Thursday, May 26, 2016

Revision Retreat at the Highlights Foundation with Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson

Dear Alison,

Picture it: the first week of June 2013. The sun shining, the lilacs blooming, and me, a young writer armed with a suitcase full of new clothes, two young adult manuscripts, shiny and new and ready to be published, (READ: naive and nowhere near ready to be published), and a burning desire to learn more about the revision process from two revision masters, Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson at the Highlights Foundation Revision Retreat. 

I should mention the second suitcase I packed. The one filled with balled nerves, reservations, and self-doubt brought on by the handful of rejections I received from agents. (READ AGAIN: naive and nowhere near ready to be published.) 

It was my first visit to the Highlights Foundation, my first experience as a writer attending a writing workshop, my first time away from my three kids, my first time spending a week working on my dream since my husband and I started our family. A week filled with firsts...

My first impression... 



My personal welcome...


Not a picture from my first visit. I didn't think to capture that first impression.
(READ naive and nowhere near ready to be published.)


My nerves slowly slipped away when I entered my cabin. After all, I was welcome here. That's what the sign said. I was welcome and my name was in big bold letters on the door. I took a deep breath, sat on my bed, and reread the workshop description.  

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Workshop Description (Copied from the Highlights Foundation page.) 

In this working retreat, Harold Underdown and editor Eileen Robinson will teach proven techniques for self-editing and revising and help writers try them out on their manuscripts. Mornings will be dedicated to revision techniques and afternoons to model critique groups, individual meetings, and writing time.
Participants will:
  • try out a variety of techniques for self-editing, from big picture revision down to line-editing;
  • explore ways to gain objectivity and more focused responses to manuscripts;
  • learn about reader response theory and how to use it to gain insights into a manuscript;
  • if interested, work together in a model critique group, formed at the retreat from students with similar interests, and led by the faculty, to critique one another’s manuscripts;
  • discover creative techniques, such as improvising new scenes or episodes as part of the revision process;
  • take part in group discussions and share favorite techniques; and
  • meet with an editor for individual consultations.
Intended for writers wanting to revise a draft of a manuscript while exploring and trying out proven techniques for self-editing and revising with the help of experienced editors and other writers; participants will need to bring a rough or finished draft of a novel, picture book, or narrative nonfiction.
I was excited. I was going to learn about revising my manuscripts from Eileen Robinson and Harold Underdown:


Eileen Robinson

Eileen Robinson

Eileen has helped many writers become first-time authors during her years at Scholastic. For almost ten years, she acquired, developed, and edited children’s books for both Scholastic, as executive editor, and Harcourt Publishers, as editorial manager. She has also worked … 
Harold Underdown

Harold Underdown

Harold is an independent editor who works with authors and publishers. He has worked at Macmillan, Orchard, and Charlesbridge, and has experience in trade and educational publishing.



That first afternoon, I put on a new outfit, brushed my hair, and headed down to the library to meet Harold and Eileen. Harold shook my hand and said, "Oh yes, you're the one with the scary book in the woods." 

Yes, yes I was. 

One published book and two book contracts later, I believe I am more than qualified to attest to the merits of the Revision Retreat and Harold's and Eileen's knowledge base. The content that was covered those four days provided that backbone to my writing arsenal.

I spend a lot of time praising the Highlights Foundation, but nowhere near enough for all that I've received in return. I even wrote a Thank You post over at the Eastern PA SCBWI blog, EasternPennPoints.

Here's a little sample: 

In New York, I found my people. I also found my writing BFF who told me about the Highlights Foundation. She described a cabin in the woods where I could work on the craft of writing. It sounded just about perfect to me. I applied for one of the Highlights Foundation’s scholarships which led me to Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson’s Kids Book Revision Retreat. One week with these writing experts, in the care of the Highlights Foundation, gave me new writing friends and a new way to look at my work-in-progress (which would ultimately be the series I sold to Inkspell Publishers).

Alison, you know all about the Highlights Foundation, but I want everyone to know about it, especially the Revision Retreat because writers from every step of the writing journey from beginning to experienced need guidance. Harold and Eileen give each writer just what they need, but it's up to the writer to make the most of it. 

I keep in touch with my writing friends I made that week. Friends like Judy Forney, Deb Aronson, and Dave Kane. Friends I keep in touch with regularly. Friends I even get to see.



Dave Kane and Kim Briggs catching up in Philadelphia.


Harold and I also keep in touch. He's offered manuscript advice, we've talked books, and he's one of my enthusiastic promoters of Kim's Big News.

For writers serious about developing their writing craft or considering dipping their toe into the writing world, I strongly suggest attending the Highlights Foundation Revision Retreat. Apply for a scholarship. Make the time to attend. All of our lives are busy, but aren't you worth it?  (YOU ARE in case you're wondering!!!!)


Sharing the writing love one letter at a time,

Kim 
AKA Enthusiastic Hugger  (You've been warned)
AKA Enthusiastic Promoter of the Highlights Foundation