Guest Editor Vonna Carter re: Choosing Online Writing Courses


Vonna CarterVonna Carter—Middle Grade writer and Keeper-of-the-Lists—rounds up info on editors, art directors and agents attending conferences, retreats and workshops, plus online classes and where to get that elusive MFA in writing for young readers.

Dear Cheryl…

This is a question many people are asking. We are fortunate these days to have abundant options for online classes and workshops, but they are not one-size-fits-all. I maintain a list of them on my website at Online Workshops. Before signing up for a course, analyze your criteria for the class. Here are some points to consider:

Level: Are you new to writing for children? Have you completed manuscripts but need help revising? Are you an experienced writer looking for a master class?

Budget: Are you looking to spend $300 or $3000?

Time: Do you want a two-hour workshop, a four- or six-week course, or an ongoing class? How much time can you spend on homework assignments?

Genre and Age Group: Do you write picture books? MG? Romantic YA? Adult thrillers?

Topic: Do you need an in-depth course on voice, plot, pacing or other focus area?

Interaction: Do you enjoy engaging with other students or do you prefer working alone?

Format: Are you open to video conferencing? Are you comfortable posting on forums or engaging in conference calls? Do you prefer one-on-one emails with your instructor?

References: An important consideration is the class’s reputation. Some wonderful teachers use their websites or newsletters to shine a spotlight on their former students who are now published authors, but not all classes make it this easy to see references. Can you contact writers who have taken this course?

Taking an online class can be a great experience. I hope this checklist helps you find classes that are best for you.

-Vonna Carter


  1. In many cases I’ve found the pace and information of online courses to be better than in-person. Good advice, Vonna.

  2. Choosing which classes is tough, Vonna. The items you’ve noted when considering them, is very through. I’m printing it out and am sure I’ll refer to it again and again! Thanks!

  3. I will add that UCSD Extended Studies is planning to introduce programs in children’s book writing and illustration in the near future. I’m on the advisory board for that effort. There’s nothing official to announce yet, but you can keep your eye on UCSD Extended Studies at

  4. What a terrific check list for those considering online classes! I wish I’d thought of all those factors before taking writing classes. I think I lucked out and got some good classes (got a couple of duds too, though). My favorite ones are ICL’s beginner and advance courses (not online, but correspondence), Susanna Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic, Renee La Tulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab, and Gotham Writers’ Workshop’s SF classes.

    Thanks, Vonda and Deborah!

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