Shape Your Story: A 6-Week Novel Intensive with Author & Agent Linda Epstein

Online | Novels, Graphic Novels, Novels in Verse
Mold your middle grade or young adult novel, or novel in verse, into the story only you can tell, with senior literary agent, freelance editor, and author Linda Epstein.

May 9 - June 13

Online

$699

Overview

A Six-Week Online Course

Mold your middle grade or young adult novel, or novel in verse, into the story only you can tell, with senior literary agent, freelance editor, and author Linda Epstein. This program includes pre-recorded lectures, live discussion, writing exercises, two included 1:1 meetings with Linda to discuss your work in progress, and two optional post-course critique opportunities for written feedback.

  • Pre-recorded lectures released on Fridays before the next live class
  • Live sessions via Zoom (with discussion/Q & A and writing exercises to complement and deepen learning from the pre-recorded lectures) on Thursdays (May 9, 16, 23, 30, and June 6 & 13) from 7pm – 8pm Eastern
  • Written feedback on a 5-page submission from the opening chapter of your work in progress  (Submission due May 9)
  • A 1:1, 20-minute consultation with Linda Epstein to discuss your submission/feedback & set goals at the beginning of course (May 10-20)
  • A second 1:1, 20-minute consultation with Linda Epstein to discuss progress at the end of course, no written feedback (June 7-17)
  • Two optional post-course critiques are available at an additional cost (details below) for your query letter and/or review of ten pages of your project
  • You will have access to the materials (including recordings) until July 31, 2024
  • 20 participants max

Why This Workshop?

Get your middle grade or young adult manuscript (including verse novels)  into shape by focusing on craft and community in this online workshop.

Pre-recorded lectures kick off each week of the course, and are delivered via our virtual classroom. The pre-recorded lectures include presentations on theme, voice, outlining, arcs, and much more. To get maximum value out of this course, you will watch each week’s pre-recorded lecture before attending the LIVE session each week.

Linda’s LIVE weekly sessions are set up to complement and deepen the learning from the weekly pre-recorded lectures. The pre-recorded lectures offer meaningful substance, and the LIVE gatherings offer time for discussion and all of your questions to be answered about the pre-recorded material. In addition, you’ll participate in a hands-on writing exercise at each live session. When applicable, the live sessions will also include time for sharing. Please note that the tentative agenda below includes all topics covered, though the order of topics may be adjusted based on student needs.

Each week, expect:

  • At least one pre-recorded lecture that you should watch prior to attending the LIVE session
  • One LIVE session with Q & A related to the recording, a writing exercise, and open discussion
  • Resources in the virtual classroom

When you register for the workshop, you will be asked to submit a short survey of your writing goals so that Linda may review them prior to your first session.

After the virtual classroom opens, you will be asked to submit 5 pages from the opening chapter of your work-in-progress for your first 1:1 consultation (due May 9). If you are writing a project that isn’t broken into chapters, please submit no more than five pages from the beginning of the novel.

To receive actual feedback from a professional in the field is truly amazing. It will alter your writing tremendously. Because I really thought my story, yeah, it’s pretty good. But the detail to which she could see things that I could not, all of that was incredibly informative. I learned so much. I feel I’ve grown as a writer tremendously. It was like night and day. Since that class, I will tell you that I took another one somewhere else, and I was not able to manage the coursework as well as I was at the Highlights Foundation class, because you all kept me on track. So I will be forever grateful. It was it was a wonderful experience.

Feedback Expected

  • Weekly Q & A at the LIVE sessions to discuss questions related to recorded lectures.
  • Weekly sharing and discussions at LIVE sessions, with writing exercises.
  • Written feedback on a 5-page submission (due May 9) before the first LIVE session.
  • Two 1:1, 20-minute consultations with Linda Epstein: one to discuss submission/ written feedback & set goals at the beginning of the course (May 10 – 20), and one to discuss progress at the end of course (June 7 – 17).
  • Two OPTIONAL written critiques will be available at an additional cost after the course.  Those submissions are due by July 10, and written feedback will be returned within 4 – 6 weeks. You can select one (or both) for feedback: up to 10 pages of your work-in-progress, and/or your query letter.

Do I need to have a novel in progress to take this course? Not at all! If you are in the planning/idea stages, you will still gain valuable insight from this course. Please note that submissions and writing exercises can be adapted to fit your needs.

It’s a Great Fit If…

  • You’re a novelist or verse novelist of middle grade or young adult books looking to acquire comprehensive tools and guidance to help you craft your novel.
  • You’re pre-published, or just starting out. This program will help get you on a path to completing your first draft. Please know that having some idea of your work in progress (and ideally some pages drafted) will give you the maximum benefit in this program.
  • You’re a published novelist who wants to take your writing back to the bare bones. We all start at the beginning with each new project. This course can help you explore new and different ways of crafting your story.
  • You’d like a high level of engagement with fellow writers and faculty so that you can explore new ideas.
  • You work well in a hybrid-learning model with expectations of watching the pre-recorded lectures, and attending the LIVE writing exercises and discussions.

Do I need to have a novel in progress to take this course? Not at all! If you are in the planning/idea stages, you will still gain valuable insight from this course. Please note that submissions and writing exercises can be adapted to fit your needs.

