In-Person Courses

Improve your craft in live sessions with other writers

Below you’ll find: (a) classes I’m currently offering and (b) classes I’ve taught and will offer again or can present at your event or conference.

I offer in-person classes in Denver, CO through Lighthouse Writers Workshop, the University of Denver Enrichment Program and other locations. The best way to find out about upcoming classes is to subscribe to my Blab-o-Tips newsletter. And you’ll get a free gift to boot!

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

 

Upcoming classes in Denver

 

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

Lighthouse Writers Workshop

Saturday, August 12, 1:00pm – 4:00pm

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. For more information or to register, click here.

8-Week: Writing Children’s Picture Books – Getting Started

Lighthouse Writers Workshop

Eight Wednesdays, starting August 16, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

In this hands-on workshop, you’ll explore various aspects of writing the picture book. In this class, you don’t have to have a story started or even an idea! We spend the first two weeks developing ideas and beginning to write, with the following six weeks learning craft aspects through critiquing and discussion. For more information or to register, click here.
Prerequisite: Intro to the Children’s Picture Book.

Find a Publisher for Your Children’s Book: A Day-Long Immersion

Lighthouse Writers Workshop

 

Breakout and workshop offerings

 

Need a breakout session or workshop?

Here is a sampling of classes I’ve taught and/or presented at conferences or workshops,from picture books to early readers and chapter books to middle grade and YA novels. I can adapt most of them to your event needs and session constraints. Just ask! Click the button to fill out the request form.

Picture Book Classes & 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. For more information or to sign up to get notified when it is offered next, click here.

4-Week: Picture Book Intensive

This workshop will focus on specific craft areas of your narrative picture book manuscript each week: character, plot, illustration notes, and language use. During each session, we’ll cover one craft area, using existing picture books and examples from your stories for discussion. If time permits, you may begin revising or brainstorming for that particular craft topic.

Prerequisite: Intro to the Children’s Picture Book. I also encourage writers to take one of the 8-week workshops, but it’s not required.
Completed picture book story, properly formatted required for first session. For more information or to sign up to get notified when it is offered next, click here.

8-Week: Writing Children’s Picture Books

In this hands-on workshop, you’ll explore various aspects of writing the picture book through discussion and critiquing. To get the most out of this class, you should have a story started or completed before the first class session.
Prerequisite: Intro to the Children’s Picture Book. For more information or to sign up to get notified when it is offered next, click here.

8-Week: Writing Children’s Picture Books – Getting Started

Lighthouse Writers Workshop

In this hands-on workshop, you’ll explore various aspects of writing the picture book. In this class, you don’t have to have a story started or even an idea! We spend the first two weeks developing ideas and beginning to write, with the following six weeks learning craft aspects through critiquing and discussion.
Prerequisite: Intro to the Children’s Picture Book. For more information or to sign up to get notified when it is offered next, click here.

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!

The End?! Invigorating Your Picture Book with Surprise, Twist, and Resonant Endings

Sometimes we focus so much on the opening or “hook” for a story that we forget about that crucial ending. In this session, we’ll explore a variety of picture book endings and discuss what makes them work (or not!). Then we’ll brainstorm our own endings, working to write one that has a child shouting: “Read it again!” and a publisher saying “Yes!” Participants should have a completed manuscript or a story idea where they know the ending to get the most out of this session.

Picture This: Writing with the Illustrator in Mind

As writers of picture books, we understand the collaborative aspect: part of our story will be told through pictures. But what do we leave in and what do we leave to the illustrator and how do we know when to do that? And what about those darn illustration notes? In this session, we’ll explore the not-so-exact science of writing/revising with the illustrator in mind and when and how to include illustrator notes. An added bonus: Your word count often drops, which is a plus for many publishers! (Intermediate)

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.

Picture Books: Using Mentor Texts to Improve Your Stories

Learn how to choose existing picture books as instructional texts and use them to make your own stories better. We’ll look at character, structure, word choices, and beginnings and endings. I will have books on hand, but if you have one that speaks to your story, please bring it! Also, please bring your partial or complete picture book manuscript with which to work.

 

Beyond Picture Books

 

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.

Plot Your Novel in 6 (Easy?!) Steps

I was always a “panters”—a seat-of-the-pants writer who was excited by an idea and jump in writing immediately, only to get to chapter 4 or 5 and completely stall. I resisted plotting or planning in advance for years, convinced it would “cramp my creative style.” But in 2016 I discovered the joys (and time savings) of plotting, having successfully plotted a new novel in October, wrote the entire thing in November during NaNoWriMo and then revising and getting it to my group that spring. I was sold! And now I want to share what I did with other novelists to help you speed up your writing process and make the most of your time.

8-Week: Writing the Middle Grade or Young Adult Novel

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.