Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chautauqua notes

I'm back! My apologies for the longer-than-expected hiatus. The move took much more out of me than I'd anticipated, but yesterday the movers took the boxes away, and I promised myself I'd get back to blogging. So here I am.

First, thanks to Christie Wright Wild for the Pot-o-gold award! I am honored that you find this blog full of interesting and helpful content. :)

And I know you're all dying to hear about the writers workshop... Chautauqua was fantastic! If you have an opportunity, I highly recommend it. The faculty were fully engaged with the attendees, and the staff maximized the number of opportunities we had available to speak with them. I'm delighted to say that I've made real friends with some of the faculty members (and many attendees), and I'm not sure you can say that about many other conferences.

Most of the week had workshops; three concurrent sessions at a time. There's something for everyone, from writers of picture books and early readers to MG and YA; from fiction to non. If, like me, you write in more than one genre, it was nearly impossible to decide which sessions to attend, and they were all incredibly informative.

In addition to the scheduled sessions, faculty held "lunch and learns" - informal meet-ups during the lunch break during which the faculty would talk about a particular topic. Use of social media? Spend the lunch hour with Mitali Perkins. Classroom presentations? Hang out with Sneed B. Collard, III.  What does a 9 3/4 year-old want in a book, anyway? Harold Underdown and his daughter are there to give you some insight. I learned just as much from these lunches as I did from the official curriculum.

But probably the best part of the Chautauqua experience is the one-on-one mentorship. Each attendee submits a piece of work (first ten pages of a novel, PB manuscript, or magazine article), and they are paired with a faculty reader/mentor to work on it. You get two meetings with your mentor, so you have time to make changes and look at revisions. I was paired with Andy Boyles for one of my nonfiction PB manuscripts, and he offered some terrific advice for improving it.

And did I mention the food? Or the enormous bag of books that you bring home with you? The delightful attendees? The superheroic ability of Jo Lloyd, coordinator for the Highlights Foundation, to leap tall buildings and not get flustered in the face of things like two-day power outages? The gorgeous setting in the Chautauqua Institution?  It was truly an extraordinary experience.

Want to attend? I know you do. :)  Yes, it's a pricey venture, but the Highlights Foundation offers scholarships that make it reasonable. I hope to see you there in future years!

And if you're too impatient to wait until next year, check out the Founders Workshops.  (Some of these are next on my list.)

So... that's what I've been doing. What have you all been up to while I've been away?


  1. Sounds so awesome! I've been wanting to go for ages, but it hasn't been in the cards yet. Maybe next year... :)

  2. I've always wanted to go to one of these~ I get the emails about them and just drool over the location and faculty. Thanks for sharing info about your experience!

  3. That word makes me think of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

  4. Susanna and Jess: find a way to go--it is SO worth it!

    Matt: One of my favorite books!