People often ask me how to write for children, how to get published, how to be successful. For me, there was one magic elixer that turned my writing life around. It taught me to really know my audience as well as the industry. It took my writing and raised it to a higher (publishable) level. And it’s always there to keep recharging me whenever I need it. No, it’s not coffee or chocolate or even a loving husband. It’s something available to all: the Highlights Foundation. Sure, they provide that magazine you might’ve had as a kid but it’s much more than that. It’s a foundation that nurtures writers for children, in any aspect of writing not just magazines (and if there’s some niche you can’t find covered, let them know and they’ll likely add it). What makes Highlights the magic elixir? Hmm, well here are some facts:
–experienced and generous faculty
–craft lectures and exercises
–one on one mentoring
–the synergy of other writers
–a nurturing environment (gourmet meals, your own cabin, a serene woodland with stream, yoga, drinks and snacks 24/7)
–most importantly, you’re TREATED as a writer and you’re EXPECTED to be a writer
That last point cannot be underestimated. How often do we doubt ourselves as writers? How often do we put our writing at the bottom of the list, below work and family and laundry, etc.? At Highlights, you are treated seriously and as an equal — so much so that you start believing what you should’ve believed all along: I’m a writer. I may have much work to do yet but what I have to say is important. And I will be published.
Those are the facts. There are the intangibles, too — the kindness in the air, the support that surrounds you, the incredible creative energy (at the event I just returned from, Patti Gauch called it “lei lines,” or lines of magic that cross right there at Boyds Mills, site of the Highlights Foundation workshops). I honestly don’t know what it is exactly but I can tell you this. In the fall of 2003 I attended a Highlights workshop and the following summer I went to Chautauqua, a Highlights conference that’s now held at the same place as the workshops in Boyds Mills, PA. As a direct result of those two experiences, I published my first novel, Quaking in 2007 and Mockingbird in 2010, and several more since. They have all done pretty well. I’m proud of them and proud of my writing. But mostly I’m grateful to that magic elixir that enabled me to fulfill this dream, and keeps filling me up whenever I need it.
It’s out there waiting for you. It really is available to everyone (there are scholarships or you can do what a writer at the last workshop did — start a GoFundMe page). Set your goal. Write. Write well. And then publish.