Revising Your Verse Novel: A Three-Part Online Workshop

October 6 - November 16, 2022



A 3-Part Online Course

The verse novel is an art all its own—sculpted through story and the act of revision. If you’ve done the hard work of drafting your novel in verse and are now ready to immerse yourself in revisions, we invite you to join Cordelia Jensen for this three-part program. We are thrilled to welcome special guest Amber McBride for a conversation with Cordelia on November 2.

  • This is an online course in three parts:
    • Part 1 is learning through presentations (both pre-recorded and live) and writing exercises;
    • Part 2 is time for independent work and revision with support in the virtual classroom;
    • Part 3 is roundtable workshopping of 10-15 poems (with booktalks and live presentations mixed in).
  • 6 live online sessions will begin on Thursday, October 6th and continue on Wednesdays at 1pm Eastern (October 12, 19 & November 2, 9, and 16; NO CLASS on Wednesday, October 26).
  • Discussion and interaction will occur in the virtual classroom and during optional Community Office Hours for peer-to-peer connection.  Optional office hours will take place on Thursdays at 7pm (October 13 – December 15).
  • Optional, post-course feedback of up to 20 poems is available from Cordelia, at an additional cost.
  • 16 participants max


  • Informal feedback will be available from peers during the optional (but encouraged) peer-to-peer office hours.
  • Informal feedback will be available from faculty in the virtual classroom in response to writing exercises.
  • Faculty-led workshopping of 10 – 15 poems (see detailed agenda below.)
  • Optional post-course written feedback on up to 20 poems from Cordelia Jensen. (See details following the agenda.)


The verse novel is an art all its own—sculpted through story, and the act of revision. If you’ve done the hard work of drafting your novel in verse and are now ready to immerse yourself in revisions, we invite you to join us!
Revising Your Verse Novel
Part One includes pre-recorded resources illuminated by live sessions on emotional arc, theme, pacing, structure, & line-level revisions. Each live session will be paired with a writing exercise.

Part Two includes independent revision time, with virtual check-ins on our classroom discussion board, and your submission.

Part Three centers on your stories with the workshopping of 10 – 15 poems, and engaging book talks. (For a detailed schedule, please see below.)

Required reading:

  • Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca 
    • Book blurb provided by HarperCollins: A heartbreakingly hopeful novel in verse about an Indian American girl whose life is turned upside down when her mother is diagnosed with leukemia.
  • Me (Moth) by Amber McBride
    • Book blurb provided by Macmillan: A debut YA novel-in-verse by Amber McBride, Me (Moth) is about a teen girl who is grieving the deaths of her family, and a teen boy who crosses her path. Moth and Sani take a road trip that has them chasing ghosts and searching for ancestors. The way each moves forward is surprising, powerful, and unforgettable.
  • Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh
    • Book blurb provided by Penguin Random House: When Ada leaves home for her freshman year at a Historically Black College, it’s the first time she’s ever been so far from her family—and the first time that she’s been able to make her own choices and to seek her place in this new world. As she stumbles deeper into the world of dance and explores her sexuality, she also begins to wrestle with her past—her mother’s struggle with addiction, her Nigerian father’s attempts to make a home for her. Ultimately, Ada discovers she needs to brush off the destiny others have chosen for her and claim full ownership of her body and her future.

Suggested Reading:

  • Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
  • Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen
  • The Way the Light Bends by Cordelia Jensen
  • Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen


  • You have a completed draft of a middle grade or young adult novel in verse. A complete or nearly completed draft of your verse novel will help you get the most out of this course.
  • You need the structure of a multi-week course to make headway into your revisions. Revision can be lonely territory.  Work with fellow verse novelists to make real progress on your revision. Within the course you’ll have weekly exercises and a roundtable workshopping session. Optional activities like the peer-to-peer office hours and the post course feedback can offer even more support.
  • You crave time with fellow verse novelists. We’ll build community online with our shared love of the form, and learn more by opening to the diversity of ideas in the group.
  • You enjoy online learning. This multi-week course relies on LIVE Zoom interaction and contributions in the virtual classroom.


Pre-workshop: You will receive a link to our virtual classroom where you can introduce yourself to fellow novelists, engage in Highlights Foundation related resources (including our Community Standards), keep up to date on the schedule, and view pre-recorded materials.

Live-streaming: All sessions will be live streamed using Zoom. You will have a link to access your presentations with Cordelia and a link for your optional peer-to-peer office hours.

Note: If your schedule does not allow you to attend live sessions, 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 December 31, 2022.


