Becoming a Nonfiction Writer: A Two-Part Online Course Feb-Mar 2021

February 20 - March 2, 2021

Online Course Info:

You are ready to begin your work in writing nonfiction for children and teens, but where do you begin? Great idea, yes! But what about the submission process for nonfiction? What about digging deeper into curiosity, narrative structure, and reader engagement? These are the foundations of writing nonfiction for kids and teens. Explore these ideas and more in this online workshop!

Online Workshop Participant Cap:

24 students.

Join Us Online:

This workshop has two parts: a weekend intensive followed by two weeks of pre-recorded and LIVE lectures:

Part One: Weekend Intensive
The Foundations of Becoming a Nonfiction Writer
LIVE Zoom lectures, writing exercises, small group sharing

Part Two: Two weeks of live and recorded mini-lectures
Go Deeper: Curiosity, Narrative Structure, and Reader Engagement
LIVE Zoom lectures, pre-recorded lectures

There will be opportunities for informal feedback as well as a 1:1 Zoom consultation, with written feedback on your manuscript offered at an additional cost.

Scroll down to see a more detailed agenda.

Please note:
If you’re unable for any reason to attend any sessions, you’ll have access to the recordings of each through April 15, 2021.

Join Us If:

  • You are working on a biography, or a nature or science-themed book for kids or teens. Let our faculty help you craft an engaging book for kids.
  • You love nonfiction and are eager to write TRUE stories. This workshop provides a comprehensive introduction to the world of nonfiction children’s books.
  • You have an in-progress or finished manuscript and aren’t sure how or where to submit your work. Pitches, proposals, and publishing opportunities will all be explored during this workshop.
  • You have an in-progress or finished manuscript and would benefit from expert feedback. Faculty mentorship gives you the time to ask questions, get suggestions for revision and get support for your goals.

Preliminary Agenda:

Part One: Weekend Intensive
Saturday, February 20 – Sunday, February 21, 2021
The Foundations of Becoming a Nonfiction Writer: Ideas, Research, and Opportunities

Saturday, February 20
LIVE via Zoom, 12pm Eastern:

  • Opening Session: “So You Want to Write Nonfiction for Children: What it is; What it isn’t; and Opportunities for Publication,” with Jennifer Swanson, followed by Q & A
  • Small group introductions & idea generator writing activity
  • Gather in the whole group for today’s optional writing exercise

LIVE via Zoom, 3pm Eastern

  • Lecture: “Picture Book Biographies: An Overview,” with Teresa Robeson followed by Q & A

Sunday, February 21
LIVE via Zoom, 12pm Eastern

  • Lecture: “Researching Your Nonfiction Book,” followed by Q & A
  • Break–  Optional small groups to share writing responses from prompt

LIVE via Zoom, 3pm

  • Lecture: “Submission Basics—Proposals, Cover Letters, and Work-for-hire,” followed by Q & A
  • Review structure of consultations during the week: what to bring and what to expect

Part Two: Two weeks of LIVE and pre-recorded lectures
February 21 – March 2
Curiosity, Structure, and Engagement

Sunday, February 21
Pre-recorded content is released into the virtual classroom. Work at your own pace:

  • Is your story informational fiction or nonfiction?
  • Types of nonfiction for the ages
  • Assignments: Crafting your pitch and more!

February 22 – 26
20-minute consultations with Jennifer Swanson (Schedule TBD)
*continue to work on self-paced material throughout the week.

Tuesday, February 23
LIVE via Zoom, 7pm Eastern*
Lecture: “HOOKING READERS with Your Nonfiction,” followed by Q & A with Teresa Robeson and Jennifer Swanson
*Attend live or watch the recording in your virtual classroom within 24 hours.

Thursday, February 25
LIVE via Zoom, 7pm Eastern
Interview with guest editor Katie Heit followed by Q & A (+ Submission details for editor)
*Attend live or watch the recording in your virtual classroom within 24 hours.

Tuesday, March 2
LIVE via Zoom, 7pm Eastern*
Lecture: “Nonfiction Revision Tips” with hands-on exercise, followed by final Q & A
*Attend live or watch the recording in your virtual classroom within 24 hours.

In addition to the informal feedback received in class and your one-to-one Zoom consultation, there is the option to add on written critiques from Jennifer Swanson, Teresa Robeson and/or Katie Heit following the class. After selecting your reader, you will submit your work-in-progress, up to 1,200 words, plus your cover letter. You will receive written feedback on your project within 4-6 weeks of submission. Cost for this optional critique is $75.

Scholarships Available

Scholarships are available for this workshop from the Jack Myers Scholarship–the application deadline is January 20, 2021.
Click here to apply!
For more information about scholarships, click here.


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7 Ways to Make Your Nonfiction Stand Out


Jennifer Swanson

Jennifer Swanson is the award-winning author of over 40+ nonfiction books for children, mostly about science and technology. Jennifer’s love…
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Teresa Robeson

Teresa Robeson ( draws upon her Chinese heritage, immigrant sensibilities, as well as her background in science and love of…
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Katie Heit

Special Guest Katie Heit is an editor at Scholastic, where she edits nonfiction picture books and chapter books, as well…
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