Dive in. It’s the first line of Starr Fall, my young adult romantic thriller due out this November. It’s the motto I’ve followed most of my life. It’s a philosophy that sometimes causes a near heart attack when I jump into glacial melt lakes but always guarantees to invigorate the spirit.
In the fall of 2011, I toyed around with attending a writing conference. A friend suggested I try a small event–Something to dip my toes into the great ocean of children’s book publishing and test the waters. I’ve never been much of a toe dipper, so I skipped the intimate meet and greet and signed up for the New York SCBWI event with 1,100 other writers and illustrators.
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).
It took a full year before I found myself winding up the gravel road to The Barn. Our Eastern PA SCBWI Chapter hosted their 22nd Pocono Retreat at the Highlights Foundation. A Eastern PA SCBWI scholarship helped bring me to new writing friends.
After that first year at Highlights as a scholarship winner, I knew that I could give back to our writing community through volunteerism. Within the year, I transitioned from attendee to Co-Regional Advisor of Eastern Pennsylvania’s SCBWI chapter. Now I am part of the team that works with the Highlights Foundation to plan and facilitate our annual Eastern PA SCBWI Pocono retreat.
The Highlights Foundation takes care of the comfy accommodations, delicious food, and attention to every detail in setting up for the event, so the Eastern PA SCBWI team can concentrate on bringing in amazing faculty and create interesting workshops to help foster our member’s creative spirit.
Today I would like to thank the Highlights Foundation for helping make our Pocono Retreat such a success. To Kent and Jo, and all of the other amazing staff members, thank you for helping so many writers and illustrators feel at home in this giant ocean of children’s book publishing. And, a special thank you from this writer who you inspired to become a literary citizen so many years ago.
CO-Regional Advisor for Eastern PA SCBWI