Tentative Agenda

Pre-Workshop

  • At registration: you will submit a brief survey of your goals for the course.
  • Suggested reading list to come.
  • On May 2: you will be invited to join the virtual classroom where you will find the Highlights Foundation Community Standards, your course syllabus, a welcome video from Linda Epstein, and submission instructions.
  • Between May 2 – May 9: 5-page submission from the opening chapter of your novel is due (for first 1:1 meeting with Linda)

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

Week 1
In the Virtual Classroom:

  • Watch welcome videos from Linda Epstein (How This Class is Structured & Responsible Representation in Children’s Books)
  • Sign up for your first 1:1 consultation
  • Preview Highlights Foundation Community Standards
  • Familiarize yourself with the discussion board and classroom layout

Thursday, May 9 at 7 – 8:00pm Eastern: LIVE session via Zoom

  • Introductions
  • Writing exercise
  • Overview of 1:1 meetings (and your 5-page submission)
  • Open Q & A for Week One Videos
Week 2
In the Virtual Classroom:

  • Lectures released on Friday, May 9 by 9am Eastern
  • Watch this week’s lectures (Outlines & Narrative Arcs)
  • Review this week’s handouts (7-point plot structure, 3-act structure, Save the Cat beat sheet, and The Hero’s Journey)
  • Complete this week’s writing assignment (posted via the Canvas discussion board)

Thursday, May 16 at 7 – 8:00pm Eastern: LIVE session via Zoom

  • Open Q & A for Week Two Videos
  • Writing Exercise: Story Arc and Story Outline
  • Sharing from exercise

May 10 – 17: 1:1 Consultations with Linda

Consultations will be scheduled with Linda at mutually convenient times (you will have signed up for them when the classroom opens). These will be 20 minute sessions to discuss your submission and set goals for the course.

Week 3
In the Virtual Classroom:

  • Lectures released on Friday, May 17 by 9am Eastern
  • Watch this week’s lecture (Character Development)
  • Complete this week’s writing assignment (posted via the Canvas discussion board)
  • Bonus content: recording of Linda’s backstory meditation exercise

Thursday, May 23 at 7 – 8:00pm Eastern: LIVE session via Zoom

  • Open Q & A for Week Three Videos
  • Writing Exercise: Character Development
  • Sharing from exercise
Week 4
In the Virtual Classroom:

  • Lectures released on Friday, May 24 by 9am Eastern
  • Watch this week’s lectures (World Building & Setting)
  • Complete this week’s writing assignment (posted via the Canvas discussion board)

Thursday, May 30 at 7 – 8:00pm Eastern: LIVE session via Zoom

  • Open Q & A for Week Four Videos
  • Writing Exercise: World Building & Setting
  • Sharing from exercise
Week 5
In the Virtual Classroom:

  • Lectures released on Friday, May 31 by 9am Eastern
  • Watch this week’s lectures (Voice & Dialogue)
  • View the PowerPoint: Voice and Writing in MG & YA
  • Complete this week’s writing assignment (posted via the Canvas discussion board)

Thursday, June 6 at 7 – 8:00pm Eastern: LIVE session via Zoom

  • Open Q & A for Week Five Videos
  • Writing Exercise: Voice & Dialogue
  • Sharing from exercise
  • What to bring to next week’s live session
Week 6
In the Virtual Classroom:

  • Lectures released on Friday, June 7 by 9am Eastern
  • Watch this week’s lecture (The Importance of Genre Fiction for Children & Teens)
  • Bonus content: Everything You Need to Know About Query Letters
  • Complete this week’s writing assignment (posted via the Canvas discussion board)
  • Independently prepare for sharing in this week’s LIVE session
  • Sign up for end of course consultation

Thursday, June 13 at 7 – 8:00pm Eastern: LIVE session via Zoom

  • Open Q & A for Week Six Videos
  • Overview of final consultation (included)
  • Overview of critique opportunities (optional): query letters & manuscript pages

June 10-17: 1:1 Consultations with Linda

Consultations will be scheduled with Linda at mutually convenient times (you will sign up for these in the virtual classroom). These will be 20 minute sessions to discuss your progress in the course. No written feedback is provided.

Post-Course Critique Opportunity (At an Additional Cost)
OPTIONAL written critiques will be available at an additional cost.  These submissions are due by July 10, and written feedback will be returned within 4 – 6 weeks. You can select one for feedback: up to 10 pages of your work-in-progress, or your query letter.  If you want feedback on both 10 pages of your work-in-progress and your query letter, you will have the option to purchase two critiques.
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Commitment Required for the Best Experience

To get the most out of this six-week course, you need to watch (or listen to) the weekly recorded lectures. Please attend the LIVE sessions with your questions and participate in the writing exercises. You’ll have access to the pre-recorded lectures, and the recordings from the LIVE sessions through July 31, 2024.

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

The story only you can tell can make a big impact on a child or young adult’s life. This workshop helps you take steps toward shaping it into the best novel it can be.

Testimonials from Our Community

“I learned a lot about character development. The course was organized well. Incredibly helpful!”

“Linda was generous, as well as setting clear boundaries. She expressed her intent for the workshop and had clearly been very thoughtful and deliberate in her design. She was warm, funny, inclusive and prepared. Really excellent.”

“Linda Epstein was fabulous. She really created an inclusive and warm atmosphere, while always also focusing on professionalism. She is eloquent and insightful and open minded.”

Meet the Faculty

DETAILS

May 9 - June 13

$699

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.

Our Mission in Action

Share Your Story, Inspire a Child
Scholarships
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.