Intro to Verse Novels: A Virtual Tour of Limitations and Liberations of Verse Novels

Online | Novels, Poetry
Join verse novelist Cordelia Jensen for a five-week online course to explore the fundamentals, celebrations, and challenges of writing novels in verse. You’ll be introduced to using this form to its utmost advantage, while taking into consideration the general foundations of storytelling.

April 18, 2023 - May 16, 2023




Multi-Week Online Course

Join verse novelist Cordelia Jensen for a five-week online course to explore the fundamentals, celebrations, and challenges of writing novels in verse. You’ll be introduced to using this form to its utmost advantage, while taking into consideration the general foundations of storytelling.

  • Live Lectures (with closed captioning) Tuesdays at 1 – 2:30pm EST (April 18, 25, and May 2, 9, & 16)
  • Weekly Writing assignments April 18 – May 9
  • Access to recordings of each lecture through June 30, 2023
  • Connection with peers in the virtual classroom
  • Weekly informal feedback from your instructor on assignments and open Q & A
  • Closing session to workshop a poem of your choice (from a submission of 8 – 10 poems)
  • 20 participants max

Why This Workshop?

  • Are you just beginning your journey into writing novels in verse? Or, could you use a foundational course as you continue in this form?

    Then join verse novelist Cordelia Jensen to learn more about what considerations you can make as a storyteller in this form, and celebrate its unique power for connecting with readers.

    You will:

    • Watch videos, explore resources, and complete structured assignments.
    • Review the advantages and disadvantages of working with these forms.
    • Explore issues of pacing, plotting, secondary character development, and imagery.
    • Workshop a poem of your choice from your submission of 8 – 10 poems.

    The course is divided into 5 sessions:

    • Session 1: Course Overview and Defining the Verse Novel (4/18)
    • Session 2: Limitations in Writing Verse Novels (4/25)
    • Session 3: Liberations in Writing Verse Novels (5/2)
    • Session 4: The Hybrid Novel as Inspiration (5/9)
    • Session 5: Workshop 8-10 poems of your verse novel with the group (5/16)

You will have ample free writing time built into this course so that you can stretch and work on your own projects. It is meant to be the perfect pairing of “retreat” and instruction.

You’ll also get feedback on two manuscripts: a one-to-one with a faculty member for the first, and a group workshopping session for the second.

Feedback Expected

  • Informal written feedback in the Virtual Classroom from peers and faculty
  • Facilitated workshopping of one poem (from a submission of 8 – 10 poems) in a small group session

It’s a Great Fit If…

  • You have an idea for a novel in verse and wish to understand more about the form. (Please note that you’ll be asked to write throughout the course, so having an idea about your premise is needed to get the most from this online workshop.)
  • You have an in-progress or completed draft of a middle grade or young adult novel in verse. In this course, you’ll explore working with this form.
  • You are looking for writing exercises to extend your understanding of the form and grow your plot. 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.
  • Those who 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.
  • You need a workshop that fits into your schedule. This is an online course. You may attend the live sessions or watch the recordings at your convenience.

Detailed Agenda

All Times are Eastern Standard Time.


Course Assigned Reading:
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone

Course Suggested Reading:
Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen
The Way the Light Bends by Cordelia Jensen
Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen

Week 1: Tuesday, April 18

1pm – 2:30pm Eastern: Course Overview and Introductions (Live Session)

  • Welcome with introductions
  • Definitions: What is a novel in verse?
  • Overview of first writing assignment and how to share in the virtual classroom, including best practices for collaborative feedback.
Week 2: Tuesday, April 25

1pm – 2:30pm Eastern: Let’s Talk Limitations (Live Session)

  • Secondary character development
  • Dialogue
  • Reader confusion
  • Issues with plotting, pacing, and action
  • Overview of second writing assignment
Week 3: Tuesday, May 2

1pm – 2:30pm Eastern: Let’s Talk Liberations! (Live Session)

  • Solutions for circumventing the limitations
  • A closer look into Long Way DownClap When You Land, and many other successful verse novels
  • Imagery, line breaks, white space, and other poetry devices
  • Working to generate story tension, character development, and emotion
  • Overview of third writing assignment
  • Overview of submission and workshopping options for Week Five
Week 4: Tuesday, May 9

1pm – 2:30pm Eastern The Hybrid Novel as Inspiration (Live Session)

  • A closer look at Dress Coded and other successful hybrid novels that include verse
  • How do hybrid novels overcome limitations of the form?
  • Exercises in interpolation.
  • Review submission process and confirm workshopping options for Week Five

Submission Due

  • May 9 (8-10 poems) uploaded into the virtual classroom with preference for workshopping time (afternoon or evening)
Week 5: Tuesday, May 16

*Please note the schedule options.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023: Workshopping at 1pm Eastern or 7pm Eastern

  • Sharing one poem from submission of 8 – 10.
  • Discussion facilitated by Cordelia.


  • Written feedback posted in the virtual classroom from Cordelia of your entire submission.

Commitment Required for the Best Experience

This multi-week online program is best if you attend and engage in all the sessions live.  If your schedule does not allow you to attend all 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 June 30, 2023.

If you’d like to participate in small group workshopping, please plan to attend live on Tuesday, May 16 (Week 5).  Two times are offered (1pm and 7pm EST) to accommodate as many schedules as possible.  We’ll ask your preference between the two options during the course to plan the sessions accordingly.

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.

respectful engagement with fellow creatives, including our faculty and staff.

How It Impacts Kids

Novels in verse impact readers in powerful ways. Learn approaches to making your verse novel as engaging for readers as possible.

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!”

“I learned that it isn’t easy to write a picture book but with encouragement and insight from facilitators like that, it can (and will) happen – I’m convinced!”

“All presenters were great. I liked that they had different styles and perspectives and that they didn’t shy away from sharing when they disagreed with each other and why.”


Meet the Faculty


April 18, 2023 - May 16, 2023




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.

Our Mission in Action

Share Your Story, Inspire a Child
Equity & Inclusion in Kidlit
Partners & Sponsors

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.