Photo entitled, "Jerry Spinelli held my boot while Eileen laughed."

This week’s post is mostly about the Highlights Foundation Poetry for All workshop I attended this week.

I’m sure all book lovers can appreciate the thrill of meeting writers whom you’ve long loved and admired.  This week was no exception.  It started by riding from the airport to the property with David Harrison.  I confessed to him how nervous I was, and and he gave me every reassurance that I was in the right (and in my rightful) place.  Next came Rebecca Kai Dotlich– her smile was the first thing I saw when I walked into the barn, and her voice raised in welcome was the first thing I heard.  When I managed to stammer

Rebecca's smiling face 🙂

out the fact that I am a huge fan, she humbly accepted the compliment and

then immediately began to inquire after my own writing.  Finally there was Eileen Spinelli, soft-spoken and humble (and who brought Jerry Spinelli along!).  I choked up when I told Eileen what her book WHEN MAMA COMES HOME TONIGHT meant to me as a full-time working mother after my daughter was born – before writing books for children was even a twinkle in my eye. She in turn said words about my own writing that made me cry again (later, and in a good way).

So this post is dedicated to these three people, who are as gracious and kind as they are talented. AND to the 20 fellow writers I was privileged enough to work with over the four days.  I am honored now to count you among my friends.

Quotes on Gratitude

“We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world.” — Jack Gilbert

“Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it… This will miraculously change your whole life.” — Eckhart Tolle

“Grace and gratitude go together like heaven and earth.” — Karl Barth

Gratitude list for the week ending May 19

  1. Eileen Spinelli told me that a manuscript I had stopped working on two years ago, one which is close to my heart, should NOT be put in a drawer.  I am now happily revising it again with renewed hope for its future.
  2. Rekindling my love of poetry and letting go of my fear of writing it
  3. The profound and complete silence in the cabins at nighttime. Except for the steady rain.
  4. The fact that Jerry Spinelli came with Eileen Spinelli – an amazing author two-fer!
  5. The food gourmet chef Marcia made for us. What a treat!
  6. Getting a tour of the Highlights office. I’ve loved the magazine since I was a girl, so that was a special thrill.

    Our fearless leaders, plus Rebecca Davis and Melanie Hall

  7. The fellow poets who attended the retreat. It’s fair to say we were like family by the time we said our goodbyes on Thursday.
  8. Coming home with seven FREE books of children’s poetry
  9. Working with three of the best poets in children’s literature for four whole days!
  10. My daughter, inspired by Eileen’s TEA PARTY TODAY: POEMS TO SIP AND SAVOR, set up a little mother-daughter tea party on Saturday morning before I was even awake.

Backdrop decoration for Mother-Daughter tea party

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Authors, Children's Books, Creativity, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, Travel, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



  1. What a wonderful gratitude list! Sounds like the Highlights trip was fantastic – so glad! I have always wanted to do one of those… maybe in a couple years 🙂

  2. I’m feeling very grateful for all my new friends who love children’s poetry.

  3. wonderful gratitude list Julie. sounds like poetry workshop was amazing for you.

  4. You have been blessed in so many ways this week, Julie! I am constantly amazed at well-known authors who are willing to engage and encourage those of us just begining our journey…you, of course, are way ahead of me!! I am thankful for the privilege of contributing a devotional for our church’s “Chapel Chatter” flyer. We just began attending only three months ago, so, it is a double honor. And I can’t wait for the freedom summer will bring…more time to read and write!

  5. I’m SOOOO grateful to have met you, Julie, and likewise grateful for an amazing four days with brilliant, generous folks who love poetry for children. And for the generous, brilliant folks who dream up and organize these Highlights workshops!

    That note about your daughter’s surprise tea party for you on Saturday is just so cheering; I know you’ll treasure it on many levels. Thanks for sharing that, and for sharing all these thoughts. Happy Creating!

    • Thank you, Robyn. The feeling is most definitely mutual. I love what my daughter did because it demonstrates how books open up a whole world of ideas in children’s lives. They are not just words on a page, but a compass to understanding and appreciating life.

  6. That’s so neat you’re able to meet so many neat writers! I love Eileen Spinelli’s picture books! Your daughter’s tea part is sweet! Glad u had a nice time!

  7. Julie,
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience. I hope you’ll be able to go to the poetry workshop again next year. Happy Birthday a few days early.
    Did you share your bubbles with your daughter too?

    • Happy Birthday a few days early to you too! The bubbles didn’t make it home I’m afraid. 🙁

      I most definitely hope I’ll be there next year, but only budgets will tell. LOL

  8. I attended my first SCBWI conference today and I’m so grateful that I joined sooner rather than later. I made new writing friends and came home inspired. I’m also grateful to my sweet hubby who took the kids to the aquarium today so I could have the day to learn this craft.

    • Wow – today!! How fantastic! I think joining SCBWI is something a writer should do the instant they decide to write for children – so good for you!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this, Julie! The joy you found in this workshop shines through your post…I know attending a writing retreat is something I need to do…there is nothing so powerful as interacting face-to-face with like-minded folks who are already doing what you want to do. 🙂
    And the tea party sounds amazing!

    • Vivian – you really should attend a retreat or a workshop if you can. Just remember that you work with people who are doing what you DO. They may be published and you not, but one thing these programs always teach me is that we are all writers.

  10. I am grateful to the wonderful people at Highlights who know how to create magic for writers. I am grateful for our workshop leaders, Rebecca, David, & Eileen (plus her driver Jerry) & all our special guests for all the wisdom and inspiration. I am grateful for my fellow poets who made every moment seem new…there was so much to be learned about and from each of you. Thanks to all of you for sharing a piece of yourself.

  11. What an awesome experience! Thanks for sharing some with us. Funny enough, I blogged about Jerry Spinelli today, too. I met the dynamic Spinelli duo at Chautauqua a few years ago–what a special couple. I am looking forward to a workshop at Highlights Institute in September…

    • I read your post and loved it! Everyone – go read Donna’s letter to Jerry Spinelli! 🙂

  12. Thanks so much for this awesome post, Julie! I also recently met the Spinellis at a booksigning in Doylestown, PA… They ARE awesome! I am really enjoying your new site, your blogs are just amazing…. YOU are amazing! Thank you also for visiting my blog again!!!!! 🙂

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