The Magic of the Perfect Writing Retreat

I went to a magical place last month: A three-day writing retreat in upstate Pennsylvania at the Highlights Foundation.

Highlights Writing Retreat

The welcoming view when we pulled up.

I was torn two ways about sharing it with you all on the internet. Half of me wanted to sing from the rooftops that everyone should go to said magical place to experience the spellbinding calm, to rest and write, to snuggle in the adorable cabins, and to chow down on the out-of-this-world menu the nicest chefs in the world serve up. The other half of me wanted to keep it secret, so it was my magical place and tourists didn’t start crowding in. But I like you all a lot (and Highlights publicizes the retreat on their website, so I suppose the secret is already out there anyway), so here we are.

Highlights Writing Retreat

View from my cabin’s front porch.

Highlights Writing Retreat

Inside my quaint cabin.

Highlights Writing Retreat

Views like this on my morning runs.

Highlights Writing Retreat

Views like this on our after dinner walks.

I’ve looked at writing retreats in the past, read the raving praise Nova Ren Suma has given to the several she’s attended, and always longed to go to one. But I always shied away for reasons. They seemed (at least from my casual research) primarily adult literary writer focused, too expensive, too far away (if the retreat was affordable, the flight was not), and too long (I only get so many vacation days a year, taking an ENTIRE week off for a retreat, and extra days for travel, was not in the cards). Writing retreats, I concluded, were for the literary elite, full-time writers with the flexibility to travel as they pleased. Highlights Foundation’s Unworkshops had none of the above deterrents. It’s only 2.5 hours away (or, at least, that’s what Google Map tells me it should have been, if I wasn’t terrible at directions), incredibly affordable (especially when you consider you get your own cabin, three AMAZING meals a day–seriously, gourmet, I would show you pictures but the food was never on my plate long enough for me to take one), access to hiking trails, the most kind and helpful staff you could imagine, and, thanks to its association with Highlights for Children and Boyd’s Mill Press, the Unworkshop attracts tons of other children’s writers in all stages of the writing process and writing careers, all eager to discuss the pains of drafting, the structure of story, and the adventures of publishing. Basically? It was like a spa for writers (minus the massages, but plus lots of wine and cheese hours). I felt like a pampered princess all week. It was the most relaxing, productive, balance-inducing, cheerful “working” vacation I could have imagined. Look how productive I was!!!!

Highlights Writing Retreat

During the retreat, I dove into heavy revisions on the third draft of the WIP and managed to jump ahead about three weeks in my revision schedule with all the time and inspiration Unworkshop gave me! So much progress. Also, those green stars indicate I ran too, two miles a day! (Something that seems impossible to set aside time for in my daily routine at home.)

Conclusion: I never wanted to leave and I’m definitely going back (can I move in, full time, please??)

Highlights Writing Retreat

My very own cabin. I want to go back [sniffle]

Philadelphia and the Ploughshares Literary Boroughs Series

Miscellanea Libri, in the Reading Terminal Market

It’s up! My guest post is up!

If you live in the Philadelphia area, are moving to town, or just want to know what’s occurring on the Philadelphia literary scene (where to read, where to write, where to get published) definitely check it out!

I had a lot of fun doing the research for this project. Though over the years I’ve attended a lot of events–such as the Push to Publish conference–and was involved with Philadelphia Stories through my internship, this blog post gave me a whole new appreciation for the city. Normally, we of the suburbs avoid adventuring into Philly too often, but I’m starting to really appreciate how many things there are to do there. I think that as teenagers we labeled it as “lame,” just because it was nearby and familiar and we never got past that negative stereotype.

I’ve really been enjoying the entire Literary Boroughs blog series. There have already been posts on Minneapolis, Ithaca, Brooklyn, Omaha, Portsmouth, and Morocco. It’ll be running until next spring, one post a week, so keep tuned to explore other cities!

Calling for Submissions! Book About Byberry State Hospital, Philadelphia

Byberry State Hospital, PhiladelphiaThe research for this Byberry State Hospital book is going great. I’m collecting lots of information and learning SO MUCH. I didn’t even know Conscience Objectors did public service during WWII–I thought they escaped to Canada, a la Vietnam war–let alone know that thousands actually worked, for no pay, in the state mental hospitals.

However, the pictures are proving more difficult. I need 180 photographs for this book. So far I have digital copies and the rights (the rights are the time-consuming part of this process) to 21 photographs. See the frighteningly wide gap between them?

A lot of you have already kindly contacted me stating that you don’t know anything about Byberry and you don’t have any photographs. I’m asking that you spread the word so as many Philadelphia residents and former Philadelphia residents who know anything about Byberry hear about this call for submission.

Please post a link in your next blog post, tweet about it, press this post, spread this flier around the social media sites. Instead of printing it out and posting it on pin-up boards everywhere, (well, I am going to do that too), help post this flier in as many online places as possible.

I’m looking for pictures of staff members, patients (before, after, or during their time at Byberry), and photographs of the building itself. Maybe they’re photos of your parents, your grandparents, your aunts, and uncles. Try digging through your family photo albums and asking questions.

Maybe you’ll find out something you never even knew.

Everyone who contributes will get full credit in the book!

Please and thank you!


“So, You Want to Work in Publishing”–Kayla Wolfe

Welcome to the guest blogging series, So, You Want to Work in Publishing! Every Thursday you can look forward to the personal stories of how someone else broke into publishing. (For previous posts in the series, check out this page.) The guest bloggers and I hope that you find our stories encouraging, informative, and helpful in your own path to a publishing career.

