In July of 2011 I graduated with my M.F.A. in Writing with a concentration in writing for children and young adults. I was sure that I was on my way. Publication would be right around the corner. When I received the 2013 PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery award and got an agent shortly after—I was sure that I was on my way. Publication would be right around the corner. A revise and resubmit within the year convinced me that I was on my way. Publication would be right…well you get it.
Persistence is the golden ticket in this business but isn’t easy. I’ve found that a supportive community of other writers and regular professional development keeps me going (along with my “morning pages,” thank you Julia Cameron.)
That’s why I’ve signed up for Melanie Crowder’s upcoming online class, Novel Foundations: The Young Adult Novel, through the Austin-based The Writing Barn.
If you haven’t picked up an award-winning volume by Melanie Crowder
where have you been you have a lot to choose from. Young adult historical novels such as the beautiful novel in verse about Clara Lemlich’s campaign for worker’s rights, Audacity, or the heart-breaking An Uninterrupted View of the Sky about Bolivian prisons and the children and families who live there. Middle grade novels that range from the fantastic, A Nearer Moon, to the ecological near future, Parched, to the contemporary, Three Pennies. All of them are lyrical and tightly written stories about characters with realistic, emotional journeys.
Melanie has been kind enough to drop by Creative Chaos.
Welcome, Melanie! This is not the first class you’ve taught online, but this is the first class I’ll be taking online. As a seasoned face-to-face educator, how do you use technology to affect successful learning?
Well, if we could beam every single attendee to the beautiful Writing Barn and back again each night to resume our busy, busy lives I would love to teach this course face-to-face!
But since we haven’t we caught up to Star Trek tech yet, the online platform the Writing Barn uses is pretty seamless. Attendees can all see and hear one another, we can screen-share documents, and have a real-time conversation. I taught a course on Emotion in Fiction using this system and it went very well—we had a great group that generated some really fascinating conversations.
It seems that work-shopping one’s work with other students is an important part of the class. Are comments delivered in print or is there an actual discussion via video?
Yes! We learn so much by putting on different hats—writer, teacher, editor, student. Many times we can see elements that aren’t working in others’ work that we are blind to in our own—it can be so illuminating—especially when the topic we are covering in class becomes clear on the pages we’re discussing.
Your curriculum is chock full of basics including plot, structure, character, conflict and more advanced topics such as voice, dialogue and theme. Are there auxiliary readings or is all the content delivered during the Wednesday night lessons? How will we fit it all in?
Like most of my classes, this one will have a combo of lecture (including excerpts from mentor texts), discussion, and writing exercises. My teaching style is fluid—responsive to the needs of the individuals present—so the ratio of those different elements may shift on any given day. I will also often point attendees to additional resources that I find helpful beyond the scope of what we can cover in class.
No doubt, there will be writers with a wide range of experience. How do you tailor a class to meet everyone’s needs?
I think of learning the craft of writing as a spiral. Sometimes when we circle back to something at a more basic level of understanding, it unlocks deeper connections or reminds us of simple truths we’ve forgotten. And that applies to all of us, at every stage of our writing journey. The minute we close ourselves off to new learning is the moment when our writing begins to stagnate.
My hope is that this class will speak to writers at various stages: writers who are working on a first draft for the very first time, writers who have mastered picture books or middle grade, but are wanting to translate their skills to writing for the teen audience, as well as those who have a few YA manuscripts under their belt, but who are wanting to take their work to the next level.
What are you most looking forward to in teaching this class?
I love connecting with other writers, and the synergy that comes from our collective focus. I love seeing that light go on when new possibilities open up in a writer’s mind. Honestly—it’s thrilling!
Thank you, Melanie! I too am looking forward to meeting a new cohort of lovely writers, spiraling back to forgotten truths, and keeping my current “work in progress”—progressing. Join me!