Part One: Presentations


  • Thursday, October 6, from 1pm – 2:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom session
    • Introductions, Faculty and Writers
    • Overview of course structure
    • Deepening Emotional Arc & Theme
    • Overview of Writing Exercise #1

Session 2:

  • Wednesday, October 12, from 1pm – 2:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session
    • Pacing & Structure
    • Overview of Writing Exercise #2
    • Q & A
  • Thursday, October 13, from 7pm – 8pm Eastern: Optional Community Peer-to-Peer Office Hour (no faculty in attendance)

Session 3:

  • Wednesday, October 19, from 1pm – 2:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom session
    • How to Approach Line-level Revision
    • Overview of Writing Exercise #3
    • Group assignments for submissions
  • Thursday, October 20, 7pm EST: Optional Community Peer-to-Peer Office Hour (no faculty in attendance)

Part Two: Independent Work

October 20 – November 1

  • Independent work on revisions
  • Faculty will be available via virtual classroom discussion board
  • Optional Community Peer-to-Peer Office Hour (no faculty in attendance): October 27 at 7pm Eastern

Submission due: Wednesday, November 2 by noon Eastern

  • 10 – 15 poems (Selection of poems is up to you. Some choices: 10 – 15 poems from the beginning; 10-15 poems from where you are stuck; 3-5 poems from beginning, middle, and end; or other submission based on your needs. You will also be asked to include questions for your readers and a 1 -2 sentence pitch.)
  • Submissions will be in the virtual classroom based on the group that you have been assigned.

Part Three: Workshopping and Book Talks

Session 4:

  • Wednesday, November 2, from 1pm – 2:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom session
    • Me (Moth) Book Talk with Amber McBride (1:00pm – 1:45pm Eastern)
    • Celebrations: your submissions are in!
    • How to review for workshopping during session 6
  • Thursday, November 3, from 7pm – 8pm Eastern: Optional Community Peer-to-Peer Office Hour (no faculty in attendance)

Session 5:

  • Wednesday, November 9, from 1pm – 2:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session
    • Plot Beats & Your Story
    • Book Talk: Red, White, & Whole and Every Body Looking
    • Q & A
  • Thursday, November 10, from 7pm – 8pm Eastern: Optional Community Peer-to-Peer Office Hour (no faculty in attendance)

Session 6:

  • Wednesday, November 16, from 1pm – 2:30pm Eastern OR 7 – 8:30pm Eastern: Select one Zoom session.
    • Attend your workshopping session with fellow writers to read and discuss revisions
    • Final Q & A with Cordelia
  • Thursday, November 17, 7pm EST: Optional Community Peer-to-Peer Office Hour (no faculty in attendance)
    • Optional peer-to-peer office hours will continue until your classroom closes on December 31. (Please note: The Highlights Foundation is closed on Thursday, November 24, Thursday, December 22, and Thursday, December 29.  No office hours will be held on those dates.)


Optional Post-Course Critique

Optional post-course written feedback on up to 20 poems will be available from Cordelia Jensen.  Submissions will happen between December 7 – 21 and written feedback will be provided within 4 – 6 weeks of your submission. You may submit up to 20 pages/20 poems, plus a synopsis and cover letter. The poems may be in sequence, but do not need to be (though please note in your cover letter if they are not). Cordelia will provide written feedback on what is working and suggestions for revision. The cost is $125 for written feedback. Additional details will be available at the final workshop session on November 16.


  • This course is best if you engage in all sessions. If you cannot attend live, please commit to watching the recordings in sequence. You’ll have access to the recordings with closed captioning. They’re posted the day after the session.
  • Participants are encouraged to leave open/schedule blocks of time for themselves to work on exercises and reflections throughout.
  • Submission of weekly exercises is optional, but highly encouraged.
  • Submission of 10 – 15 revised poems for peer workshopping, and feedback, is due by November 2, 2022.
  • You will have access to all recordings and discussions through December 31, 2022.

Trying to figure out how this course fits into your schedule? Read some ideas about planning for the right level of commitment.


Verse novels can provide a powerful emotional experience for young readers. This workshop will help you revise yours so that it can shine.

Why do we mention this? Learn about the Highlights Foundation mission.


Auditioning Poetry Devices for Your Verse Novel’s Voice, by Cordelia Jensen
YA Wednesday: Better and Verse, by Padma Venkatraman
Read a verse novel a day for National Poetry Month
Best 9 Tips On Plotting a Novel in Verse from the Fiction Notes blog.
Imagining an Image System, by Cordelia Jensen


“Cordelia was a sensitive and smart reader of our work in progress, linking it effectively to the material under study. The class offered an interesting, intelligent and indirect way to think about my novel draft. For me it unlocked the work and allowed me to find the momentum and energy I was seeking.”

“Cordelia was an excellent teacher and shared above and beyond and made the whole class experience worthwhile and informative.”

“Cordelia shared an amazing amount of information. There is so little available on Free Verse and I was thrilled to be part of this class.”

“I came into the course with very little knowledge about actually writing a verse novel and employing an image system. I left with a world of information.”


Are you looking for information about scholarships? Find out more about the Highlights Foundation scholarship program here.


Cordelia Jensen

Cordelia Jensen graduated with a MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in…
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Amber McBride

Special Guest Amber McBride is an Assistant Professor in the English department at UVA. She received a BA in English…
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