my great grandparents actually lived in this area in the early 1900s when my great grandfather worked for the railroad in Ashley! I had visited here once before doing genealogy research and never imagined I would make it back here for a writer’s workshop years down the road.
The Founders Workshops, as they are called, are held in the very home that Highlights Magazine was founded in the 1940s. From the moment you arrive at the workshop, you feel right at home. You get your own private cabin and an invitation to “help yourself to anything in the cupboards or refrigerator of the main house.” This is hardly necessary because the folks at Highlights barely give you a chance to get hungry. Every day, you are treated to three catered meals and in-between snacks by a gourmet chef (Marcia Dunsmore) who studied at the Culinary Institute of America. The food is phenomenal (and reason enough to come back)!
The workshops are led by both Highlights staff and accomplished authors and editors from around the country. Depending upon the workshop’s theme, you’ll participate in discussions on everything from setting, characters, and plots to publishing and marketing. The meetings are held in the living room of the Founder’s Home and are designed to be both comfortable and casual. So casual, in fact, that they even invite you to leave your outdoor shoes at the door and slide into a pair of slippers before entering the house. Towards the end of the three-day workshop, each writer is given the opportunity to have his/her work critiqued in a private session with the editors.
Not only did I gain a bevy of writing tips at both of the workshops I attended, I was also able to practice taking photos with my new SLR camera. For some reason, I always find myself visiting the northeast in autumn—so in my memory, this area is immortalized in a sea of fall foliage painted in vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. I don’t think I’ve seen any region as beautiful than Pennsylvania is at this time of the year. The photo included in this post is actually one of my favorites from that first trip.
I highly recommend the Founders Workshops to anyone interested in pursuing writing as either a career or a hobby. It’s a wonderful experience that I tuck away as one of the “highlights” of my career thus far (no pun intended) and I hope to return again and again.