Online Writing for Children Course with Catherine Johnson

Led by a bestselling children's author, this focused course is for those working on Young Adult, Middle Grade or Young Fiction.

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Feb 20 2017 - May 22 2017






The Curtis Brown Creative Online Writing for Children Course will run from Mon 20 February 2017 to Mon 22 May 2017, and will provide expert teaching, writing workshops, practical writing exercises, one-to-one tuition and industry advice from top professionals for those working on Young Adult (12+), Middle Grade (9–12) or Young Fiction (7–9). We welcome applicants from different countries and time zones – this course is incredibly flexible time-wise and it doesn’t matter how many hours ahead or behind the UK you are.


Catherine Johnson, author

Catherine Johnson has written 14 books for children and young adults, including  Sawbones, which won the Young Quills Prize for best Historical Fiction in the 12+ category and was shortlisted for the Carnegie medal in 2015. Catherine also writes for film, television and radio. In 2005, she co-wrote the highly acclaimed feature film Bullet BoyThe Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo, came out in summer 2015, and her latest book Blade and Bone came out in October 2016.


The course will help students to understand how to write distinctive and well-plotted novels, and to shape them for specific age ranges. Our tutor, Catherine Johnson, is a bestselling children’s author with plenty of teaching experience on both our creative writing courses and elsewhere, and the course will feature input from Curtis Brown’s children's and YA literary agents. Places will be offered to 15 students, selected on the basis of ability as demonstrated in their applications. Please note that the extract submitted must come from the novel you’re planning to work on during the course.

We welcome applications from people working on novels for children aged over eight or for young adults. Please submit the opening 3,000 words of your novel, plus a synopsis. This is not a suitable course for people wanting to illustrate children’s books or for those writing fiction for the under-eights.

Closing date for applications is Sunday 29 January, 2017.

What does this course give you?

Our Online Writing for Children Course is designed, run and taught entirely by Curtis Brown and Catherine Johnson, with participation from the C&W agency. All students will get:

  • Weekly writing workshops with Catherine Johnson and your student peers, taking place in a secure group space, hosted on a tried-and-tested educational online platform.
  • Two 45-minute, one-to-one tutorials with Catherine, delivered on the phone or by Skype (depending on student’s choice), and scheduled in consultation with you. Students can focus the tutorials on their particular concerns and questions on key issues such as how to develop their storyline, how to write good dialogue, etc.
  • Weekly video teaching sessions on key topics with Catherine, and homework to include writing exercises, discussion and preparing synopses.
  • A session for dialogue and Q&As with Curtis Brown and C&W literary agents specialising in children’s and Young Adult fiction.
  • A first-page workshop offering direct feedback for all students on their opening pages.
  • A secure discussion space to share material and thoughts with your student peer group informally.
  • The opportunity to have your 3,000-word opening and synopsis read by the Curtis Brown and C&W children's/YA literary-agent teams at the conclusion of the course.


Weekly teaching sessions
Opening on a Monday, Catherine’s teaching sessions will cover a range of issues crucial to the writing of children’s and young adult novels, such as plotting, characterisation, point-of-view and rewriting. Catherine will post video material and teaching notes, which will form a library of resources available only to this student group.

Weekly workshopping of students’ novels
Each week, three students will be asked to submit 3,000-word extracts from their novels-in-progress to a private online discussion space on a reputable educational platform, and will receive comments from the tutor and fellow students (both private one-to-one comments and comments in the group discussion space). This provides focused feedback and encourages students to develop their capacity to self-edit, to read as writers, and to receive and provide constructive criticism.

Weekly workshop timetable
Workshop extracts are submitted to the tutor and group on a Monday.
By the following Monday, students must have read the three extracts and submitted a fully annotated version of each text to the tutor.
Following this, the tutor opens up the group workshop discussion, which takes take place across 48 hours.
At the end of the 48 hours (Wednesday), the tutor closes the group workshop discussion and delivers all one-to-one written feedback to the relevant three students.

Individual tutorials
Each student will receive two 45-minute, one-to-one tutorials with Catherine Johnson. These will be conducted over the phone or via Skype, and will each be based on 3,000 words from the novel-in-progress, which Catherine will read ahead of time. Students will also be asked to highlight for Catherine any issues they may wish to discuss and put questions to her.

Student workload

At the start of the online novel-writing course, each student will be given two dates by which to upload extracts from their novel-in-progress (up to 3,000 words each) to a private discussion area on our course website. These extracts will be discussed by the tutor and fellow students a fortnight later in the workshop and each student will receive both a full annotation of their work as well as detailed comments from the group. (So, students submit work and have their material ‘workshopped’ twice during the course.)

Students will also be given two dates to submit extracts of up to 3,000 words plus their questions and concerns in readiness for their one-to-one tutorials with Catherine.

Students will be given a ‘homework’ exercise each fortnight. This will relate to the teaching topic scheduled, and could be anything from a writing task to a reading requirement.

At the start of each fortnight, students will be asked to read the workshop submissions of three students and to contribute an annotated version of the text to their peers as well as to feed their comments into the discussion space.

Students will be asked to contribute to frequent online discussions concerning the teaching topics, the work of other students as well as their own work, and Q&A sessions with the agent teams.

This writing course is designed to be flexible. Students can go on- and offline at times to suit them throughout the period when workshops and discussions are open. Once a session starts, students will have access to the new content, and can act on this in their own time.


Monday 20 February – Sunday 26 February
Teaching topic 1: Inspiration and Reading as Writers

Monday 27 February – Sunday 5 March
Teaching topic 2: Beginnings
Writing Workshop

Monday 6 March – Sunday 12 March
Teaching topic 3: Characterisation
Writing Workshop

Monday 13 March – Sunday 19 March
Teaching topic 4: Point of View
Writing Workshop

Monday 20 March– Sunday 26 March
Teaching topic 5: World-building
Writing Workshop

Monday 27 March – Sunday 2 April
Teaching topic 6: Everything Matters – integrated writing and the importance of dramatisation
Writing Workshop

Monday 3 April – Sunday 9 April
Teaching topic 7: Dialogue and Description
Writing Workshop

Monday 10 April – Sunday 23 April
Teaching topic 8: Planning, Plotting and Dreaming
Writing Workshop

Easter Break

Monday 24 April – Sunday 30 April
Teaching topic 9: Children’s Writing Troubleshooting
Writing Workshop

Tuesday 2 May – Sunday 7 May
Teaching topic 10: Endings and Resolutions; Series or Standalones?
Writing Workshop

Monday 8 May – Sunday 14 May
Teaching topic 11: Editing and Rewriting
Writing Workshop

Monday 15 May – Sunday 21 May
Teaching topic 12: The Synopsis

Monday 22 May
Students to submit their 3,000-word opening and one-page synopsis to be read by the Curtis Brown children’s and YA agents.


The course fee of £1,600 (including VAT) is payable, in full, by bank transfer or cheque. Funds must reach our bank account by 19 February at the latest. We regret that we are unable to refund fees, and would suggest students make their own insurance arrangements if required. Successful applicants who have concerns about being able to pay the fee in full at the start of the course should email

Apply now

Applications for this course will close at midnight (GMT) at the end of Sunday 29 January. We will read all applications as quickly as possible after the deadline and will offer places to 15 applicants on the basis of the quality of their application material. We'll respond to all applications by Wednesday 1st February. Please include both your synopsis and opening extract in a single document. If you have any questions, or if you have any problems when applying, you can email for help.