Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Carolyn Yoder's Alumni Retreat

For the past three winters, I've attended Carolyn Yoder's alumni retreat at Boyds Mill. That's me standing in front of my cabin...the perfect place to write when snow is coming down.
I've learned so much from Carolyn, especially about historical picture books. We worked together on a manuscript, HENRIETTA'S PASTEL TREASURES, about the first professional female artist in the American colonies. Prior to working with Carolyn, I'd been told that it read like a magazine piece. Here's how Carolyn helped me turn it into a picture book.
1. Picture books have rhythm when read aloud. I read my manuscript over and over, cutting excess words until I found the beat.
2. Picture book are written in scenes. I took scissors and cut my manuscript into distinct scenes, making sure that each spread gave the illustrator something to draw.
3. Lots of picture books come full circle. I worked on my last spread so that the ending was reminiscent of the beginning.
4. I wrote it again and again and again. Great writing is all about revising.
What makes the Highlights Foundation Workshops so special is the amount of individual attention given to each writer -- that's why I'm a regular.


  1. Which cabin were you in? I can only imagine how amazing it was to write in one of those cozy cabins with snow falling outside.

    I am thinking of attending the winter/spring retreat next year.

  2. #17. It is amazing to write in front of the window with the snow falling outside. Marsh cooks up some hearty winter soups too!

  3. I've never been there in the deep snow. What fun! What cabin # were you in?