Highlights Foundation: An Interview with Alison Green Myers

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
WOW: Welcome, Alison, to The Muffin. We are so happy to have you here today to talk about the Highlights Foundation! Can you briefly describe for us the Highlights Foundation and its purpose or mission?

Alison: The Highlights Foundation believes that children deserve excellent stories. These stories start in the minds of our authors and illustrators. We give our guests a place to shape their stories, to improve upon them, to seek guidance from the best, and to connect with others who share the same passion.

WOW: I'm sure all children's writers are currently drooling over that description. Your mission sounds absolutely fantastic! How does it differ from Highlights for Children magazine?

Alison: The Highlights Foundation is a separate entity from Highlights Inc. We are a non-profit, and as such, we have many supporters of our mission. Highlights Inc. has been very generous with the Foundation’s needs. Our executive director, Kent L. Brown Jr., is a descendant of the founders of Highlights for Children, Garry and Caroline Myers. Kent worked his way to editor-in-chief of the magazine and then created Boyds Mills Press publishing house, along with its subsidiaries. As a prominent figure in the industry, Kent saw a need. Now as editor, chief emeritus, and publisher at large, Kent is able to dedicate his time to the causes of the Foundation.

WOW: Thank you for clearing that up. What are Founders Workshops? What topics do they cover? Where are they located?

Alison: The Founders Workshops are located at the homeplace of the founders of Highlights for Children, Garry and Caroline Myers, in the picturesque mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. We find the publishing industry’s best writers, editors, and illustrators to teach Founders’ Workshops and only those who are proven mentors, willing and able to help writers and illustrators meet their goals. Our workshops range from weekend retreats about such things as establishing meaningful conflicts to week long workshops on topics like writing your first novel. We take special pleasure in fussing over our guests by offering gourmet food and cozy cabins (pictured above) for relaxation during—and after—a day of learning and writing.

WOW: Gourmet food and writing! You can't get much better than that. How do you find a schedule of the workshops and sign up to attend?

Alison: The best place to find information about  our offerings is on our website, www.highlightsfoundation.org. You can also contact Jo Lloyd at the Highlights Foundation. She'd be happy to send you a brochure with details about our Founders Workshops and our annual Writers Workshop at the Chautauqua Institute. Just call her at 570-253-1080.

We are also excited about our Founders Facebook page, where we promote our offerings, give writing tips from our faculty, and share highlights of workshops and events that take place at the homeplace. You can link to our Facebook page from the URL above.

WOW: Sounds easy! Who teaches these workshops?

Alison: Our faculty is varied: editors, authors, illustrators, and professors. The one common thread among them is that they are the best in the business. Who wouldn't feel like sitting down to an intimate dinner of eight with Jane Yolen to discuss picture books? Or Carolyn Yoder, as she shares the ins and outs of historical fiction research?

We adore our faculty because they understand and support our mission. They work tirelessly, providing tons of encouragement and insight into the field of children's book publishing. They grasp that our workshops are kept small, so a meaningful bond can be formed between participants and faculty, resulting in great conversation and more importantly, a unique environment for success.

WOW: Tell us about the new facility you are building for larger gatherings.

Alison: The Barn at Boyds Mills (pictured to the right) is our newest project out at the homestead. And although it has modern luxuries, it is hauntingly connected to its real roots. The facility is actually in the footprint of the farm's original barn. Surrounding the native blue stone patio is the remaining foundation of the original barn. The beams were recovered from southeast Pennsylvania, the lumber from the acres around the homeplace, and stone and boulders from northeast Pennsylvania--all joining together to make a one of a kind gathering place for our guests.

WOW: This all sounds great and beautiful. But you know, writers are often broke! You mentioned to me that Highlights Foundation offers scholarships. What are the scholarships for?

Alison: The scholarships and grants we offer are to offset the cost of our workshops. In today's climate, giving yourself a week or weekend away to indulge in your own passions may seem unrealistic. We understand; and since we are a non-profit, we take all collected tuitions and put the monies back into our workshops and scholarship fund.

Some faculty members have also established scholarships in their own name for our Chautauqua workshop. Chautauqua is such a magical place; it is very telling that our faculty would wish to make contributions in this way. In addition to these gifts from our faculty, they are also a part of a very lively auction at Chautauqua, where 100% of the proceeds go into the general scholarship fund. There are signed prints and books. Authors and editors auction off critiques, school visits, and retreats. The hottest items are always Joy Cowley's hand knitted shawls and Eileen Spinelli's motivational cookies. The award winning poet sends cookies and handwritten notes of encouragement throughout the year to the highest bidder. I always try for that one!

WOW: Motivational cookies--what a great idea! Thanks for the information on funding. How do writers apply?

Alison: We have a link on our website for scholarships. Jo Lloyd is instrumental in finding grants and scholarships to meet the needs of our guests. It usually just takes one call to Jo, and you are pointed in the right direction.

I should also mention a few things specific to educators. We have many educators that use Funds for Teachers and other teacher based grants at both Chautauqua and our Founders Workshops. It is also encouraging that many school districts pay a portion or all of the tuition cost, as long as teachers opt to take the workshops for college credit.

We offer continuing education credits through Chapman University. We are also working towards our professional learning accreditation with the department of education. If anyone wants to know more about our CECs, please e-mail me directly at alisongreenmyers (at) yahoo.com.

WOW: Those are fantastic opportunities for teachers. Anything else you'd like to share about the Foundation?

Alison: I have a great deal of respect for Kent and the unique offerings he has set up with the Foundation. He brings authors, illustrators, and educators together in such a meaningful way. Each guest of our workshops, each faculty member, and our staff know that books provide something magical and tangible for children. The Foundation’s family of writers understands the power that words have and go to great lengths to make each written experience authentic for our children. Adults with such respect for children deserve a place to improve upon their craft and create. The Highlights Foundation provides just that--a place for folks to gather and immerse themselves in the best that this market has to offer.

WOW: Thank you so much, Alison, for sharing the Highlights Foundation with us today. Muffin readers, if you are interested in their programs or any of the information Alison talked about today, please check out their website at http://www.highlightsfoundation.org.

interview conducted by Margo L. Dill; http://margodill.com/blog/ 


Donna Volkenannt said...

Thanks for all the great information. Sounds like a lovely place to find inspiratio--by being among successful writers willing to share their expertise.
And I love the idea of inspirational cookies.
donna v.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Oops. Make that inspiration.

Margo Dill said...

Me too, Donna! When the kids are grown, let's go!!! :)


Donna Volkenannt said...

I'm getting close. Cari is 16 and driving, but we've got a ways yet for Michael.

And you've got a long way to go with Katie.


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