Building Sweet & Sophisticated Contemporary Stories for Teens 2019

  • Highlights Foundation Highlights Foundation
  • Pocono Mountains Municipal, Coolbaugh Township, PA, USA
  • Oct 20 - 23, 2019 (4 days)
  • $1,099.00 - Program Price

About This Event


Memorable characters, loads of heart, and a healthy dollop of humor are the recipe for some of the most beloved books for teens.

Young adult novels appeal to a sophisticated audience–teens who can smell a “fake” a mile away. Crafting a novel for them means delivering sweet (sometimes sassy) dialogue, multi-faceted characters, and finding ways to bring authenticity and specificity to a fictional, yet relatable, world. Join editor Kat Brzozowski and author Siobhan Vivian as they share the ins and outs of writing contemporary books for teens.

What You’ll Learn

This workshop will help you:

Create a compelling first chapter that will hook a reader immediately.

Find the pulse of your narrative.

Craft a compelling and realistic voice for your protagonist.

Hone in on the essential elements that make your story shine.

Writers will have the opportunity to send up to ten pages in advance of the course for one-to-one critiques sessions during the event. In addition, writers will workshop revised material while on campus in peer facilitated groups.

Who Should Attend

This course is open to beginner, intermediate and advanced writers of young adult novels.

Novelists who would benefit from receiving multiple feedback perspectives. In addition to a one-to-one critique, writers will workshop material in peer facilitated groups.

Writers who have taken one of our introductory novel courses, such as Getting to Know Your Novel and Novel Beginnings.


Tentative schedule:

Day 1


Arrival and check in


Appetizers & dinner

After dinner: welcome and introductions

Day 2



Morning Session 1: I’ll Never Forget You: Crafting A Flawless First Chapter

First impressions are everything. And a great first chapter can mean the difference between falling in love or getting ghosted. We will discuss what makes a first chapter crush-worthy, using examples both from published books and from attendees.

Morning Session 2: Writing Activity: Gimme the Deets–The Quadrant

The details are what bring every aspect of your manuscript—setting, character, plot—to life. And for a contemporary story to truly feel grounded, a writer must replace rote observations with ones that are unique and specific. But don’t be daunted! This writing exercise will give you the tools you need to dig deep and bring each chapter to its most authentic, believable place.



One-to-ones/Writing Time

Virtual Visit with Rachel Ekstrom: Agent Q & A


Appetizers & dinner

After dinner: fireside chat

Day 3



Morning Session 1: Can You Hear Me Now?: Writing Voice

You’ve come up with a plot. You’ve created characters. You have a setting. Now how do you make your readers feel like these contemporary characters are really speaking to them? Voice is one of the most important elements of fiction and one of the hardest to master, particularly in realistic fiction, where teen-speak is always evolving. We’ll talk about how other authors craft voice successfully and how you can do it too.

Morning Session 2: Writing Activity: Using Flap Copy to Focus Your Manuscript

It might seem like a cruel exercise–not to mention an impossible feat–to explain your book in under 250 words. But the process of writing your own flap copy can be an illuminating exercise, especially when drafting. So…which characters should you mention? What storylines should you leave out? And does your book actually deliver what you promise? Using examples, we will guide you through the process.



Writing Time/Revisions/Informal Consultations

Panel: Submissions, Queries, and the Market


Appetizers & dinner

After dinner: open mic

Day 4



Revision lecture and discussion

Questions and Closing Remarks


Lunch and farewells


Faculty Spotlight: Kat Brzozowski

Siobhan Vivian’s website

Tranform Introspection into Dialogue

Is Your Novel Opening as Strong as It Can Be?

Walking through the Woulds with your Character

Lights, Camera, ACTION: The Importance of Starting in a Scene, Kat Brzozowski

The First Three Things Editors Notice, Kat Brzozowski

How to Ace the Comp Title Game, Kat Brzozowski

Three Steps to Finding the Perfect Title for Your Book, Kat Brzozowski

The Dos and Don’ts of Writing Setting, Kat Brzozowski

Cancellation Policy

100% deposit refund for cancellation 30+ days before event.
50% deposit refund for cancellation 15-29 days before event.
0% deposit refund for cancellation 0-14 days before event.
The remaining balance (total price minus deposit) is due upon arrival.
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