A Strong Start: The First 20 Pages of Your Novel in Verse

Online | Novels in Verse, Poetry
Explore how to establish a solid foundation in the first 20 pages of your verse novel. We'll seamlessly transition between drafting and revising, adding layers of emotion and action to your opening so you can use this course to set the tone for your entire project.

February 7 - March 7

Online

$499

Overview

A 5-Week Online Course

Join verse novelist Cordelia Jensen to explore how to establish a solid foundation in the first 20 pages of your verse novel. We’ll seamlessly transition between drafting and revising, adding layers of emotion and action to your opening so you can use this course to set the tone for your entire project.

  • Live Lectures (with closed captioning and recorded for those who cannot attend live)
    • Wednesday, February 7, 2024 (1pm – 2:30pm Eastern)
    • Wednesday, February 14, 2024 (1pm – 2:30pm Eastern)
    • Wednesday, February 21, 2024 (1pm – 2:30pm Eastern)
    • Wednesday, February 28, 2024 (7pm – 8:30pm Eastern) *Please note this is an evening-only presentation.
  • Workshopping your first 20 pages (select one live session to attend):
    • Tuesday, March 5 (1pm – 2:30pm Eastern) or Wednesday, March 6 (1pm – 2:30pm or 7pm – 8:30pm Eastern)
  • Weekly generative writing exercises
  • Weekly book discussions
  • 20 participants max

Please note: If you can’t attend live, no problem! You’ll have access to the recordings until April 30, 2024.

WHY THIS WORKSHOP?

Whether you are embarking on your first verse novel, or looking to revise the opening pages of a drafted project, this course is for you.  It’s tailored for both beginning and experienced verse novelists.

Cordelia Jensen will lead the cohort through writing exercises, verse analysis, foundational presentations focused on emotion and action, and so much more! During Week Four Cordelia will also be joined by special guest Andrea Beatriz Arango to discuss emotions, actions, and a strong start to your novel in verse.

Required Reading List:

  • Red, White, & Whole by Rajani LaRocca
  • Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
  • Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh
  • Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango

Optional Reading List (please select at least one to read):

  • We Are All So Good At Smiling by Amber McBride
  • No Matter the Distance by Cindy Baldwin
  • Enter the Body by Joy McCullough
  • Mascot by Traci Sorell and Charles Waters
  • The Way the Light Bends by Cordelia Jensen

Throughout the workshop, you’ll receive:

  • Informal feedback on ideas and exercises.
  • Open and ongoing communication with your faculty.
  • Suggestions on working through verse novel difficulties.

Feedback Expected:

  • Informal feedback will be available from faculty in the virtual classroom in response to writing exercises.
  • Faculty-led workshopping of the first 20 pages of your novel in verse (see detailed agenda below).

It’s a Great Fit If:

  • You have an idea for a novel in verse and need some structure to generate your first 20-pages.
  • You have an in-progress or completed draft of a middle grade or young adult novel in verse. Use this foundation to revise and/or continue your progress.
  • You are looking for writing exercises to extend your understanding of the form. Each week you will be asked to complete a series of writing exercises. You can receive feedback in the virtual classroom from your instructor and peers.
  • You like the structure of weekly lectures and writing exercises. All sessions take place weekly with connections to writing exercises to keep you in your project, plus plenty of opportunity to share questions and ideas. Please note: If you cannot attend live, you will have access to the recordings until April 30, 2024.

Detailed Agenda

All Times are Eastern Standard Time.  Click on the headings below to explore the agenda in more detail.

Pre-Workshop

Prior to your course, you will receive a link to our virtual classroom where you can introduce yourself to fellow authors, engage in Highlights Foundation related resources (including our Community Standards), and connect with your faculty.

Required Reading List:

  • Red, White, & Whole by Rajani LaRocca
  • Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
  • Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh
  • Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango

Optional Reading List (please select at least one to read):

  • We Are All So Good At Smiling by Amber McBride
  • No Matter the Distance by Cindy Baldwin
  • Enter the Body by Joy McCullough
  • Mascot by Traci Sorell and Charles Waters
  • The Way the Light Bends by Cordelia Jensen

 

Week One

LIVE Zoom Session: Wednesday, February 7, 2024 (1pm – 2:30pm Eastern)

  • Welcome from the Highlights Foundation
  • Presentation One: Emotion & Your Novel in Verse
  • Verse Novel Discussion: No Matter the Distance & Other Words for Home (the first 20 pages)
    • No Matter the Distance by Cindy Baldwin; Book blurb provided by HarperCollins: An unexpected animal companion helps a girl with cystic fibrosis learn to write her own story in this captivating novel in verse by award-winning author and disabled activist Cindy Baldwin.
    • Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga; Book blurb provided by HarperCollins: A gorgeously written, hopeful middle grade novel in verse about a young girl who must leave Syria to move to the United States.
  • Overview of Writing Exercise #1 (Emotion)
  • Virtual Classroom Overview

In the virtual classroom:

  • Introductions
  • Optional: Post Writing Exercise #1
  • Recording of Week One presentations released within 24 hours of the live session
  • Ask questions and share reflections
Week Two

LIVE Zoom Session: Wednesday, February 14, 2024 (1pm – 2:30pm Eastern)

