Saturday, May 12, 2012


"Grasp the subject, the words will follow." - Cato the Elder

Well, Cato, that has not always been the case with me.  But, I know I will be a better, less fearful public speaker after my life-changing experience last week.  I participated in a Highlights Foundation workshop, "Life in the Spotlight:  Author Opportunities After Publication," taught by eminent teacher, journalist, broadcaster, music critic, and public speaking guru, Peter Jacobi.
Peter looks harmless here, but wait until he tapes you making an impromptu speech
These workshops take place at the home of the Founders of Highlights in Boyds Mills, near Honesdale, PA.  They have created a literary mecca that offers an idyllic opportunity for its participants to learn, grow, commune, and dream, while they hone their artistic skills.

We gathered for class, meals, and comradery in the gorgeous year-old 5,000 square foot conference center, The Barn.
Workshop participants usually reside in a charming cabin on the grounds.  I loved mine—Cabin 17!
 The inside was as delightful as the outside.  Love and care were evident in the furnishings, charming decor, comfortable beds, and homey rocking chair. Bug spray, flashlights with extra batteries, and a mini-fridge supplied with coffee creamer and assorted sodas were all thoughtfully provided.

A guest book on this desk contained messages from the ones "who had come before me."  I discovered that National Book Award winner and fellow Children's Book Guild member, Kathy Erskine, had also recently resided in Cabin 17!

The rural setting in the Pocono Mountains was exquisite. 
Here are a few pictures I took on my daily walk . . . 

The Homestead is being renovated
Sprouting vegetables to be skillfully used in our meals
The workshop participants traveled from near and far—Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Canada, and Mexico.  I was honored to learn and "suffer" (the speeches) with these talented women—in alphabetical order—Judy Goldman, Gail Jarrow, Cathy Ostlere, Mara Rockliff,  and Susan Simon.  I miss them already!
Peter Jacobi with his admiring "progeny."
Peter expertly, coached us on polishing our presentation skills, gave us tips on presenting a successful talk, and reading from a script—which is much harder than I thought. A veteran journalist, he also gave us valuable information on how to deal with different aspects of radio, television, newspapers, and magazines.  We learned by continually questioning this modest man that during his illustrious career Peter had interviewed such luminaries as actress, Lillian Gish and Carol Channing—and that an aggressive Mike Wallace had once interviewed him.  He told us of mopping floors (very expertly) with fellow soldier, Shel Silverstein, during his stint in the army.  Needless to say, we were mesmerized.

We all agreed that our learning experience was intense, but so rewarding.  We honed our speaking skills, culminating in a taped school visit, with in-depth critiques afterward.  We were able to present, then watch and learn from each other.  When do authors ever have an opportunity like that?

Our workshop also included a Skype visit from the very knowledgeable and generous Kate Messner, who gave us tips on everything an author needs to know about Skype school visits. We also received a copy of her delightful book Over and Under the Snow.

Highlights Foundation's very savvy Alison Myers (check out this great interview) presented an overview of the different types social media and how to make eConnections with our fans.  After studying a questionnaire that she had us all fill out, she even worked up an individualized Social Media plan for each of us!

Two great authors paid us a visit during the workshop—and gave us copies of one of their books!  Thank you, Jan Cheripko and Rebecca Kai Dotlich.   Now I had three new books to share with my grandchildren!

Last, but not least, I HAVE to mention what they fed us while we were there.  It was five star!  Only the freshest produce and herbs, grass-fed beef—everything of the highest quality.  All orchestrated by the chef-goddess Marcia!  I will remember those meals forever—and my tight waistband is reminding me of them now!

Kitchen angel Martha and the one and only Chef Marcia
I took lots of pictures of the meals, three exquisite feasts a day—no slacking there.  But, many of my pictures were blurry.  Must have been drooling all over the camera lens.  Here are a couple to show you what I "devoured!"

The best zucchini pancakes and Beef Burgundy stew I've ever tasted—no kidding!
Simply heavenly carrot cake!

It was an honor to share several of our meals with  Kent Brown, who is, among so many other impressive things, Executive Director of the Highlights Foundation. 

This man shared with us his aspirations for the Foundation. We also found out that Kent is quite the raconteur!  His account of how he got a cooler of live crabs (purchased at the Main Avenue Fish Market in Washington, D.C.) past the security people at National Airport was hilarious!

I will always cherish the memory of my time at the workshop.  I learned so much and made wonderful new friends.

Oh, did I mention that I really liked my teacher, Peter Jacobi?


  1. What a wonderful recounting of a special week! Thank you, Marty!

  2. Cathy, it was a special week. Miss you!