Saturday, August 23, 2014

My first Highlights Retreat: The Big Picture

I got back last Sunday from my first Highlights Foundation retreat. It was SUCH an amazing experience, and there’s so much to say about it, that I’ve decided to split my comments on the trip into two posts. To keep with the theme of the revision retreat, I’m going to call this my “big picture” post and talk about some of the major themes that made the retreat so relaxing and helpful. I’ll save my “tight-focus” experiences with revision for next time.

I don’t think anyone could write about a Highlights retreat without mentioning the beautiful surroundings. The workshop buildings are nestled in the rolling hills in the Poconos, surrounded by forests carpeted with lush ferns.  I grew up out in the country in Ohio, and my childhood home was also surrounded by forests, so coming to Highlights was a bit like coming home.  I used to love wandering the forests as a child, looking for mushrooms or making up little stories about which patches of forest held the most elves and fairies. In fact, there was a hard-to-reach section of forest that my dad and I named the Enchanted Forest. So, in some ways, I really associate my early writing and story-telling with forests.  Now that I think of it, the first two novels I ever tried to write were set in forests very much like the ones I’ve been describing.  Given this, it’s really no wonder that I found this location to be an inspiring place to write.  One of the few regrets I have is that I didn’t get to explore the woods even more…although there was talk of someone actually seeing a bear so maybe I shouldn’t be regretting it! I would love to return when the weather is warm enough to spend the afternoons writing at a table by the outdoor fireplace. Until then, I told my parents that I might need to have a little “retreat” at their house just to reenact everything!

The beautiful forests--I loved the ferns!

The outdoor fireplace where we made s'mores. Yum!

 Although the forests reminded me of home, there were a few aspects of the setting that were anything but home-like. Specifically, quiet rooms and piles of food!  I love my home and family, but it’s rare for me to wake up whenever I want to, get ready in peace and privacy, and then saunter down for an enormous chef-made breakfast.  Wait, did I say rare?  I meant impossible!  And speaking of the food…well, what can I say? It surpassed all my expectations. I even made a list of the different foods we had so that I wouldn’t forget it all!  Probably the biggest compliment I can give is that I ate so much at each sitting (and looked forward to each upcoming meal so much) that I never once ate a snack, candy bar, anything in between meals.  And that’s really saying something for me because I love to snack.  ;)

My bedroom

The "Barn" where we ate all of our meals.

Finally, this overview would be far from complete if I didn't talk about all of the other retreat attendees because they made all the difference.  I’ve met many wonderful people at previous writing events, but never have I been in the company of so many kind, welcoming writers and faculty as I was during the retreat. What a rare gift it is for me to be around other people with the same questions, motivations, and dreams that I have. We are all different—in terms of demographics, writing styles and genres--but that didn’t stop us from becoming good friends over the course of just a few days.  Our faculty members, Harold Underdown & Eileen Robinson, were also incredibly helpful and gave us so much great information for the future (but more on that next week!).

I won’t forget my time there or the new friendships that I’ve made, and I’ve only got one more thing to say for now…when can I go back?!

Some of the private cabins.

Cool bench!


  1. You captured the retreat and the atmosphere perfectly! I'm so glad I met you and the others. I'm still on a post-retreat high! :)

    1. Thanks Debbie! I am too--just writing this made me miss it more. :)

  2. Wow, you got some great shots. I agree with the commenter above that you captured the retreat and atmosphere perfectly! I miss the place, the food, the workshops, and all the people. It was an amazing experience.

    1. Yeah, I walked around on the last day trying to get pictures of everything so I could show people back home. It was definitely amazing. :)

  3. So enjoyed reading about the retreat, thank you for the post, Kristy. Make sure to send the link to your post to Jo? I think she'd be glad to read it. :)