Summer Children’s Literature Workshops

Children's Literature and Illustration

Hollins University’s graduate programs in children’s literature are renowned for their emphasis on the study, writing, and illustration of work in that field. We also offer one-week intensive workshops for teachers and librarians, aspiring authors and illustrators, and alumnae/i of Hollins’ undergraduate and graduate programs. Whether you want to grow your skills as a picture book creator, scholar, or selector, or would like to enhance your ability to write for children, these workshops offer practical guidance through the expertise of accomplished artists and authors.

Writing for Children Intensive: “Writing is Rewriting”
Instructor: Dhonielle Clayton
Monday, July 19 – Friday, July 23, 2021

Workshop limited to minimum of 6; maximum enrollment of 12
You must be 18 years old or older to register.

Finished a first draft? Or have a solid chunk of a novel? Now what? The best writers are really revisers. Join this intensive to find the right ingredients to transform your rough pages into a compelling book for young people. Writing demands complex characters, high stakes, a layered world, and research.

In this workshop, the emphasis will be on the building blocks of craft: the one-line pitch, voice and character, worldbuilding, plot and pace, and revision.

The core of the intensive is an 18-hour intermediate to advanced online writing tutorial. Limited to eight to 12 participants on a first-registered, first-served basis, the participants will exchange up to 50-75 pages of work with the instructor and other writers in the class.

There will be five asynchronous morning exercises to prepare you for evening workshops, and five synchronous evening sessions split between instruction on one-line pitches, first chapters, character creation, worldbuilding, plot structure, pacing, and revision techniques to supplement the tutorial work of critique.

In addition to the sessions, there will be two optional afternoon sessions about behind-the-scenes deep dives on: publishing, including query letters, editorial letters, and the phases of a manuscript from draft to published, etc., on Wednesday, July 21 from 2:30-3:30 pm EDT and Friday, July 23 from 5-6:30 pm EDT.

Workshop will be held July 19-23, 2021
Evening sessions 7:30-9:30 EDT via Zoom

Dhonielle ClaytonDhonielle Clayton is the New York Times bestselling author of The Belles series and the co-author of the Tiny Pretty Things duology, which is now a Netflix original series. She hails from the Washington, D.C. suburbs on the Maryland side. She taught secondary school for several years and is a former elementary and middle school librarian. She is COO of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, and owner of CAKE Literary, a creative story kitchen and IP content company. She runs the science fiction and fantasy book club Black Girls with Magic & Books. She is an avid traveler, and always on the hunt for magic and mischief.

Next up: Blackout, Shattered Midnight, The Marvellers, and The Rumor Game. Her short stories have been included in the following anthologies: The Radical Element edited by Jessica Spotswood, Unbroken edited by Marieke Nijkamp, Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet, Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi, and Vampires Never Get Old edited by Zoraida Cordova and Natalie C. Parker. A few CAKE Literary titles she’s responsible for: The Gauntlet series by Karuna Riazi, Love Sugar Magic series by Anna Meriano, The Trouble with Shooting Stars by Meg Cannistra, A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai, the Tristan Strong series by Kwame Mbalia, Symptoms of a Heartbreak by Sona Charaipotra, and more.

Find her at and and on social media: @brownbookworm.

Workshop Details

Day One: First Lines, First Chapters, and the Big Idea
7:30-9:30 pm EDT via Zoom
Agents, editors, and even readers give writers one page to hook them. Why? There’s a recipe for a good first line and a good first chapter. It communicates the promise of the pitch of the novel and is one’s first bite into the writer’s world. Learn how to distill your novel’s idea down to a one-line pitch, create a solid hook of a first line, and make sure your first chapter has all the ingredients needed to make readers want to turn the page. Participants will workshop the first chapters of their projects and make plans for revising them.

Day Two: Finding the Voice and Finding the Core of Character
7:30-9:30 pm EDT via Zoom
It’s all about the voice. It’s all about character. Why? Readers must want to follow this protagonist and see them triumph over an antagonist. Learn all aspects of voice–narrative voice, character voice, and the overall voice of the story–and how to give your characters the right kind of stakes. Participants will use exercises to assess their characters’ voices, bruises, and strengths, and workshop the second and third chapters in their projects.

Day Three: What Makes the World Go Round?
7:30-9:30 pm EDT via Zoom
Every story needs to live within a consistent and complex world regardless of whether it’s fantasy or reality-based, a chapter book series, a middle grade or a young adult novel. The internal and external worldbuilding must reveal the rules of the magic and complicate the stakes for our characters. Participants will explore the physical, psychological, and emotional contexts of their stories, as well as try out methods for constructing believable and complex settings and inner worlds. Participants will workshop the fourth and fifth chapters in their projects.

Day Three: Afternoon Workshop: Behind the Scenes Look at The Publishing Industry
2-3:30 pm EDT

Day Four: Hot Water, and all the Things that Have to Happen!
7:30-9:30 pm EDT via Zoom
Popular writing advice is to kill your darlings … but you should drown your darlings along the way as well. Some writers are plotters, constructing elaborate outlines, and others are pantsers, flying by the seat of their pants. Either way, a story needs a shape, and learn how to apply a three-act or four-act structure. Participants will practice using plot maps for their work, building out conflict and climaxes, and experience the technique of nine-boxing. Participants will workshop the sixth and seventh chapters in their projects.

Day Five: Afternoon Workshop: Behind the Scenes Look at The Publishing Industry
5-6:30 pm EDT

Day Five: Now Fix It–Writing is Rewriting
7:30-9:30 pm EDT via Zoom
The best writing advice–writing is rewriting–is the cornerstone of how to create something publishable that will stand the test of time. Participants will be given a wide array of revision techniques and tools, and will make plans to look at the rest of their novels and map out a plan. Participants will take inventory of the feedback they’ve been given over the course of the workshop, plus a written letter from the instructor, and learn how to break down revision notes into tangible action items. Instructor will also nine-box all participants’ books.

Saturday, July 24: Francelia Butler Conference
Participants are welcome to attend the Francelia Butler Conference (FBC) on Saturday and hear our keynote speaker Juana Martinez-Neal as well as Margaret Wise Brown Prize winner, Meg Medina and Honor Book author Christian Robinson. Time and Zoom information will be provided during the workshop.

Workshop cost: $1,200. To register, please complete the registration form (PDF).

Contact information: Joanna Schroeder,, or 540-362-6257
Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm (EDT)