The Whole Novel Online Workshop 2020

August 16 - 22, 2020

Online Course Info:

This is a seven-day online workshop that features a full manuscript critique, evening “live” lectures and discussions, daily writing prompts, one-to-one mentorship, faculty Q&A, optional open mic readings and more!

Online Workshop Participant Cap:

20 students.

Join Us To:

Have the entire draft of your novel read and critiqued prior to the workshop. Have one-to-one meetings with your mentor to further discuss your manuscript and map out a revision plan. Hear lectures on craft and the marketplace. Make connections with fellow writers.

What You’ll Learn & Experience:

The Whole Novel Workshop is specifically designed for writers of middle grade and young adult novels. This unique program offers you one-to-one mentorship; our aim is to focus on a specific work-in-progress, moving a novel to the next level in preparation for submission to agents or publishers.

At the workshop, you will:

  • Receive an editorial letter providing feedback on your entire novel.
  • Have one-to-one meetings with your faculty mentor to discuss feedback, revisions, and next steps.
  • Engage in customized writing prompts for your specific work in progress.
  • Make additional appointments with the faculty or teaching assistants.
  • Participate in group discussion and feedback.
  • Hear LIVE lectures on technique, craft, query letters, and agent/editor submissions.
  • Complete writing exercises and participate in group readings.
  • Make connections with fellow writers.

Please note that there is an application process for this workshop.
To apply, you will need to submit:

  • 10-15 pages from the manuscript you wish to workshop
  • A synopsis
  • The current status of your manuscript with word count

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis starting immediately. You will be notified of your acceptance status as your application is reviewed by the faculty. If you are accepted, you can register and turn in your full manuscript by July 15.

Application deadline: June 15.

Attend If:

  • You have a complete or near-complete draft of a middle grade or young adult novel. You’ll get the most out of this workshop if you’re at this stage. You need to be ready to workshop in earnest, and eager to get your work ready for agents/publishers.
  • You would benefit from receiving multiple feedback perspectives. In addition to a whole-novel review, you will receive feedback from our teaching assistants, and TA’s will also be leading round table critiques.
  • You have begun receiving personalized feedback from publisher submissions You’re getting there–and this course will help you cross the finish line!
  • You’re working on a graphic novel, a historical novel, or a novel in verse The faculty has experience in all of these types of novels, so your manuscript will be in good hands.
  • You’re willing to work! This program is best for those who will dedicate time and attention to the writing exercises and the feedback they receive about revision.

Preliminary Agenda:

We are still finalizing the new online schedule, but this will give you an idea of the timing we are thinking about:
August 16
Begins at 5 pm:
Informal LIVE Meet and Greet
Faculty and student introductions
Opening faculty lecture
Overview of the week

August 17
One-to-one sessions with faculty
10 am – 12 pm: Lounge is open for questions, chat, networking
10 am – 2 pm: Writing Room is open for virtual community writing
6 pm: LIVE faculty session

August 18
One-to-one sessions with faculty
10 am: Writing prompts with faculty
10 am – 12 pm: Lounge is open for questions, chat, networking
10 am – 2 pm: Writing Room is open for virtual community writing
2 – 5 pm: Workshopping
7 pm: LIVE faculty session

August 19
10 am: Writing prompts with faculty
10 am – 12 pm: Lounge is open for questions, chat, networking
10 am – 2 pm: Writing Room is open for virtual community writing
2 – 5 pm: Workshopping
6 pm: Virtual dinner together
7 pm: LIVE faculty session

August 20
10 am: Writing prompts with faculty
10 am – 12 pm: Lounge is open for questions, chat, networking
10 am – 2 pm: Writing Room is open for virtual community writing
2 – 5 pm: Workshopping
7 pm: LIVE faculty session

August 21
One-to-one sessions with faculty
Mid-day: TBD
7 pm: LIVE faculty session, followed by Open Mic

August 22
5:30 pm: Faculty Q&A
6:30 pm: More Open Mic
7:30 pm: Closing lecture and final words


8 Articles to Help You Write a Kidlit Novel
Nicole Valentine and Rob Costello talk about the braintrust critique method
Listen for Stories
Podcast: Jennifer Jacobson talks about writing retreats, the Whole Novel workshop and taking your creativity to the next level
Tranform Introspection into Dialogue
Podcast: Nancy Werlin on Reviewing Your Whole Novel
Eulogy Virtues
Podcast: Melissa Wyatt on Writing Prompts
Is Your Novel Opening as Strong as It Can Be?
Walking through the Woulds with your Character
An Na and Lilliam Rivera Talk About Writing Novels


“Attending Highlight’s Whole Novel Workshop changed not only the course of my career, but also the scope of my writer friendships. I gained so much knowledge by immersing myself into the culture that is part of Highlights, and came away with the exact tools I needed to plunge in, rework my manuscript, and sign my first two-book contract with HarperCollins. I’ve since signed a second two-book contract with them and I have no doubts that what I learned at Highlights made the difference, and I am still utilizing that knowledge today. Plus, I am still friends with the people I attended with, and we continue, after all these years, to support each other, encourage each other, and cheer for each other. It is a life-altering experience. Go. You will not regret it. Plus, the food was so good I am still talking about it!”–Nanci Turner Steveson

“Thanks to the thorough and insightful feedback on my YA novel manuscript at the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop two years ago, Cowboy Code was picked up by a publisher and will be released this August. I had been laboring over the book for years, and it took a week at Highlights to show me where I needed to pump energy into the manuscript. Thank you, faculty and participants, for for an inspiring and valuable experience.”–Louella Bryant

“Everyone on the faculty was genuinely interested in helping each student to succeed. They were great about having small or one-on-one conversations as well.”

“The faculty were warm, inspiring, wise, encouraging, helpful, and funny. The workshops were as inspiring and as helpful as the presenters. I couldn’t have asked for more!”

“The faculty were awesome. I’ve been through an MFA program in creative writing, so I know top-notch writing instructors when I see them. Learned some very valuable things about my writing at Highlights.”

“The guest speakers were lovely, accessible and thorough with their feedback and guidance.”


Sarah Aronson

Sarah Aronson has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and has…
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Jennifer Jacobson

Jennifer is the author of many award-winning children’s books including Small as an Elephant (IRA Young Adult’s Choice, Parents’ Choice…
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Ashley Hope Pérez

Ashley Hope Pérez is the author of three novels: Out of Darkness (2015), The Knife and the Butterfly (2012), and What Can’t Wait (2011). Out of Darkness was…
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Crystal Allen

Crystal Allen is the author of several middle grade novels: How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy (Balzer and…
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Nancy Werlin

Nancy Werlin is the author of nine young-adult novels that range from contemporary realism to mystery to fantasy. Her books…
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Nicole Valentine

Nicole Valentine ( is an author of middle grade fiction. She earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young…
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Rob Costello

Rob Costello (he/him) writes fiction for and about queer youth. He holds an MFA from the Writing for Children and…
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Alisa Alering

Special Guest Alisa Alering is an award-winning writer of speculative short fiction. Her stories have appeared in Flash Fiction Online, the…
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Melissa Wyatt

Special Guest Melissa Wyatt is the author of two young adult novels, Funny How Things Change, named to the YALSA…
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