If you’re a publishing professional interested in contributing to the blog series, feel free to contact me at

Name: Kayla Wolfe
Current Title: Editorial Assistant, Acquisitions
Hometown: Union City, PA
Graduated from: Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, 2011
Where you currently work and live: IGI Global, Hershey PA; Harrisburg, PA

Your Path to Publishing:

I’ve always had a passion for books, which led me to pursue a degree in English. I never really had a solid career plan and always told people that I would “figure it out” closer to graduation. An expert procrastinator, I was still spewing this line during the fall midterms of my senior year. I decided it was finally time to do some critical (and overdue) research on some possible career paths, including a few in the publishing industry. Unfortunately my university did not offer specialized classes or internships for publishing hopefuls, so I scouted the internet for forums and articles about the ups and downs of a career in publishing and continued to be involved with diverse activities that would make my resume stand out amongst a sea of other Liberal Arts grads who would also soon be hitting the job market.

Upon graduation, I delayed the job hunting process to serve a third and final summer term in AmeriCorps. It wasn’t until I began applying to jobs in July that I realized how difficult landing a job in a tough-to-penetrate industry in a rocky economy truly was. My job hunt soon became a grueling and disheartening experience as I stalked your “run-of-the-mill” internet job sites as well as the employment pages of some of the better known publishers, receiving little more than automated rejection emails every couple of weeks. It wasn’t until I had submitted nearly 200 resumes in a 2-month span that I was called for an interview with the company I am now working for.

I guess you could say I was extremely lucky to have been able to land this position without an internship, a savvy connection in the industry, or specialized education outside of my BA in English. Despite my lack of direct experience and education, I believe being well-rounded and active in various activities, including those which were not quite as relevant to my chosen career path, allowed me to stand out from the sea of applicants also pursuing a career in this often competitive field. I really think the key to landing a job in any industry is being able to highlight and market your skills appropriately for the position you are trying to snag.

How did you find out about your first publishing job and/or internship?
I found out about this position via one of the many career sites I was scanning on a daily basis during the application process. While I cannot remember the exact website, the following were helpful in allowing me to find out about publishing positions all over the country:
Book Jobs: Just as you’d expect—this is a site dedicated to book jobs.
LinkedIn: They have a fantastic group for publishing professionals where industry
insiders and “wannabes” can discuss hot publishing topics as well as share their own advice for landing a career in this industry. Companies also will occasionally post job opportunities in a specialized section of the group’s forum.

Media Bistro: This is a great site for a lot of mixed media job opportunities including careers in television and all types of publishing. They also blog about tons of relevant media topics, allowing for some interesting reads in between job applications.

Publisher’s Marketplace:This is a neat forum I randomly stumbled across which lists various publishing professionals/bookstores and offers a daily e-mail newsletter on interesting publishing topics. They have a handy job board which is updated with a handful of job opportunities daily.

Publishing Company Websites – SO many jobs go unadvertised, so it’s always a good idea to go directly to the website of the company you’re interested in working for. Many of them will have a page dedicated to recent job postings and it’s worth checking back often.

What does your typical day look like?
As an Editorial Assistant in the Acquisitions department of an academic publisher, every day is different. Much of what I do includes commissioning new proposals for books and journals as well as accessing any submitted proposals to determine what will and will not get accepted for publication. Often, I’m communicating via email or phone with potential authors and editors, helping to clarify and steer their ideas for a publication in order to fit my company’s publishing initiatives. This sometimes includes topic suggestions, focusing themes, tweaking titles to be more marketable, and researching trending academic topics in order to evaluate the market potential of incoming titles.

Connect with her:
I just started really using my Twitter account (so it’s still a little weak), but feel free to follow me @Kaylability.

Philadelphia Literary Journal Pride

As I’ve been combing through Duotrope, New Pages, and Poets & Writer’s in search of new markets to submit my writing to over the past few weeks I’ve slowly come to the realization that Philadelphia has a promising up-and-coming literary scene! Not that Philadelphia shouldn’t naturally be super literary and cultural–it is one of the most historic and largest cities on the East Coast–but Philadelphia, at least from my viewpoint, has been in a bit of a hibernation-mode in recent years. Honestly, people keep leaving the Philadelphia area in favor of New York and Boston and DC because the city has been going stale. Cool restaurants have been closing, there isn’t much of a shopping-draw, the only good stuff that does exist is rather expensive–concerts and the like–and it’s generally unsafe in most areas so nobody wants their cars to get vandalized or walk around the streets exploring after dark. So the fact that literary journals are budding out of this environment like a bed of tulip bulbs is rather exciting!

Though Philadelphia Stories and Apiary magazine are the only two that show clear favoritism towards Philadelphia/Pennsylvania writers and themes in their editorial mission statements, the fact that a whole bunch of exciting, new, innovative, and ultimately successful literary journals are springing up out of Philadelphia gives me hope that lots more good things are to come!

On the old side, Painted Bride Quarterly is one of the country’s longest running literary magazines, circa 1973, and is in-part staffed by Drexel University students. On the new side, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, a non-profit flash-prose journal associated with Rosemont College, only launched last year. Same with TINGE magazine, staffed by graduate students in Temple University’s MFA program in Creative Writing, and Nailpolish Stories, the brainchild of Philadelphia writer Nicole Monaghan.

Dear Philadelphia: I’m proud of you. Good show.

Do you have some local literary journals you’re extra fond of just because they call your town home?

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