Highlights on HIGHLIGHTS

While pails overflowing with sand happen to be amongst my favorite things, I do have a few other items on my “bucket” list.

This past month, I had a chance to fulfill one of those dreams…and fill my author well to overflowing. I participated in my first Highlights Foundation workshop at The Barn: Capturing the Spotlight: Getting the Gigs.

Highlights Dragon bag

I had heard so many rave reviews of the sessions, of the staff/faculty, of the setting, but nothing prepared me for my first look at my charming cabin nestled in the beautiful woods, overlooking The Barn itself! I’d describe it as nature combined with all the comforts of home…but the staff ensures all attendees are totally pampered (housing, delicious food, 24/7 snacks are all included!), so it’s more like nature combined with all the comforts of a fabulous vacation!

Highlights cabins

Highlights cabin dragon

highlights dragon reading

Highlights Jodi Larry

Of course, that’s not to suggest we weren’t all there to get down to business – soaking up information and inspiration, from the esteemed faculty and the incredible attendees alike.

The workshop agenda, led by charismatic award winning author Larry Dane Brimner, offered insights into the art of promotion, including: marketing our books (and ourselves), performance agreements, insurance concerns, obtaining – and organizing – contacts, the how and what to charge, as well as so much more!

Here are just a few of the highlights:

Right out of the gate, Larry treated us to some mock school presentations, offering suggestions on length and subject matter based on age/grade levels.

Highlights larry

In subsequent sessions, Larry stressed the importance of investing in ourselves, from initial book launches to sustaining longevity and success. He introduced us to the MDR marketing site (for education mailing lists), sharing samples of his own promotional materials and emphasizing the benefits of speaking at conferences. He even shared one of his personal author contracts with us!

The amazing Margie Stern, coordinator of Youth Services for the Delaware County Library System for over twenty years, emphasized authors and librarians must develop collaborative partnerships. She offered excellent suggestions, from providing clear details regarding author visits on websites (cost, sessions, needs, clearances, privacy statements, etc.) to including extension activities. The main takeaway: Make it easy for those who wish to invite you into their schools!

Highlights Margie

The engaging David L. Harrison, award winning author and poet, visited with us via Skype, and shared advice on blogging, such as including regular features on your blog (interviews, poems, etc.), posting on a regular basis (I’ll have to work on that one), and supporting others’ blogs.

Highlights David

Baby Dragon couldn’t resist having a little “sumpin’ sumpin'” in between sessions:

Highlights Snack icecream

The incomparable Vicki Cobb, known as the “Julia Child of hands-on science”, encouraged us to think of author visits as “show biz”. She loves challenging students to perform their own experiments (check out the We Dare You videos on YouTube)…igniting imaginations as well as “tea bags”! (Yes, she made a tea bag fly – QUITE the show!)

Highlights vicki

It was such a pleasure to finally meet the effervescent Melanie Hope Greenberg, a petite powerhouse of promotion as well as an award winning author/illustrator, who impressed upon us that we are our own best reps. Melanie encouraged us to develop strong marketing lists and materials, while thinking outside the box: “Don’t do what everyone else is doing.” Using humor and candor, she also “illustrated” the finer points of social media manners and faux pas, from gossip and drama to “billboarding” (“buy my book, buy my book!”) and pity posts.

Highlights Melanie

And how wonderful to reconnect with the phenomenal Selene Castrovilla, award-winning author of picture books and YA novels, whose latest novel, MELT, is so raw, heart stopping and heart breaking, it made ME melt. Selene was my mentor at the Rutgers One-on-One conference years ago. She encouraged us to “be the change” and discussed author branding (hers is “humanity”). Admittedly shy, Selene stressed we have to share our passion and market from that angle. “I really mean what I say,” she explains, “what I truly believe in.” As far as social media, Selene thinks of Facebook posts as “mini blogs”, and encourages “evergreen tweets” on Twitter, “timeless statements about your work.”

highlights selene alicia me

(Selene, Alicia and I may have closed down The Barn a night or two…) 😉

A bonus “concert” by singer/songwriter (attendee) John Farrell brought us all to tears as we learned about Bridges of Peace and Hope, a project to bring the world together through the international languages of art, music and smiles. Please check it out: www.bridgesofpeaceandhope.org.

Highlights john sing

Busy as we were, we made time for a nature walk. Thankfully, we had a furry friend to guide us.

Highlights hike

Admittedly, leaving was bittersweet. It was hard to leave my new friends, and yet, I was so excited to put their words into action.

Highlights gforce

I left feeling more than inspired…I felt EMPOWERED. I wasn’t the only one. We nicknamed “Getting The Gigs” the “G-Force”Academy. Naturally, we now all have our GMAs. 😉

Thanks, love and hugs to all who made this possible, from Kent Brown and my initial contacts at Highlights (the fantabulous Alison Myers and Jo Lloyd), to the fantastic staff and workshop faculty to the amazing attendees. This was my first Highlights adventure. It will most certainly not be my last.

(Final message made possible by playing in the extraordinary word garden at The Barn…how cool is that???)
Highlights thankful


19 thoughts on “Highlights on HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Jodi, This is an amazing and inspirational post! You are doing exactly the right (& write) thing: following your heart and passion. You are so lovely, and I’m grateful to have reconnected with you – and to call you “friend.” XO

    1. Awww…thank you, Selene. This means so much, especially coming from such a talented author…and treasured friend! ❤ xoxo!!! (And I had to giggle at your other comment…the first comment is from my HUSBAND Larry!) 😉

    1. I’ll look forward to reading about YOUR experience, Jilanne…but of this I can be sure – you will love every moment! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the wonderful wrap-up of the retreat! I can see the results of what you learned when you post on Facebook (LOL!) All the Best with your sweet books! ❤ xo mermel

    1. Aw, thanks, Melanie. ❤ Getting the "a-okay" from the teacher means a TON! 😉 xoxo back! *blows kiss*

  3. What a pleasure and an honor it was to meet all of you. While I can’t speak for all the faculty, I at least came away from this workshop having learned a lot myself and feeling re-inspired to get back on my game. Thank YOU and the other workshop attendees for being so receptive and for sharing your own ideas and for inspiring the faculty to give 150%. Wear your GMA proudly!

    1. Larry, you and the rest of the faculty gave 150% and THEN SOME! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all you gave – and continue to give – to us…and to book lovers everywhere. ❤ G-FORCE ROCKS! ❤

    1. We have to do the next one together! ❤ And I can't wait to see you…LA can't come soon enough! ❤

    1. Thanks so much, Paul! I know life is crazy, but if you ever get the chance to do one of these, DO!!! ❤

  4. Sounds like Brimner and guest faculty hit a home run! I’m glad he took on this challenge.

    I know the canine in your pic. He has accompanied me on walks there too. I am so homesick for this place. Fingers crossed I will squeeze in this summer. Love to Selene. Melt is amazing! Thanks Jodi

    1. Thanks so much, Joyce! The entire experience was more amazing than I could ever have imagined. Keeping my fingers, toes and eyes crossed you’ll make it back soon! ❤ (Me too!) 😉

  5. Jodi, thank you for such an amazing description of the Highlights Workshop. I think I will get more from rereading your blog post than from plowing through my thirty-plus pages of notes. I’m happy to have been there with you– and our fearless leader, Larry, and the wise guest faculty, all the other wonderful writers.

    1. LOL, Becky…I had quite the time trying to edit all of the amazing information into a blog (I could have written a full dissertation!) I’m so happy we were all there together too…and hope we can all be together again soon! Until then, sending hugs, love and positive promo (and writing) vibes! 🙂 ❤

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