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Carolyn P. Yoder is the senior editor of history and world cultures for Highlights for Children and has written numerous articles on research and writing history for children. She spent a decade serving as the award-winning editor in chief of Cobblestone: The History Magazine for Young People; Calliope; Faces; and Odyssey, which led to her position as assistant publisher of Cobblestone Publishing, Inc., overseeing development of its book division.

Carolyn is currently editor of Calkins Creek Books—the history and historical fiction imprint of Boyds Mills Press, publisher of her book George Washington: The Writer and her most recent work, John Adams: The Writer, released in October 2007. She also reviews juvenile history books for the Civil War Book Review and has been a writer and editor for the New Jersey Historical Society.

We are lucky enough to interview Carolyn about her faculty position at the popular children’s writers’ workshops at Chautauqua.

1.Hi Carolyn, thank you for talking to WOW! today. So, who should sign up for a Chautauqua writers’ workshop?

Anyone interested in children’s literature. Chautauqua offers a rich background to the field—everything from nonfiction to fiction to poetry for book, television, magazine, and online publishers.

2.So, all genres of children’s writing are covered. That’s terrific! What are two benefits a writer will receive if she attends?

The chance to see behind the scenes of children’s literature and to meet all the different people involved—writers, editors, publishers, librarians, agents, illustrators, to name only a few!

3.You hear more and more how important it is to network in the children’s writing business, and Chautauqua sounds like the perfect place to start. What is a typical day like for a workshop attendee?

A day can be made up of lecture, workshops, one-on-one reviews, dinner and lunch events, informal chats (lots of time for that), and the chance to soak up the incredible place called Chautauqua.

4.Attendees are kept very busy. What makes a Chautauqua workshop special?

I’ve been attending for ten years, and every workshop is different, sparked by the attendees, faculty, staff, and the place itself.

5.It sounds like a magical place and a fantastic experience. What type of workshop do you lead?

Workshops on research—photo and text, historical fiction, working with an editor, and magazine writing. I have also led informal luncheon chats on writing history, and sat on a nonfiction panel made up of editors, writers, publishers, and packagers.

6.Because I was lucky enough to attend your weekend workshop in Illinois in 2007, I know Chautauqua attendees are in for a real treat with your workshops! What are some other workshops that are offered?

You can check the website for further details. These are some of the upcoming workshops for 2008:

August 9–13, 2008 Finding Your Voice
August 23–26, 2008 Writing About Sports
September 18–21, 2008 Plotting the Novel
September 26–28, 2008 A Crash Course in the Business of Children's Publishing
October 11–18, 2008 Whole Novel Workshop
October 23–26, 2008 Writing Novels for Young Adults
November 6–9, 2008 Visual Art of the Picture Book

“I’ve been attending for ten years and every workshop is different, sparked by the attendees, faculty, staff, and the place itself. ”

7.Thank you very much for providing the links for us. We will be sure to check out the curriculum there. The Chautauqua workshop may be expensive for some writers. Is there any financial aid available?

Yes, many scholarships are available.

8.That’s great to hear. Why should a children’s writer choose this workshop over others led by different organizations?

Every workshop is unique. Writers and illustrators need to decide which ones are best for them.

9.Yes, thank you for that practical advice. It is very important to make decisions that are right for you in this business. What is the overall feeling of attendees at Chautauqua?

At Chautauqua, the tone is a combination of energy and calmness, a perfect combination to meet and talk with others.

10.What a great combination and the perfect setting for a writer. What is the best way to network at a conference or a workshop?

Don’t be shy, but don’t be over anxious.

11.This is true, and sometimes hard for writers since they are more comfortable in front of the computer. But something to remember is that the other people there are also writers, and they could be feeling the same way! What should a writer make sure to bring to a week-long workshop?

Energy, an eager mind, and open ears (plenty of talking and listening), and a relaxed hand (for writing).

“At Chautauqua, the tone is a combination of energy and calmness.”

12.Those are the perfect tools for a writer to bring to a workshop. Are there certain qualifications a faculty member has to have at Chautauqua? If so, what are the qualifications?

You might want to visit the website to see the diversity of the faculty. Faculty members for the Chautauqua conference and the Founders’ Workshops are successful professionals who are skilled and passionate about their subject areas.

13.Do attendees actually have time to write and work on projects while at Chautauqua?

I have never been an attendee, but as a faculty member (and writer and editor), the energy and calmness of the conference has a dramatic effect and triggers the imagination. I’m sure lots of writing and illustrating takes place!

14.By your description, it does sound like you would be surrounded by the perfect setting to imagine, create, and write. How is Chautauqua related to the Highlights Foundation? Is this the same Highlights as in the children’s magazine?

The Writers Workshop at Chautauqua is separate from Highlights, the company, and is a nonprofit organization. Highlights does help out from time to time with providing editors, some materials, etc.

15.Thank you for explaining that. Children’s writers often wonder if there is any connection between the two. What type of free time activities are available at Chautauqua?

You might want to visit the Chautauqua Institution’s website for what goes on at Chautauqua, but the Highlights conference is pretty time consuming and energizing. So, free time might be spent reading and writing and illustrating. There are lectures, the lake, concerts, and my favorite: a small cinema—and plenty of coffee and ice cream. Attendees tend to meet (a lot!) at the ice cream parlor (where you also get coffee.)

16.You can’t go wrong with coffee and ice cream. Those are two musts all writers must have. Are meals included with the price? What if a writer is a vegetarian?

Meals—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—are included, and attendees with special needs are well taken care of.

17.Sounds like a terrific deal! Will a writer come away as a better writer if she attends this workshop?

That energy, open mind, open ears, and relaxed hand can only spark the imagination—the main ingredient of good writing, fiction and nonfiction!

18.How very true, and how lucky we are to be able to imagine ourselves in our character’s shoes and write his or her story! Have writers published their manuscripts as a direct result of attending Chautauqua workshops?

From my experience, I have worked on book and magazine manuscripts at Chautauqua, which have come to print!

19.That is absolutely fantastic news! What is the difference between Founders Workshops and the Chautauqua experience?

Founders workshops tend to be more specialized and concentrated. The Founders workshops cover all kinds of topics from nonfiction to novel writing to poetry to marketing to picture books. There are also week-long writing retreats. The Founders workshops are held in Honesdale, PA at the Boyds Mills farm.

Attendees meet fellow writers with similar interests and have a chance to form life-long friendships. Attendees also form strong bonds with the faculty and like Chautauqua with the place itself. Boyds Mills is intoxicating! According to Jo Lloyd of the Highlights Foundation, "The Founders Workshops are intimate. For one cost, we provide a private fully-furnished cabin (a/c included), wonderful meals, and even complimentary transportation.”

WOW:  Thank you, Carolyn, for answering all of our questions about Chautauqua and the Founders workshops today. It sounds like an amazing experience that any writer would be lucky to have! We really appreciate your time, especially since we know you are super busy with editing, writing, and teaching.
Readers, don’t forget to check out Chautauqua’s website at for even more information.


Margo L. Dill is a freelance writer and elementary school teacher, living in Mahomet, Illinois. Her work has appeared in publications such as Grit, Pockets, Missouri Life, ByLine Magazine, and The News-Gazette. Her first book, Finding My Place, a middle-grade historical novel, will be published by White Mane Kids in 2009. When she's not writing, she loves spending time with her husband, stepson, and two dogs—Charlie, a boxer, and Hush Puppy, a basset hound. You can read more about Margo at


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