Kindling Words is a retreat designed for published children’s book professionals. We strive to create a warm, supportive, non-competitive environment, where everyone feels part of the group. The village of Kindling Words is working hard to welcome all published creators to our intentionally diverse community of children’s book professionals. We have been holding Kindling Words retreats for more than 20 years. The retreat was started by Mary Lee Donovan and Alison James, who were both fresh from grad school at Simmons. They wanted to create an environment where peers could gather and be inspired creatively.

For many years, Kindling Words was held at Silver Bay, in Lake George, New York. It was rustic and gorgeous—and cold. So cold, in fact, that there came a time when heating the place just for our retreat was no longer an option. So we went looking for a new home! That happened to coincide with Alison embarking on a long trip to Taiwan. Mary Lee was (and is) still very much a part of KW, but had also become a busy editor. So Tanya Lee Stone joined forces with Alison, finding Kindling Words a new home at the Essex, in Essex, Vermont. 

Over the years, the size of Kindling Words grew from 10 to 20 to 40—and now our annual winter weekend caps at over 75. Kindling Words has continued to evolve in other ways, as well, with Marnie Brooks taking on Kindling Words West as her heartfelt project with Alison, adding a new dimension to our ever-growing organization. Now led by Anne Hunt and Alison, and held at Whidbey Island Institute, Kindling Words West is a week-long retreat, with silent retreat time after the morning workshop. For our 20th anniversary, we celebrated with KW-UK in the Lake District, and in 2018, we had Kindling Words in a castle in Scotland!

In 2020, after more than 15 years as Co-Director, Tanya Lee Stone made a decision to step down and pass the torch to the inimitable, brilliant, and hilarious Crystal Allen. Crystal’s vision is already taking KW in amazing directions. Although 2021 needed to be virtual due to COVID, 2022 is shaping up to be incredibly memorable.

If you ever have a memory, anecdote, or photo you would like to share, please email us, with Subject Line: Kindling Words History, so we can continue to add to these pages!

Love, Alison James & Crystal Allen, Kindling Words Co-Directors

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Eligibility 1
If you are an author or illustrator you must have at least one book published or under contract that meets ALL of these criteria. If you are an editor you must currently work for a publishing house that meets ALL of these criteria, or if you are currently an editor whose prior work history matches these criteria, you are also eligible (and please check all five boxes below).
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