Daily Archives: August 19, 2010

Guest Blogger Neil Hughes: The Highlight’s Foundation sponsored Writers Workshop at Chautauqua

Neil Hughes does not at all think it’s fun to write about himself in third person. Even if it’s for Carol and
Ann Dee and Kyra’s awesome blog. Okay? But he is resigned to the uncomfortable parts of public life
in the hopes that his works will somehow somewhere someday become public, i.e. published. Neil is
a Home Depot Savant, Backyard Activist, and not GAY. But he is out of the closet about being a POET.
Finally. We always knew. Why didn’t he ever just come out and say it, how he hates paragraphs, and full
sentences, and spelling stuff correctly, and it would have just been better for everyone. Gosh. Thanks
for everything Neil. Seriously. You are the best, and so humble, and we could go on but they’re catching
on to your shameless self-promotion. Self-righteous promotion to boot. Umm awwwkwaard.

Let me start with a little bit of TMI; because I am scared of seeking an MFA at Vermont College, I attend
conferences compulsively. So this summer I attended two conferences: Carol’s Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers in June and then in July, Kent Brown’s Chautauqua Experience.

Both were a week long. Both had amazing features and what marketers like to call value-added features.
I am not really interested in selling either one here. Or even comparing them.
(Of course pull me aside sometime and I’ll tell you this secret: they are both amazing conferences,
and run by passionate organizers who are focused on fostering great writers of children’s literature.)
I would like to interview Carol and Kent about their conference philosophies.

That would be a way easier way to write a story about conferences.
Anyway, Carol asked me to talk about The Highlight’s Foundation sponsored Writers Workshop at
Chautauqua, and so I have sat on this for a couple of days hoping something brilliant would spring forth
from my subconscious.
No luck.
So muddle along if you please, because now that I am back, I feel like the only thing I can say about
Chautauqua is the same thing I hear about WIFYR and Vermont College, “You have to go to understand.”

Sounds a little cultish, huh.
Well after all, we are grown-ups writing in children’s voices, so what the hell did you expect.
I am cussing here for effect, and tension, and drama.
See the conferences work.
This is so YA.


But since many of you have not gone to Chautauqua, or heard of it for that matter, here is their blurb
from their site:

The Chautauqua experience includes powerful whole-group seminars, compelling small
workshops, intensive one-on-one sessions, and a host of informal activities to put writers
in close touch with many mentors.

What the site won’t tell you is that Kent Brown has a huge heart and loves farming and wants to
simply grow a crop of great writers each year. (He even invites his competition in magazine and book
publishing to fill out the faculty. They of course have to subscribe to his open door policy throughout
the week.) His focus is getting writers to be better and publishable. He does this by allowing lots of
interaction between faculty and attendees.

He provided us young sprouts with a week of bright light from luminaries in Children’s Literature and
planted us in a magical place like Chautauqua.

Here are some snap shots of our time there.

This is the Hall of Christ, conference headquarters, and our daily lunch station.

A view of the inside of the Hall of Christ. Illumination provided by Christine Taylor-Butler author of the
award winning non-fiction book Sacred Mountain: Everest.

Hall of Philosophy, this is where I met my week-long mentor for our little tête-à-têtes.

This is Gerry, my best roommate I ever had in my Forties. I just turned forty in February.

This is my large cranium and what a happy writer looks like. Yes it is true, I am a writer and proud of it.

This is my Middle Grade attempt at finding a ride to Niagara Falls. Our airport shuttle was unwilling to
do a drive by.This is Kent Brown’s dream conference center. It is currently under construction at Boyds Mills, PA.
I am feeling very grounded after attending the Chautauqua Workshop.

There are scholarship opportunities and I encourage anyone interested to make every attempt to go.
It was a great introduction to children’s literature in the book and magazine formats. It is designed
for a one time experience, or in other words, a launch into children’s writing and publishing.

In the words of Jack Black’s character in School of Rock, Dewey Finn: I have been touched by everyone at
Chautauqua… and I’m pretty sure that I’ve touched them. Or better yet:
Now raise your goblet of rock. It’s a toast to those who rock!
That is a shout out for everyone involved in making WIFYR and Chautauqua what they are.
Thanks a million.
And good night everybody, that’s somebody, that’s in the know and following this awesome blog.
Hold up the flame of writing and I’ll hum something noble in the background.
The end.
Roll credits.

* The weird formatting is our fault, not Neil’s. Don’t blame him. We have problems.


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We Have a Two-Parter Today: A Guest Blogger AND a Writing Exercise! Woot woot!

The writing exercise for today is in four parts. And it all has to do with the story YOU are working on and poetry.


What we want you to do is to look at these poems and rewrite EACH to work as a scene from the novel you are writing. Replace each word, if you can. Keep the stanzas as they are in the original poem.

How tight can you get your writing? Are you wasting words? Can you convey in a few syllables an emotion? A scene? An important ending to a chapter?

First :

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams

Here’s the next poem. Again, do the same thing. I think this one is pretty sexy. What can you do with it?

He fumbles at your spirit
As players at the keys
Before they drop full music on;
He stuns you by degrees,

Prepares your brittle substance
For the ethereal blow,
By fainter hammers, further heard,
Then nearer, then so slow

Your breath has time to straighten,
Your brain to bubble cool, —
Deals one imperial thunderbolt
That scalps your naked soul.

Emily Dickinson

Here’s a third poem. Please notice that it mentions my book in the first line. 🙂

A Glimpse

A GLIMPSE, through an interstice caught,
Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room, around the stove,
late of a winter night–And I unremark’d seated in a corner;
Of a youth who loves me, and whom I love, silently approaching, and
seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand;
A long while, amid the noises of coming and going–of drinking and
oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little,
perhaps not a word.

Walt Whitman

And for our fantasy writers, we have something for you, too.

A Fairy Song

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire!
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moon’s sphere;
And I serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green;
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours;
In those freckles live their savours;
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.

Williams Shakespeare

My mom used to teach English and creative writing. One of the things she always told me was, “If you had to pay a dollar for every word you use in your writing, you’d be more careful at what you put on the page.” Strong writing uses the exact word. There is no waste.

Please post your best rewritten poem.

And guess what? Our guest blogger (who will be showing up soon) loves to write poetry.

So this exercise is kind of an introduction to him.

Dunh dunh dunnnnh!


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