Heart of the Novel- Highlights Workshop

Wednesday morning I woke at three am. By four thirty, I had whispered good bye to my family, bounced my suitcase down our stairs, and walked out into the dark morning, ready for my adventure.

I had waited and prepared for my trip for over seven months. I knew a weekend with Patti Gauch as my teacher, was going to be an experience of a lifetime. My novel already written, my required reading list almost complete, I arrived in the Scranton airport and searched for the man with the Highlights magazine.

We drove from Scranton to Honesdale. Memories of my days growing up in Elizabethtown came pouring over me like a warm spring shower waking me from my sleep. Green grass, roads that dip and climb, old brick buildings and churches with steeples, all images from my childhood. Even though my Florida bones shivered in the sixty degree weather, my heart said I was home.

We pulled up to cabin number 17 and there was my name. Rain drizzled down. This was as close as I was ever going to get to camping. A rocking chair sat on the porch. Inside were all the comforts of home. I unpacked and sat, sipping my hot tea and listening to the rain. Lucky for me, I arrived a day early. After finishing Andrew Clements, No Talking, I decided to challenge myself and describe my first day, four words at a time instead of three.

Waiting at baggage claim
Zipping up jean jacket
Smiling at friendly man
Riding along twisty roads
Familiar trees, gray rocks
Warm joy filled memories
Cozy cabin for me
Suitcase huge as usual
Bathroom close, my heaven
Heater on, cold bones
Moths fluttering in windows
Catch them, set free
Eating pasta and bread
Listening to birds sing
Carefully talking to strangers
Relaxed, eating Snicker Doodles
Thinking of my family
Nervous to meet people
Cabin warm as Florida
Pj’s, bed, book, sleep

My original plan was to describe every day this way. It didn’t happen. As soon as the workshop began and Patti started her lessons and critiques, there was no time to do anything except eat, listen, work on my chapters and sleep.

The title of the workshop was, Heart of the Novel. It was appropriately named because Patti showed us how to make a novel come alive. I sat absorbing her every word, hoping my memory and notes of her lessons would carry me through several months of rewriting. And boy do I have to rewrite!

Everyone who has attended a Highlights workshop in Honesdale will talk about the incredible meals. Incredible is simply not a word that gives Marcia’s cooking justice. I have never in my life tasted food like Marcia’s creations. I’ll never look at my tofu crescent squares or my cheese and tomato sandwiches the same again. I’m spoiled.

I returned home at seven pm. on Sunday. To my surprise, the duck egg I had been caring for had begun to hatch. She pecked and peeped for hours and hours until finally at two am. she pushed her way out. I couldn’t help but notice the symbolism. Hatching of a novel…hatching of an egg… Life expresses itself in many ways.

Yesterday, my eyes filled with tears as I read the emails from my new friends. We shared something special. Seven women in a living room, learning from a master. We opened ourselves up to an experience that will forever bond us together.

I look towards October with great anticipation. For that is when we will all come together again and show what we have created. – Life is too short to set aside your dreams. That I know for sure.


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The Picture Book Review

Reviews of Children's Board Books, Picture Books, Activity Books, and Graphic Novels

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