Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Children's Writers Workshop at Chautauqua

René Colato Laínez

Chautauqua offers many quiet places. Dayton O. Hyde (right) and Rene
Colato find such a place to discuss Rene's writing.

In my classroom, I loved to tell funny, scary, sad, happy and adventurous stories. One day, one of my students asked me, "Can you write that story and draw the pictures?"

"What a wonderful idea!" I told him.

That night, I wrote and illustrated my first picture book- "El numero 1/ The Number 1."

I finished the book at 1:00 A.M. and I was thrilled.

Then, I wrote and illustrated more books. Soon, I had a box labeled “Mr. Colato’s Books”. I discovered that during independent and silent reading, this box was empty. All around the classroom, my students were reading my books. I was so excited and decided to write more and more books.

After presenting a new book, Elvis told me, “You are the teacher full of stories.”

“Sí, yes! He is the teacher full of stories,” all the children said at the same time.

And I became the teacher full of stories at Fernangeles Elementary.

One morning, children’s book authors Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy visited my school and told me, “You have to send this wonderful books to publishers.”

Then I met Amada Irma Perez at CABE, California Association for Bilingual Education. Amada inspired me with her workshop about writing your own stories and get them published.

On March 2001, I was ready to drive the bumpy road to publication. I signed up for the Chautauqua Workshop in New York. Highlights for Children was one of my favorite magazine. I wanted to learn from their creators. This could be a great workshop for my writing career.

By July 2001, I had written two manuscripts and had rejection letters for both of them. I took the manuscripts to Chautauqua.

Patricia Lee Gauch, editor at Philomel Books, read my first manuscript and told me, “Good writing but I have seen many picture books about this topic. Do you have another manuscript?”

“Yes,” I told her. “It is in my room.”

That afternoon, I gave her my manuscript “Waiting for Papá.” Something magical happened. Patricia did not like my manuscript, SHE LOVED IT. Patricia sat with me and with her pen, wrote suggestions all over the manuscript. At the end of the workshop, she gave me a big hug and told me, “We can do this book together.”

Four months later, I received a lovely rejection letter for Patricia. She still loved the manuscript but the acquisition table did not select the manuscript. However, Patricia had more suggestions for me. I followed them and submitted my manuscript to Piñata Books/ Arte Publico Press.

On January 2002, my dream became a reality; my manuscript was selected for publication by Piñata Books. Bravo! Ahora era un autor, I was an author.

Yes, the Chautauqua Workshop changed my life and now it can change your life too.

Kent Brown, the executive director of the Highlights Foundation, is offering scholarships to Latino writers to attend the conference this summer. The funds are there but you need to apply before February 15, 2008. Get in contact with Kent Brown.

This is info about the scholarship:

Since the Highlights Foundation Scholarship Program was first established in 1988, more than 250 scholarships have been awarded to applicants who wish to attend the Foundation's Annual Children's Writers Workshop at Chautauqua, New York. These scholarships make the experience of Chautauqua possible for many individuals who might otherwise not have the opportunity or the resources to participate.

Individuals with a serious interest in writing for children and who have an established financial need are invited to apply. Scholarship applications are evaluated on an ongoing basis by the Highlights Foundation Scholarship Committee. Scholarships vary in the stipend awarded depending on an applicant's requirements and the funds available. Funds for scholarships come from two sources: a Foundation Endowment Fund or scholarships that are funded annually by donors.

This year the scholarship committee will be considering applications in two groups. It works in your favor if we receive your application early. The early group of applications is reviewed on December 1, and you are encouraged to apply BEFORE that date. The final deadline is February 15, 2008.

For more information on the Foundation Scholarship Program or to receive an application form, please contact:
Kent L. Brown Jr.
Executive Director
The Highlights Foundation

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