In-Person Classes

Below are classes I’ve taught or am going to teach, some of which I do on a rolling basis. Many of them are connect to Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, CO so if you want to be notified when I’m offering another one of the Lighthouse Writers Workshop classes, click here and sign up to receive notifications!

If you’re interested in learning more about my online classes, you can check out Courses in Your PJs!

Upcoming Classes


Writing Picture Books

(University of Denver Enrichment)

Four Thursdays starting October 13

Learn how to critically evaluate existing picture books and understand why they work. Explore character development, story structure, language and rhythm. Then, under Vega’s guidance, generate ideas for your own story and begin writing and revising as you give and receive light feedback in a supportive classroom setting. Vega leads entertaining discussions about some of her favorite children’s books and authors, and provides handouts and worksheets to guide you in your own process. Prior to class students will receive a short article to read and an easy assignment. Click here for more information or to register.

 4-Week: Writing the Rhyming Picture Book

(Lighthouse Writers Workshop)

Four Wednesdays starting October 19th

In this workshop, you’ll explore what makes a good rhyming picture book, looking at structure, narrative, rhythm, stanzas, rhyme scheme, meter, as well as bridge stanzas and non-rhyming refrains to build tension, create humor and/or surprises.  Through the use of mentor texts, discussion, exercises, and light workshopping of your own stories, you’ll have a better grasp of what makes a good rhyming picture book and how you can improve your own rhyming story.

Prerequisite: Intro to the Children’s Picture, 8-Week Writing the Children’s Picture Book, or permission from the instructor.

Building Emotion and Tension in Your MG/YA Novel

(Lighthouse Writers Workshop)

Saturday, November 19th 9a – 11:30a

Experiencing visceral emotion and tension helps readers care about your characters and keeps them reading late into the night. Using published books and our own works in progress, we’ll discuss what works, what doesn’t, why these elements of story are essential to reader engagement, and how to elevate the emotion and tension in your own writing, while avoiding clichés.


Picture Book Classes and Workshops


Intro to the Children’s Picture Book (1/2 day)

(Lighthouse Writers Workshop)

This course is for anyone interested in learning what a picture book is as well as some of its unique aspects. We’ll review structure, language usage, and character development, as well as de-construct current best-selling and popular picture books to understand what makes them work. Then you’ll apply what you’ve learned to books and manuscripts provided by the instructor so you can begin to approach your own manuscripts with a new eye. Bring a favorite picture book (or one you can’t believe got published) to share! This class is a prerequisite for the 8-week workshop Writing the Children’s Picture Book.

8-Week: Writing Children’s Picture Books

(Lighthouse Writers Workshop)

In this hands-on workshop, you’ll explore various aspects of writing the picture book through discussion and critiquing.
Prerequisite: Intro to the Children’s Picture Book.

Writing Rhyming Children’s Picture Books

Rhyming picture books continue to captivate readers and writers alike. But what makes a good rhyming picture book? How does the rhyme serve the story and not the other way around? How do writers change up their rhyme scheme, use bridge stanzas and non-rhyming refrains to build tension, create humor and/or surprise us? In this seminar we’ll deconstruct rhyming picture books to explore these concepts, as well as scan rhyme–both published books and your own work if you have a work-in-progress.

Structuring the Non-Narrative Children’s Picture Book

Books like Goodnight Moon and The Wonderful Things You Will Be are not traditional narratives that follow a character as s/he overcomes a problem. If you’ve written or have an idea for a picture book like these that is more experiential or episodic in nature, how do you create forward momentum and maintain reader/listener interest? Using existing books, we’ll look at different ways to structure your non-narrative story so that it flows toward a satisfying, fun and/or surprising conclusion. A work-in-progress is not required, but if you have one that seems to fit, bring it!

Exploring the Character-Driven Children’s Picture Book

Successful picture book series’ like Skippyjon Jones, Fancy Nancy, and Olivia all have one thing in common: Memorable, engaging characters. What makes them memorable and engaging? And what exactly is a “character-driven picture book?” In this session, you’ll look at popular, character-driven picture books to determine what makes them special and begin to craft your own characters. If you’ve got an existing character that needs a boost, bring him/her. Let’s create unforgettable characters together!


Older Readers


Exploring the Children’s Early Reader and Chapter Book

This course covers the ins and outs of children’s books that are between the children’s picture book and the middle grade or young adult novel. The morning will consist of familiarizing writers with these types of children’s books through exploration of published books and exercises; the afternoon will involve writing exercises designed to either help you revise an existing manuscript or begin a new one with an opportunity for a few writers to share and receive light feedback, though this is not the main focus of the course.


Crafting Compelling Scenes in Your Middle Grade or Young Adult Novel

If you find yourself getting bogged down in your novel, you can usually get back on course by taking a deeper look at individual scenes, reworking them on their own as well as seeing how they fit into the whole. Using techniques I’ve developed as well as techniques and suggestions from agent Donald Maass’s books The Fire in Fiction and Writing the 21st Century Novel, you’ll work on one scene from your book, approaching it from the perspective of character, tension, and purpose. A good chunk of the day will consist of workshopping and brainstorming in small groups, so please bring FOUR stapled copies of a scene that is giving you trouble or that you sense isn’t as good as it could be. You will work on the scene in class and then share/workshop/brainstorm the subsequent revised versions in your small group. Then take away the tools you learn here and apply them to other scenes in your novel! Feel free to bring paper or your laptop, whichever is more comfortable for you.


8-Week: Writing the Middle Grade or Young Adult Novel (section 2)

(Lighthouse Writers Workshop)

In this hands-on workshop, we’ll work to support your strengths while encouraging you to stretch yourself and try new approaches. We’ll explore all of the usual suspects in writing a novel, but from the unique perspective of MG and YA. The bulk of this workshop will be submitting pages and giving and receiving feedback. For more information or to register, click here.


General Children’s Book Topics


Writing for Children: Tips on Writing, Revising, and Getting Published

This course is an overview designed for those new to the world of writing for children, or those who have written something and aren’t quite sure what to do with the finished work.


Writing Children’s Books: From Toddler to Teen

Join award-winning children’s author Denise Vega as she leads you through the many forms of children’s books today, including writing exercises to hone your ideas from picture books through young adult novels. Conclude at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts with attendance at the DCPA Theatre Company’s Lookingglass Alice, a “wildly inventive production” for audiences of all ages. Come away with insights into the complex world of children’s books and new skills for writing your own. 10% discount to DCPA subscribers.


Word, Rhythm, and Rhyme in Children’s Books

Every word counts in any story or book, but word usage is especially important in children’s books. In this workshop, we’ll explore the use of language in books for younger readers—from picture books through early chapter books (e.g. the Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo) through examples and exercises.


What’s Your Children’s Book About? Developing Effective Story Summaries

This hands-on session is designed to help you develop/improve a short summary of one or more of your children’s book manuscripts (including narrative picture books). You can use the summary as a guide to writing and revising your story as well as for pitching/querying agents, editors and others. We’ll use existing books (picture book through chapter book), identify essential elements, and brainstorm summaries as well as work on our own. Please bring at least one story idea to use during the session.