My calendar is free

Hi everyone,

I’ve just resigned from my last board. My term expired on the Highlights Foundation board of trustees. I never attended a meeting in person. For me it was always by conference phone. Honesdale is a bit far to travel for a two hour meeting. It was a privilege to serve with that group, which includes Chris Cully, Editor in Chief of Highlights, and Clay Winters, former president of Boyds Mills Press, and learn about what it takes to create the Highlights Workshops that attract so many writers and illustrators each year from the United States and abroad.

My thanks to Kent Brown for nominating me when he was executive director of the foundation, and to his son and the new executive director, George Brown. The new board members bring strong backgrounds to the table and I’m confident that the foundation will continue to flourish and fulfill its mission to support children’s literature by supporting those who create it.

For the first time since the 1980s I serve on no board or steering committee. My active years as a volunteer spanned thirty-six years. As I move toward reducing my week-day work schedule from sixty hours to thirty-five, it makes sense to trim back in other areas to help accommodate the new order.

Onward and upward, everyone!

Pictures from poetry workshop

Hi everyone,

Some of the poets who attended my poetry workshop last week in Honesdale, Pennsylvania have provided candid pictures of the group at work and play. I’m posting several of them today for the fun of it.

The lineup includes Joy Acey, Jeanne Poland, Heidi Mordhorst, Ken Slesarik, Carol-Ann Hoyte, Rebecca Menshen, Cory Corrado, and Susan Carmichael. I hope you enjoy the pictures. This is a wonderful place for a workshop.



Poetry workshop update

REMINDER: If you are interested in participating in my poetry workshop at the home of Highlights in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, there are 5 spots left. I set an upper limit of 12 and I believe we’re already up to 7 who have been accepted.

We’ll kick things off at 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 2, with a tour of HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN (R) and Boyds Mills Press. I’ve published 27 books with Boyds Mills and love my occasional stays at the original home of the founders of the company. The workshop takes place on the grounds and inside the comfortable house.

We’ll be together all day Friday and Saturday and wind things up after lunch on Sunday, June 5. I’ll mix the menu so you’ll have plenty of time between group sessions to be alone with your thoughts and court your muse against a peaceful, forested backdrop.

Group activities will include:

1) Sharing favorite poems and exploring why we like them
2) Reading poems with alternating voices to build teamwork and camaraderie
3) Brainstorming ideas for poems using a variety of practical techniques
4) Discussing what makes poetry poetry
5) Arguing the pros and cons of verse and free verse
6) Debating the relevance of children’s poetry
7) Participating in four useful workshops on key aspects of conceiving, writing, improving, and marketing poetry

Individual activities will include time to:

1) Practice writing what you’re learning
2) Be still with your thoughts
3) Start something new
4) Have me critique your work
5) Meet and chat with me one-on-one

What we will accomplish:

1) Write poems!
2) Work on fundamental elements of poetry
3) Send you home loaded with ways to find and develop ideas
4) Help make you a better poet

If this workshop sounds right for you and you want more information, contact the Foundation directly by telephone at 570-253-1192. Or, e-mail the director at . I’ll hope to see you in Honesdale.

Hi everyone,

Over the months we’ve been enjoying Word of the Month Poetry Challenge, many of you have become accustomed to seeing good poems consistently posted by students of Jana Smith and, more recently, students of Nanette Valuck, who teach at Maumee Valley Country Day School in Toledo, Ohio.

One of the nice things that has happened because of my blog is that Jana and the administration of her school have invited me to fly to Toledo and visit with the students and teachers at MVCD. I leave tomorrow morning. I’ll meet with parents tomorrow night during a program designed to demonstrate some of the many uses of poetry. On Friday I’ll visit students in each grade from 1st through 6th. I look forward to the opportunity.

I’m already impressed by all the work going into the preparations for my visit and I’m sure I’ll come home with good stories and fond memories. Stay tuned.


Update on blog auction, reminder of poetry workshop, plus good news from Lee Ann Russell

Hi everyone,

UPDATE: Tonight is the annual Writers Hall of Fame banquet. The silent auction I’ve told you about will end at 7:15. If you want to bid for the featured guest spot on my blog for yourself or someone you know, you need to do it no later than 7:15 this evening. If you want my cell number, contact me at I’ll keep my phone on during the auction to assist you in placing a bid or telling you where you stand if you’ve already placed one.

