Research Intensive: Enhance Your Fiction & Nonfiction Manuscripts and Book Proposals

Online | Picture Books, Early Readers and Chapter Books, Novels, Nonfiction
Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, focus your research with this two-weekend online intensive.


A Two-Part Intensive Online Course

Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, focus your research with this two-weekend online intensive.  Join Stephanie Gibeault, Jolene Gutiérrez, Anita Yasuda and special guests agent/author Jacqui Lipton and editor/author Feather Flores for interactive lectures, discussions, Q&A with an editor and agent, a 1:1 consultation, and resources for all writers.

  • Live Presentations via Zoom (with closed captioning; recorded for those who cannot attend live with recordings available until September 30, 2023)
    • Saturday, August 12 (2pm – 5pm Eastern)
    • Sunday, August 13 (2pm – 5pm Eastern)
    • Saturday, August 19 (2pm – 5pm Eastern)
    • Sunday, August 20 (2pm – 3:45pm at assigned time for private 1:1 Meetings with Anita, Jolene, or Stephanie; 4 – 5pm Eastern for all)
  • Optional Peer-to-Peer Drop-In, Thursday, August 17 (7pm – 8pm Eastern; no faculty in attendance)
  • Optional post-course critique (at an additional cost); details below.
  • 30 participants max

Why This Workshop?

Zora Neale Hurston said it best: “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”

We couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to igniting curiosity in our young readers!

And while of course research is fundamental to nonfiction, quality research can deepen and enhance fictional works, too.

Join us for this intensive course packed with a 1:1 consultation, interactive lectures, discussions, Q&A with an editor and agent, and resources for all writers.  With this dynamic group of authors and industry professionals, you will learn where to focus and start your research, no matter the project.  We’ll also analyze the difference between “facts” and trusted sources, and so much more.

During our live sessions, we’ll cover:

  • How to make your writing shine with primary sources
  • Why secondary sources are not always second best
  • Databases and other online sources
  • How to read academic articles
  • How to source photos
  • An in-depth discussion of book proposals, using actual examples
  • What to include in your back matter and how to make it sing
  • How to organize your research and keep track of sources
  • How to use obscure archives and collections from digital museums to biodiversity libraries
  • How to work with co-authors and sensitivity readers
  • How to avoid the research rabbit hole
  • How to know when a fact is accurate

There are no submission requirements for this course, though writers will be offered an optional post-course critique (at an additional cost). This critique includes written feedback on up to 1,000 words (double spaced and in 12 pt font) from a project of your choice (including a proposal). You will be paired with the faculty member best suited for your work. Details about this optional post-course critique available in the virtual classroom during the course.

Feedback Expected

  • Opportunities to share with informal discussion in the virtual classroom and/or during the peer “drop-in” hour.
  • A private 1:1 with consultation Anita, Jolene, or Stephanie to discuss ideas and explore solutions to research problems. (No written feedback provided.)
  • Optional post-course critique is available at an additional cost. This critique includes written feedback on up to 1,000 words (double spaced and in 12 pt font) from a project of your choice (including a proposal). You will be paired with the faculty member best suited for your work. Details about this optional post-course critique will be available in the virtual classroom during the course.

It’s a Great Fit For…

  • Those considering writing nonfiction for children who want to learn more.
  • Picture book, chapter book, middle grade, & YA writers. All writers need research!
  • Nonfiction authors or author/illustrators looking for new perspectives on how to collect, refine, and organize their research.
  • Fiction authors or author/illustrators who understand the importance of research in fiction, but aren’t sure of the fundamentals.
  • Writers looking to mine the past for story inspiration.
  • Those who like the structure of a short course with time to work on your own draft in between sessions. You’ll have time to implement some of your learning and offer your work to fellow writers who can give informal feedback and encouragement.

Detailed Agenda

All Times are Eastern Standard Time.


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

Weekend 1: Saturday, August 12 and Sunday, August 13

Saturday, August 12, 2pm – 5pm Eastern (with breaks)

  • Welcome with introductions
  • Presentation One: Primary & Secondary Sources with Anita
  • Short Break
  • Presentation Two: Databases & Other Online Sources (Does My Idea Have Potential?) with Jolene
  • Presentation Three: Academic Articles & Photo Sourcing with Stephanie
  • Homework Overview: Using Databases and Dissecting an Academic Article
  • Q & A

Sunday, August 13, 2pm – 5pm Eastern (with breaks)

  • Discussion (Small Groups): Dissecting an Academic Article
  • Presentation Four: Book Proposals and Educational Standards with Stephanie
  • Short Break
  • Presentation Five: Back Matter with Anita
  • Presentation Six: Strategies for Organizing Your Research with Jolene
  • Open Q & A and What to Expect Next Week (Peer Drop-In + Special Guests)

In the virtual classroom

  • What to bring to your 1:1 Consultation
  • Ask questions and share reflections
Between Sessions

Thursday, August 17 (7pm – 8pm Eastern) 

  • Optional Peer-to-Peer Drop-In
  • Bring topics from Weekend One that you’d like to discuss, share questions, and get to know your fellow writers.
  • No faculty will be in attendance.
Weekend 2: Saturday, August 19-Sunday, August 20

Saturday, August 19, 2pm – 5pm Eastern (with breaks)

  • Brief re-introductions!
  • Special Guest: Legal Issues for Authors with author and agent Jacqui Lipton
  • Ask US Anything: Q & A with editor Feather Flores & agent Jacqui Lipton
  • Short Break
  • Mini-Session: Obscure Archives with Anita
  • Mini-Session: Considerations for Co-Authors and Sensitivity Readers with Jolene
  • What to expect tomorrow (1:1 Consultations; What to bring/what not to bring)

Sunday, August 20, 2pm – 3:45pm (at assigned time); 4 – 5pm Eastern for all

  • 1:1 Consultations (at assigned time): 15 minutes with Jolene, Anita, or Stephanie
  • Final Presentation: How Do We Know a Fact is a FACT? with Stephanie
  • Closing Q & A (+ overview of optional paid post-course critique)

In the virtual classroom

  • Optional research assignment
  • Ask questions and share reflections
Post-Course Optional Critique Opportunity:

Faculty and special guests will be offering an optional post-course critique at a cost of $125. The critique includes written feedback on up to 1,000 words (double spaced and in 12 pt font) from a project of your choice.

That could be any part, including back matter, of a picture book, chapter book, MG, or YA manuscript, fiction or nonfiction. It could also be part of a book proposal.

Written feedback will be returned within 4 – 6 weeks.

To ensure you get the most relevant and helpful feedback, you will be paired with the faculty member or special guest best suited for your work.

Details about this optional post-course critique including submission instructions will be available in the virtual classroom during the course.


Commitment Required for the Best Experience

This course is best if you attend or watch all lectures. We recommend setting aside time to try the homework so that you can participate in the small group discussion. (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 September 30, 2023.)

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

Kids deserve the very best books. Quality research deepens all stories, bringing the very best to our kids!

Testimonials from Our Community

“I learned where more sources of info for research are… I learned I am on the right path, and can’t wait to hear the replay! Thanks for a quality class.”

“Each author knew their part of the presentation well, and it came across as sincere, encouraging, and pdfs and replay appreciated!”

“Everyone was so professional and so prepared, breaking down each area so specifically. Outstanding!”

Special Guests


August 12, 2023 - August 20, 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

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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.