  • Presentation Two: Establishing External/Internal Conflict & Your Novel in Verse
  • Verse Novel Discussion: Red, White, & Whole; Mascot; and We Are All So Good at Smiling (the first 20 pages)
    • Red, White, & 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.
    •  
    • Mascot by Charles Waters & Traci Sorell; Book blurb provided by Penguin Random House: What if a school’s mascot is seen as racist, but not by everyone? In this compelling middle-grade novel in verse, two best-selling BIPOC authors tackle this hot-button issue.
    • We Are All So Good at Smiling by Amber McBride; Book blurb provided by Macmillan: They Both Die at the End meets The Bell Jar in this haunting, beautiful young adult novel-in-verse from Amber McBride about clinical depression and healing from trauma.
  • Overview of Writing Exercise #2 (External/Internal Conflict)

In the virtual classroom:

  • Optional: Post Writing Exercise #2
  • Recording of Week Two presentations released within 24 hours of the live session
  • Ask questions and share reflections
Week Three

LIVE Zoom Session: Wednesday, February 21, 2024 (1pm – 2:30pm Eastern)

  • Presentation Three: Line by Line Discovery
  • Verse Novel Discussion: Enter the Body and Every Body Looking (the first 20 pages)
    • Enter the Body by Joy McCullough; Book blurb provided by The Horn Book review,  “By innovatively mining feminist themes of autonomy, exploitation, and patriarchy, McCullough boldly reconceptualizes Shakespeare’s version of the female point of view for a new generation of Bard enthusiasts.”
    • 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.
  • Overview of Writing Exercise #3

In the virtual classroom:

  • Submit your first 20 pages and sign up for your workshopping time (see details of workshopping below)
  • Optional: Post Writing Exercise #3
  • Recording of Week Three presentations released within 24 hours of the live session
  • Ask questions and share reflections
Week Four (Evening Session)

LIVE Zoom Session: Wednesday, February 28, 2024 (7pm – 8:30pm Eastern)

  • 7pm – 8pm: Special Guest Conversation with Andrea Beatriz Arango
    • Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango; Book blurb provided by School Library Journal: Arango’s novel in verse captures all the angst and awkwardness of being a middle school student and intersects that with tremendous grief, trauma, and the realities of living with with mental health issues. Iveliz is struggling with the loss of her father, her Puerto Rican grandmother’s worsening Alzheimer’s, and friendship issues. She explores these worries through her poetry journal with honesty and vulnerability. Iveliz has a very clear sense of right and wrong, but often wrestles with how to speak up about the wrongs that she experiences from bullies and within her family. Readers take this journey with Iveliz, learning positive coping strategies to deal with explosive anger, forgiveness of one’s self and of others, bullying, and toxic family dynamics. This powerful, realistic novel also unravels the cultural tensions that sometimes exist between the elder and younger generations.
  • 8pm – 8:30pm: Verse Novel Discussion will take place based on your “choice” verse novel with guided discussion questions from Cordelia about emotion, action, and more.
  • Overview of Workshopping Format

In the virtual classroom:

  • Reading Guidelines for Workshopping
  • Recording of Week Four special guest discussion released within 24 hours of the live session (breakout rooms will not be recorded)
  • Ask questions and share reflections
Week Five (Small Group Workshopping)

Workshopping your first 20 pages (select one live session to attend):

  • Tuesday, March 5 (1pm – 2:30pm Eastern) or
  • Wednesday, March 6 (1pm – 2:30pm Eastern) or
  • Wednesday, March 6 (7pm – 8:30pm Eastern)

Cordelia will facilitate the discussion of the first 20 pages of the novels in each group.

You will be asked to read up to six peer submissions to prepare for your workshopping session.

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Commitment Required for the Best Experience

This workshop is best if you attend or watch all lectures. We recommend setting aside time for the weekly writing exercises so that you can get the most out of this online course. (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 with closed captioning. They’re posted the day after the session, and they’ll be available through April 30, 2024.)

The Week Five workshopping of the first 20 pages of your novel in verse is optional, though strongly encouraged as a way to pull together the learning from the presentations and analysis of novels in verse throughout the program. Please see details about times of the live sessions (some variation is included).

The Highlights Foundation strives for a safe and inclusive environment. You will have access to our Community Standards prior to the workshop where we ask for your respectful engagement with fellow creatives, including our faculty and staff.

How It Impacts Kids

Verse novels can provide a powerful emotional experience for young readers. This workshop will help you bring emotion, action, and so much more to your verse novel.

Testimonials from Our Community

“Cordelia’s course was fabulous. She is a generous, kind teacher. Her knowledge about the subject matter is deep. Cordelia took every person’s work seriously and read every submission carefully and thoughtfully. I cannot imagine a better teacher!”

Meet the Faculty

Special Guests

DETAILS

February 7 - March 7

$499

Online

Access

When you register for this course, you’ll receive information via email to confirm.

For mini courses (one or two nights only), you’ll receive webinar links immediately to use on the evening of the course.

For longer courses, you’ll receive an invitation to your virtual classroom as the workshop approaches.

Learn more about the technology that we use for our online workshops.

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