Becoming a Nonfiction Writer: A 3-Part Online Course

Online | Nonfiction
You are ready to begin your work in writing nonfiction for children and teens. But where should you start?

October 26 - November 4




A 3-Part Online Course

You are ready to begin your work in writing nonfiction for children and teens.  But where should you start?

Join celebrated authors Jennifer Swanson and Teresa Robeson and special guest editor Eileen Robinson to open yourself to the wonderful world of nonfiction books. This course has 3 parts: two back-to-back weekends (Thursday evening, Friday evening, and Saturday afternoon Eastern Time), with 1:1 consultations in between.

You’ll engage in many aspects of writing nonfiction for children to create a strong foundation for your work, and build a network of fellow writers who share an interest in nonfiction.

  • Part 1: October 26 – 28, 2023
    • Engaging presentations
    • Writing exercises
    • Small group sharing
  • Part 2: 1:1 Consultations
    • 20-minute consultation with Jennifer Swanson via Zoom
    • At a mutually convenient time between 10/29 and 11/4
  • Part 3: November 2 – 4, 2023
    • Live lectures
    • Session with Special Guest Editor Eileen Robinson
    • Open Q & A
  • 24 participants max

Why This Workshop?

You are ready to begin your work in writing nonfiction for children and teens.  But where should you start?

With a great idea, of course.

But what about…

  • The submission process for nonfiction?
  • Digging deeper into curiosity and reader engagement?
  • Developing the tools of narrative structure and word choice?

These are the foundations of writing nonfiction for kids and teens, and you’ll explore these ideas and more in this online workshop.

Feedback Expected

  • Informal feedback will be available following writing exercises and during small group discussions.
  • A 20-minute private consultation with Jennifer Swanson is included to discuss ideas, goals, project related research, and craft questions. (No manuscript submissions are associated with this consultation.)

It’s a Great Fit If…

  • You are working on a biography, history, nature, or STEAM/STEM-themed book for kids or teens. Let our faculty help you craft an engaging, nonfiction 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 enjoy online learning. This course relies on LIVE Zoom interaction and contributions in the virtual classroom.

Detailed Agenda

All Times are Eastern Standard Time.


You will receive a link to our virtual platform where you can introduce yourself to fellow writers, engage in Highlights Foundation related resources (including our Community Standards), and keep up to date on the schedule.

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, 2023.

Part 1: Welcome, Lectures, & Small Groups (October 26 – 28)

Thursday, October 26, 7pm – 9pm Eastern: Live Zoom session

  • Welcome
  • Opening Session: Deep Diving Into Nonfiction: What it is; What it isn’t; and Opportunities for Publication, with Jennifer Swanson, followed by Q & A
  • Small group introductions & writing activity

Friday, October 27, 7pm – 9pm: Live Zoom session

  • Picture Book Biographies & Graphic Novel Biographies: An Overview with Teresa Robeson, followed by Q & A
  • Optional Small Group: Following this evening’s lecture, stick around for this community-building time to get to know fellow writers participating in this course. (No faculty present.)

Saturday, October 28, 12pm – 4pm Eastern (with breaks): Live Zoom session

  • Researching A Nonfiction Book with Jennifer Swanson, followed by Q & A
  • Break: 1:30pm – 2pm
  • Hooking Readers with Your Nonfiction with Teresa Robeson and Jennifer Swanson
  • Followed by: Reviewing what to bring, and what to expect of the consultations.
Part 2: 1:1 Consultations (October 29 – November 4)

Sunday, October 29 – Saturday, November 4: 1:1 Consultations (via Zoom)

  • 20-minute consultation with Jennifer Swanson. (Schedule is made when the virtual classroom opens, at a mutually convenient time).
  • Jennifer will not review manuscripts, but she will answer project related questions and discuss ideas.
Part 3: 1:1 Lectures & Q&As (November 2 – November 4)

Thursday, November 2, 7pm – 8:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom session

  • Nonfiction Revision Tips with Jennifer Swanson
  • Hands-on exercise, followed by Q & A

Friday, November 3, 7pm – 8:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom session

  • Submission Basics—Proposals, Cover Letters, and Work-for-hire with Jennifer Swanson

Saturday, November 4, 12pm – 2:00pm Eastern: Live Zoom session

  • Q & A with Visiting Editor, Eileen Robinson
  • Followed by: Closing comments and questions

Commitment Required for the Best Experience

This course is best if you attend and engage in all the live sessions, including the 1:1 consultation with faculty.

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, 2023.

How It Impacts Kids

Children both love and learn from nonfiction. This course will give you the foundation to create the very best nonfiction for kids!

Testimonials from Our Community

“I absolutely loved the energy and enthusiasm of Ms. Swanson and Ms. Robeson. They were able to impart their knowledge and share their insight in an easy-to-understand fashion.”

“Both instructors were extremely well prepared for the course and developed lectures based on feedback from the class participants. They gave plenty of opportunities to ask questions and provided helpful feedback.”

“Even though we were on Zoom, I could sense a community of writers being established throughout the workshop.”

“It was a great way to hear from published authors who are masters of their craft and hear insider tips and knowledge about the entire process. I gained a lot of helpful insights about writing, research, voice, openings, strong writing, submission process, and insider advice on how to move through the writing and publishing journey.”

Special Guests


October 26 - November 4




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

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

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

Can't Attend Some Sessions Live?

That's generally okay!  We know that you are juggling other demands with your workshop.

Recordings are made available to all registrants for most live sessions, usually the day after the session.  Check your course description for specific details about session recordings, and when they are released.

We also try to suggest in the description how using the recordings may impact your experience if you can't attend live.  But ultimately, it's up to you!  Let us know if you need help.

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

Workshops for Writers & Illustrators

> Online
> In-Person
> On-Demand (Self-Paced Online)

New to the Highlights Foundation? Try these:

About Children's Publishing | The Whole Novel Workshop | Summer Camp


Need help deciding on a workshop?  Ask an ambassador!

Visiting Our Campus

Our campus (The Barn at Boyds Mills) is tucked away in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.  It's a few hours from both New York City and Philadelphia, but worlds away from everyday life.

Line drawing of the Barn at Boyds Mills

Our Mission in Action

Equity & Inclusion in Kidlit

The Highlights Foundation positively impacts children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about our impact.

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