As of now the high bid stands at $100, which would be quite a bargain. Someone needs to add a few dollars to make this more interesting! Here’s the link for more information.
REMINDER: There is still space available to join me in Honesdale, June 2-5, for my poetry workshop. I hope you are giving this serious thought. It’s a lovely location. I’ve been there a number of times and always look forward to returning. Honesdale is the original home of the founders of Highlights Magazine for Children. Editorial offices are there, including the office of Christine French Cully, who was my Featured Guest last Friday. Here’s the link for more information. Maybe you have a friend or member of your writing group who would also like to come.

Here’s a note from Highlights that just came in. You might share this with other writers you know.

March winds have already begun to blow away the winter writing doldrums. It’s time to brush the snow (or dust) off your manuscripts and breathe some life back into the resolutions you made at the first of the year.

You know the ones:

This year, I’ll finish that novel.

This year, I’ll polish my picture book.

This year, I’ll learn what it means to tell nonfiction stories, or turn my love of nature into articles, or have an expert critique my fantasy, or follow that urge to write poetry . . .

This year, I’ll attend a Highlights Foundation workshop.


Lee Ann Russell has shared a number of her poems with us on Word of the Month Poetry Challenge. Lee Ann has some exciting news and I asked her permission to add it to today’s post. Here’s her note.


I was notified Tuesday that out of 2,700 (!) entries, my poem, “Last Call,” placed 7th in the annual Writer’s Digest Magazine Poetry Contest. It is a 32-line, traditional rhyming poem. I’m very pleased that a rhyming poem placed. I don’t yet know, but bet other winners are free verse.

The winners’ names and poem titles will be in the July/August edition, then online, and the top 50 poems will be published in a booklet.

How ’bout that!

Lee Ann

Congratulations, Lee Ann! This is quite an accomplishment. Thanks for sharing your good news with us.


Interested in science and nature writing?


Hi everyone,

I received this notice from Highlights Foundation. For those of you who enjoy the challenge of writing about science and nature, this will be a great opportunity to hone your skills. I know Andy Boyles. You’ll learn a lot from him. This event takes place where I’ll give a poetry workshop June 2-5. I love it there. I’m so pleased that Ken Slesarik has now joined Carol-Ann Hoyte among others who have signed on for my workshop. If you are interested, there is still plenty of time.

Science and nature books and articles can have a profound influence on young minds. They can stimulate kids to make discoveries, to solve problems, and to become caring stewards of the planet. But before that can happen, kids need to make a deep connection with nature, and they need to understand that science is an ongoing, self-correcting process of discovery. That’s where science and nature writers like you come in!How can you become an author who ignites the love of science and nature in today’s young readers? Join Highlights and Boyds Mills Press science editor Andy Boyles for Science Writing Boot Camp! This newly created Highlights Foundation workshop will take place April 27-May 1, 2011.

Through lectures, one-to-one critiques, and ample writing time, this workshop will give you the tools and insights you need to advance on your path to success. Andy will be joined by guest faculty members Mark Baldwin, director of education at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History; award-winning science author Loree Griffin Burns; and Scholastic magazine’s editor, Patricia Janes.

You’ll discover the importance of a sense of story, dig deep into the research process, and uncover the ins and outs of interviewing. You will also explore the benefits of nature journaling for developing observation skills and learn how adding photography skills to your writer’s pack can make your work more marketable.

Science Writing Boot Camp is limited to fifteen participants. To secure your spot before the workshop fills, or for more information, contact Jo Lloyd at 570-253-1192, e-mail , or request an application online. Attendees are encouraged to submit their works in progress for one-on-one critiques to Andy Boyles at least three weeks before the workshop begins. (Deadline for receipt is April 4, 2011.)

Highlights Foundation Founders Workshops take place near Honesdale, Pennsylvania. You’ll stay in your own cozy cabin, surrounded by 1,300 wooded acres and hiking trails. Workshop fee includes individual cabins; all meals (provided by a top-notch chef); airport pickup service, if needed; and an intimate teaching setting at the homeplace of the Founders of Highlights for Children.

Please feel free to share this e-mail with others who might have an interest or to include the information in blog posts or through other social networking forums.


Highlights Foundation, Inc.
814 Court Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
Phone: (570) 251-4500