Building Sweet & Sophisticated Contemporary Stories for Teens 2019

October 20 - 23, 2019


Memorable characters, loads of heart, and a healthy dollop of humor are the recipe for some of the most beloved books for teens.

Young adult novels appeal to a sophisticated audience–teens who can smell a “fake” a mile away. Crafting a novel for them means delivering sweet (sometimes sassy) dialogue, multi-faceted characters, and finding ways to bring authenticity and specificity to a fictional, yet relatable, world. Join editor Kat Brzozowski and author Siobhan Vivian as they share the ins and outs of writing contemporary books for teens.

What You’ll Learn

This workshop will help you:

  • Create a compelling first chapter that will hook a reader immediately.
  • Find the pulse of your narrative.
  • Craft a compelling and realistic voice for your protagonist.
  • Hone in on the essential elements that make your story shine.

Writers will have the opportunity to send up to ten pages in advance of the course for one-to-one critiques sessions during the event. In addition, writers will workshop revised material while on campus in peer facilitated groups.

Who Should Attend

  • This course is open to beginner, intermediate and advanced writers of young adult novels.
  • Novelists who would benefit from receiving multiple feedback perspectives. In addition to a one-to-one critique, writers will workshop material in peer facilitated groups.
  • Writers who have taken one of our introductory novel courses, such as Getting to Know Your Novel and Novel Beginnings.


Tentative schedule:

Day 1
Arrival and check in

Appetizers & dinner
After dinner: welcome and introductions

Day 2
Morning Session 1: I’ll Never Forget You: Crafting A Flawless First Chapter
First impressions are everything. And a great first chapter can mean the difference between falling in love or getting ghosted. We will discuss what makes a first chapter crush-worthy, using examples both from published books and from attendees.

Morning Session 2: Writing Activity: Gimme the Deets–The Quadrant
The details are what bring every aspect of your manuscript—setting, character, plot—to life. And for a contemporary story to truly feel grounded, a writer must replace rote observations with ones that are unique and specific. But don’t be daunted! This writing exercise will give you the tools you need to dig deep and bring each chapter to its most authentic, believable place.

One-to-ones/Writing Time
Virtual Visit with Rachel Ekstrom: Agent Q & A

Appetizers & dinner
After dinner: fireside chat

Day 3
Morning Session 1: Can You Hear Me Now?: Writing Voice
You’ve come up with a plot. You’ve created characters. You have a setting. Now how do you make your readers feel like these contemporary characters are really speaking to them? Voice is one of the most important elements of fiction and one of the hardest to master, particularly in realistic fiction, where teen-speak is always evolving. We’ll talk about how other authors craft voice successfully and how you can do it too.

Morning Session 2: Writing Activity: Using Flap Copy to Focus Your Manuscript
It might seem like a cruel exercise–not to mention an impossible feat–to explain your book in under 250 words. But the process of writing your own flap copy can be an illuminating exercise, especially when drafting. So…which characters should you mention? What storylines should you leave out? And does your book actually deliver what you promise? Using examples, we will guide you through the process.

Writing Time/Revisions/Informal Consultations
Panel: Submissions, Queries, and the Market

Appetizers & dinner
After dinner: open mic

Day 4
Revision lecture and discussion
Questions and Closing Remarks

Lunch and farewells


Faculty Spotlight: Kat Brzozowski
Siobhan Vivian’s website
Tranform Introspection into Dialogue
Is Your Novel Opening as Strong as It Can Be?
Walking through the Woulds with your Character
Lights, Camera, ACTION: The Importance of Starting in a Scene, Kat Brzozowski
The First Three Things Editors Notice, Kat Brzozowski
How to Ace the Comp Title Game, Kat Brzozowski
Three Steps to Finding the Perfect Title for Your Book, Kat Brzozowski
The Dos and Don’ts of Writing Setting, Kat Brzozowski


Siobhan Vivian

Siobhan Vivian is the New York Times best-selling author of eleven young adult novels, including Stay Sweet, The Last Boy…
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Kat Brzozowski

Kat Brzozowski is a senior editor at Swoon Reads/Feiwel & Friends. She has edited a wide range of young adult…
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Rachel Ekstrom

SKYPE Guest Rachel Ekstrom has channeled her passion for reading into a fifteen-year publishing career. She is an agent at…
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All-inclusive registration includes workshop tuition, lodging, meals, beverages, and snacks. Free shuttle service is available from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AVP) International Airport.

We offer payment plans as low as $75/month. We'll be in touch with details after you register.

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workshop information

Begins with dinner on Sunday, October 20; ends on Wednesday, October 23, with lunch.