Highlights Magazine . . .
(A) Still exists and is popular (and not just in dentist offices either)
(B) Owns the publisher Boyds Mills Press
(C) Sponsors writing retreats and cool projects
(D) Should totally publish a Goofus and Gallant book.
If you answered “all of the above” you’d be correct (always assuming that you knew you could choose more than one option).
Recently I was given an offer I couldn’t refuse. Carolyn Yoder, editor of Calkins Creek Books, basically gave me a chance to exchange a night in my grimy city for a night in the Poconos instead. You see Boyds Mills Press (Calkins Creek Books is one of its imprints) runs a few writing workshops in Honesdale, Pennsylvania for the Highlights Foundation (a bit more info here, if you’re interested). So it was that I was invited to speak as an invited guest for a night at a week-long writer’s retreat for seasoned children’s authors, most working in the field of non-fiction. I would get to talk about whatever I wanted. They would feed me good food. I’d get my very own cabin (woot!). And best of all they’d pick me up from work and drop me off at work so that all I’d have to do was sit in a car for two and a half hours each way.
Yeah. So basically I jumped all over that offer. Next thing I knew I was in a car with a huge Suzanne Bloom decal on the side (think A Splendid Friend Indeed) which was fantastic. Children’s literature cars are the best (I’m adding this one to the list that includes The Knight Bus, the Wimpy Kid ice cream trucks, and the Eric Carle Museum bug). And that night I talked for long periods of time on topics that I can handle (read: not football).
But the most interesting part of all this was getting a glimpse into the inner sanctum of Highlights Magazine. I wasn’t a subscriber as a kid (I had Owl Magazine and that was pretty much it) but I still knew what Highlights was. Who didn’t? If you were a child it was fairly ubiquitous. As it happens, Highlights has been around for over a whopping 60 years, and has pretty much been kept within the same family all that time. In fact, I saw a framed copy of the original June 1946 edition of Highlights that began everything. The mag was begun by Garry Cleveland Myers and Caroline Clark Myers and the retreat I attended was actually held around the Myers’ own house.
The crazy part for me is that I had no idea that Highlights owned Boyds Mills Press. This isn’t entirely my fault since the publisher doesn’t exactly stamp a huge HIGHLIGHTS sticker on the front of every book. I’m sure you’re familiar with Boyds Mills. Even if that name doesn’t ring a bell, imprints Calkins Creek, Front Street, Lemniscaat, and Wordsong might. By the way, as a nice additional note to our recent discussion about whether or not ALA should create a children’s poetry award, Wordsong is the sole poetry-only imprint in the United States. Interesting, no?
At any rate, I had just a great time. If I were a non-fiction writer, I’d certainly try to weasel my way into this retreat as well. Good food and your own cabin to write in (with Wi-Fi but no cell phone service). Heaven. Admittedly, there are bears, but if you don’t go walking about at night draped in bacon you should be okay.
Thanks then to Carolyn Yoder and the good people of Boyds Mills Press / Highlights. Now about that Goofus and Gallant book I wanna see published . . .