Revising Your Novel in Verse: An Online Course

Online | Novels
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.

October 4, 2023 - November 15, 2023




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 1.

  • 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 Wednesday, October 4th and continue on Wednesdays at 1pm Eastern (October 11, 18, & November 1, 8, and 15; NO CLASS on Wednesday, October 25).
  • Optional, post-course feedback of up to 20 poems is available from Cordelia, at an additional cost.
  • 16 participants max

Why This Workshop?

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!

Part One includes pre-recorded resources illuminated by live sessions on emotional arc, theme, pacing, structure, & line-level revisionsEach 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.
  • 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 about clinical depression and healing from trauma, from National Book Award Finalist Amber McBride. Whimsy is back in the hospital for treatment of clinical depression. When she meets a boy named Faerry, she recognizes they both have magic in the marrow of their bones. And when Faerry and his family move to the same street, the two start to realize that their lifelines may have twined and untwined many times before. They are both terrified of the forest at the end of Marsh Creek Lane. The Forest whispers to Whimsy. The Forest might hold the answers to the part of Faerry he feels is missing. They discover the Forest holds monsters, fairy tales, and pain that they have both been running from for 11 years.
  • 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
  • Me (Moth) by Amber McBride
  • Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen
  • The Way the Light Bends by Cordelia Jensen
  • Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen

Feedback Expected

  • 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.)

It’s a Great Fit If…

  • 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.
  • 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.

Do I need to have a finished draft of my verse novel to take the workshop?
From Cordelia: “I think it works great if you have the whole first draft, like that’s kind of the ideal, but there are definitely a handful of people have taken it where they have like maybe 3/4 or half finished– they know what’s going to happen, or at least have an idea coming into the course, even thought they might change their mind.”

Detailed Agenda

All Times are Eastern Standard Time.


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.

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: Presentations, Session 1, Wednesday, October 4

Session 1:

  • Wednesday, October 4, 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
Part 1: Presentations, Session 2, Wednesday, October 11

Session 2:

  • Wednesday, October 11, from 1pm – 2:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session
    • Pacing & Structure
    • Overview of Writing Exercise #2
    • Q & A
Part 1: Presentations, Session 3, Wednesday, October 18

Session 3:

  • Wednesday, October 18, from 1pm – 2:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom session
    • How to Approach Line-level Revision
    • Overview of Writing Exercise #3
    • Group assignments for submissions
Part 2: Independent Work, October 19-November 1

October 19 – November 1

  • Independent work on revisions
  • Faculty will be available via virtual classroom discussion board
Part 2: Independent Work, Submission Due: Wednesday, November 1

Submission due: Wednesday, November 1 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 3: Workshopping & Book Talks, Session 4, Wednesday, November 1

Session 4:

  • Wednesday, November 1, from 1pm – 2:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom session
    • We Are All So Good At Smiling Book Talk with Cordelia and Amber McBride 
    • Celebrations! Submissions are in!
    • Review steps to sign up for workshopping.
Part 3: Workshopping & Book Talks, Session 5, Wednesday, November 8
  • Wednesday, November 8, from 1pm – 2:30pm Eastern: Live Zoom Session
    • Plot Beats & Your Story
    • Book Talk: Red, White, & Whole and Every Body Looking
    • Q & A
Part 3: Workshopping & Book Talks, Session 6, Wednesday, November 15
  • Wednesday, November 15, 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
Post-Course (Optional)

Optional post-course written feedback on up to 20 poems will be available from Cordelia Jensen.  Submissions will happen between December 1 – 15 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 15.


Commitment Required for the Best Experience

  • 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 1, 2023.
  • You will have access to all recordings and discussions through December 31, 2023.

How It Impacts Kids

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

Testimonials from Our Community

“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.”

Meet the Faculty

Special Guests


October 4, 2023 - November 15, 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.

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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.