Relationships in Contemporary MG and YA Novels

September 30 - October 21, 2021


A four week online course (September 30-October 21), with:

  • Weekly live sessions, Thursdays from 12-2pm Eastern
  • Weekly writing exercises
  • Ample self-paced time to make progress on a project, or play with your creativity
  • 1:1 feedback from editor Kat Brzozowski on your cover letter, synopsis, and the first 10 pages of your novel




Relationships workshop
The relationships between characters are the backbone of every great contemporary MG and YA novel. But how do you establish and maintain those relationships over the course of the book, and why should you focus on them? Learn why relationships matter, how to make them shine, how to show your reader about these relationships rather than tell, and how to balance the many relationships your protagonist has in the course of a book. Explore resources and complete writing exercises to learn how to make your character relationships the star of your novel. Participate in weekly faculty live discussions and Q&A sessions, and receive faculty feedback on your work.

Relationships are the cornerstone of this genre. In this course, you will:

  • Engage in weekly discussions with time for Q & A.
  • Explore resources and complete writing exercises (2 per week).
  • Participate in a community forum to connect with peers.
  • Receive editor feedback on your cover letter, synopsis, and the first 10 pages of your novel.

Weekly discussions include:

  • Why relationships matter
  • The balancing act between different types of character relationships
  • Showing vs telling about relationships
  • Relationships as plot

Note: If your schedule does not allow you to attend the live sessions and you would still like to register, that’s OK! You’ll have access to the recordings. They’re usually posted the day after the session, and they’ll be available through November 30, 2021.


  • You write contemporary fiction. You can participate in this workshop with or without a work in progress. Be prepared to work on the weekly writing assignments to help grow your ideas.
  • You have an in-progress or completed draft of a middle grade or young adult novel. You’ll discover how to make the relationships in your in-progress project richer.
  • You want to make sure that readers connect with your characters. Relationships flesh out your main character in many ways. This program will help you build three dimensional relationships.


This course is best experienced if you can attend the weekly live sessions or watch the recordings within the week of their release, and complete the writing exercises before the next live discussion. You’ll also want to take advantage of the 1:1 feedback from the faculty, who will give feedback on your cover letter, synopsis, and the first 10 pages of your novel.


Monday, September 27
Virtual classroom opens! Post your introduction and review pre-course materials from the Highlights Foundation.

Thursday, September 30
Live Zoom session, 12-2pm Eastern

  • Welcome and Introductions
  • Discussion One: Relationships Matter in MG and YA
  • Overview of virtual classroom and week one writing exercises

Thursday, October 7
Live Zoom session, 12-2pm Eastern

  • Special guest interview: “How did you make this relationship work?”
  • Discussion Two: Different Types of Relationships in MG & YA Novels
  • Overview of week two writing exercises
  • *Manuscript submissions due by Oct. 8 for week four 1:1 consultations. Receive editor feedback on your cover letter, synopsis, and the first 10 pages of your novel.

Thursday, October 14
Live Zoom session, 12-2pm Eastern

  • Special guest interview: “How did you make this relationship work?”
  • Discussion Three: Show and Tell
  • Overview of week three writing exercises
  • Overview of 1:1 sign-ups for week four

Thursday, October 21
*1:1 sessions take place at mutually scheduled time between October 18-22 to review submissions

Live Zoom session, 12-2pm Eastern

  • Small group sharing and discussion
  • Discussion Four: Relationships as Plot
  • Closing Q & A discussion

Optional MG & YA Novelist Personal Retreat:
There will be a special retreat for Kat with writers at the Highlights Foundation campus from October 7 – 10, 2021. This will be a time to work at your own pace, and on your own projects. There will be delicious food, snacks, and creative companionship. In the evenings, gather at the fireplace, weather permitting, to share ideas, discuss your inspiration, and relax. There is no expectation for lecture. (For those on campus who wish to schedule their consultation at this time, you will be able to do so in person.) The cost for this 4-day/3-night retreat is $500. Register for the retreat here.


Readers of contemporary MG and YA novels want to see and identify with vibrant relationships between the characters of your novel. This course will show you how to make these relationships shine.



SCBWI Exclusive with… Kat Brzozowski
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“The faculty was professional, knowledgeable, fun and real. I appreciated the understanding and time taken with the piece of writing I had submitted for critique. I felt each lecture went deep and applying the writing exercise along with it useful.”

“Kat is the first person I’ve heard actually describe what voice is that made sense.”

“Approachable and friendly and welcomed any questions we had. I loved every session.”


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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Andrea Mosqueda

Special Guest Andrea Mosqueda is a Chicana writer. She was born and raised in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. She currently…
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Lauren MacLeod

Special Guest Lauren MacLeod is a literary agent at The Strothman Agency. She works on both adult nonfiction and young…
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