Writing First Chapter Books and Early Readers Online Workshop 2020

June 14 - 17, 2020

Please note: this course is full. Please click here to be placed on our waiting list.

Online Course Info:

This is a four-day online workshop that features evening “live” lectures, discussions, online Q&A sessions in addition to daily online roundtable critique sessions, hands-on writing exercises and pre-recorded faculty lectures.

Online Workshop Participant Cap:

22 students.

Join Us Online To:

Understand the unique needs of books for children who are beginning to read independently, and discover what makes these books successful. Find out the differences between picture books, early readers, and transitional chapter books. Learn about the market and how to find the right publishing home for your work. Have an online one-to-one critique of your work from faculty author-editors.

What You’ll Learn & Experience:

In between the read-aloud world of picture books and the more challenging realm of chapter books lies an exciting spectrum of fiction and nonfiction for beginning readers. These early readers and first chapter books spark a love of independent reading and build confidence in brand-new readers.
During this online workshop, you will:

  • Attend evening “live” lectures and discussion sessions via Zoom on June 14-17.
  • Hear faculty lectures and panels to help you explore early readers: the craft of writing them, and the market for selling them.
  • Complete hands-on writing exercises.
  • Attend an online Q & A with guest editors.
  • Have online sessions in roundtable critique led by Laurie Calkhoven or Wiley Blevins.
  • Then work through pre-recorded sessions on work for hire, creating emotional arcs for new readers and more at your own pace in an online course platform.
  • Zero in on where your work–fiction, nonfiction, or both–fits in.

Attend If:

  • You remember the first time you read a book all by yourself. Maybe it was The Cat in the Hat or Frog and Toad? If you want to bring that same joy and confidence to readers who are picking up a book on their own for the very first time, this workshop will give you info on the market as well as hands-on activities to strengthen your work.
  • You’re a picture book author or author/illustrator. Curious about whether you can write and/or illustrate for this market? We’ll help you figure out where your work can fit in, and you’ll hear from editors about what they are looking for.
  • You’re a middle grade author who’d like to also appeal to a younger audience. This workshop will help you examine what’s needed for this market.
  • You’re a teacher with experience in sharing these books with students. We’ll show you how you can play to your strengths when writing for this market. You’ll get a one-to-one critique on your manuscript so that you can move forward in your revision process.
  • You want an online experience that is more intimate than a self-paced online course. This course has community workshopping, roundtable critique, and faculty touchpoint opportunities built-in.


LIVE Sessions
From 5:30-8 each evening, there will be a LIVE session via Zoom. Sessions will include lectures, roundtable critique sessions and facilitated panels. Topics include:

  • From Picture Books to Early Readers to Chapters Books – What’s the Difference and Where Does Your Book Fit?
  • How Early Readers Help Kids Learn
  • Facilitated Panel with authors Laurie Calkhoven, Wiley Blevins, Kashmira Sheth, and Debbi Michiko Florence
  • Beyond Baby Books: Character, Setting, and Structure in Early Readers and First Chapter Books
  • Facilitated panel: Editors and the Market
  • Open Q & A with editors
  • Roundtable critique sessions facilitated by faculty
  • Goal setting

At Your Own Pace
Thinkific pre-recorded lessons will be open for students to work through over 30 days. Topics include:

  • Opportunities in Educational/Trade Work-for-Hire
  • Emotional Arcs for New Readers
  • Crafting a Story using Dolch Sight Words


Wiley Blevins: Early Readers and Transitional Chapter Books: What Are They and Why Are They Important?
Laurie Calkhoven: Picture book? Early Reader? Chapter Book? Where Does Your Story Fit?
New for New Readers: What (Exactly) IS an Easy Reader?
Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, given annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year.
Laurie Calkhoven: Meditation to Uncover Character
Scholastic’s Branches, a line of early chapter books.


“The faculty were knowledgeable and engaging. They exceeded my expectations.”

“I was overwhelmed by the amount of personal time we had with the teachers. They were so open and available. Easy to talk to. I gained so much through our conversations.”


Laurie Calkhoven

Laurie Calkhoven is the author of more than 50 books for young readers ranging from award-winning nonfiction early readers to…
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Wiley Blevins

Wiley has worked in publishing for almost 30 years. He has written several early readers, such as Max Has a…
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Debbi Michiko Florence

Debbi Michiko Florence is the author of the Jasmine Toguchi chapter book series (JLG selections, the Amelia Bloomer and CCBC Choices…
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Kashmira Sheth

Kashmira Sheth writes picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, and young adult fiction. Her books have received many awards…
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