Debby Dahl Edwardson

Writing for Children

Exploring the World of Children's Writing
Picture Book Intensive: a Manuscript Workshop for Children's Writers
Writing Across Cultures: Special Topics in Writing

About Debby Dahl Edwardson
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Exploring the World of Children's Writing (8 weeks)

Learn the basics of children's writing and try your hand at the variety of forms are included within this dynamic genre. This class is for those who have always dreamed of writing and publishing books for young people but have never tried, as well as for those who have already gotten a start and are ready to take the next step. We will discuss books, post exercises and enjoy the fellowship of fellow writers working to develop and hone their craft.

You will receive weekly lectures and exercises that will either spark new work or help you dig deeper into existing work in progress. You will be asked to complete homework assignments to share with the whole group for discussion in class and instructor comment. You will also be asked to read and analyze selected children's books related to the forms (e.g., picture book, chapter book, novel, nonfiction) that you are most interested in exploring.

Class Outline

Week 1: Introduction: overview of forms, identifying your reader and the sources of story. Exercise: building on memory.

Week 2: First words, first pages, first chapters--grabbing the reader. Examining selected openings. Exercise: opening scenes.

Week 3: Audience: How does audience define your writing? An examination of audience in children's writing. Exercise: writing for different audiences.

Week 4: Character and dialogue: techniques for revealing character, dialogue basics. Exercise: revealing character through action.

Week 5: Scene: how a scene is shaped by character motivation and character choices. Exercise: using emotional charge to shape a scene.

Week 6: Plot choices: scene and sequel. How to find the natural structure for your stories. Exercise: finding the sequel.

Week 7: Setting and context: integrating setting into scenes, minimizing exposition. Exercise: entering a setting in character.

Week 8: Drafts, revisions, and the critique process. Finding your revision process. Choosing the right tools to help you draft and revise.

About Debby Dahl Edwardson
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Picture Book Intensive: A Manuscript Workshop for Children's Writers (8 weeks)

This class will explore the constantly evolving art form of the picture book, in which words and images each constitute a part of the whole. You will read 5 picture books from those for the very youngest readers to some for the middle grades and up, and analyze 2 in detail each week. While studying this wide range of published picture books, we will examine the variety of ways in which text interacts with image in a picture book. You'll also get comments on your own own fiction or nonfiction picture book text from classmates and from the instructor.

For intermediate through advanced writers.

This class takes place through the nicenet.org Internet classroom. Registered students will be sent Nicenet sign-up instructions via e-mail.

Common text: everyone will read some of the same books as the class progresses. If you need to reserve them at a library or purchase your own copies please do so in advance of the week in which the book is assigned. In addition to the common texts, you will be expected to read 5 picture books and analyze 2 each week. Plan to keep your local library busy. It's not possible to write a picture book without reading a number of them.

Class Outline

Week 1: Introduction to picture books (PBs)
What does picture book text look like? The shape of the text.

Week 2: Disassembling text and image in a PB.
Page breaks and line breaks--when and why? The physical form of the PB

Week 3: Ways in which text and images work together.
Plot points in picture books. Writing for art that doesn't exist yet. Imagery and word choice. A balancing act, lyricism vs. precision.

Week 4: Character in a PB: age range, roles.
Audience age range, and the role of the adult reader.

Week 5: Toddler books.
Bedtime books, concept books, mood books.

Week 6: Outlining a PB: why, and how?
Basic plots--incident, achievement, wish fulfilment, misunderstanding.

Week 7: Emotional themes in PB fiction.
Highs and lows in the story arc. Resolution. Structural aspects of the final pages.

Week 8: Submitting the PB manuscript.
PB publishing process. Questions. Summary and closure

About Debby Dahl Edwardson
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Writing Across Cultures: Special Topics in Writing (8 weeks)

Standard writing advice urges us to write what we know. Writing outside of one's own culture is a territory fraught with peril. Some writers fail to recognize their own cultural biases and their work, when published, meets critical condemnation. But in this increasingly multicultural world, how can we avoid writing across cultures and why would we want to?

This class is taught by a writer who's spent her career writing outside of her birth culture and whose work has earned much critical acclaim, including the designation of National Book Award Finalist. Through a combination of reading, discussion and writing, writers will learn how to recognize their own cultural bias and begin the fascinating process of switching cultural lenses, writing more from within a culture than from without.

Week One:
the story into which you were born--taking stock of your multi-cultural resources

Week Two:
The Danger of the Single Story. An exercise in writing outside of your experience.

Week Three:
The game of life as we play it culturally: time.

Week Four:
The game of life as we play it culturally: kinship

Week Five:
Cultural Identity and Place.

Week Six:
Critiquing for cultural Authenticity

Week Seven:
Spirituality across cultures. Honoring spiritual experience.

Week Eight:
Alternate Histories and how they inform our writing.

About Debby Dahl Edwardson

DEBBY DAHL EDWARDSON is an award winning children's writer. Her picture book, Whale Snow was named to the International Reading Association's Notable Books for a Global Society list and was also an Independent Publishers winner. Her novel Blessing's Bead was named to the ALA/Yalsa Best Fiction for Young Adults in 2010 list and her most recent novel, My Name is Not Easy, was a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives, teaches and writes in Inupiat community in northernmost Alaska.

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