Writing YA and Children’s Fiction With Catherine Johnson

This three-month online course is for those working on YA, Middle Grade or Young Fiction.

CBC photo


Apr 01 2019 - Jul 01 2019






For an online course specialising in how to write YA, Middle Grade and Young Fiction (for the over 7s) with an expert tutor, a peer-group of 15 fellow writers (selective applications process), teaching videos, special literary agent advice days, writing workshops and one-to-one tuition, all hosted on our secure learning platform, and with flexible timing for participation from anywhere in the world in whatever time you have, apply to our Writing YA and Children’s Fiction course.


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.


This online 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 and Young Adult author with plenty of teaching experience 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.

We welcome applications from people working on novels for children aged over seven or for young adults. Please submit the opening 3,000 words of the novel you want to work on with us, 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-sevens.

Our online creative writing courses are all about flexibility, and are ideal for those with busy lives or who are unable to travel to London to attend our courses.


What does this course give you?

This course is designed, run and taught entirely by Curtis Brown Creative and Catherine Johnson, all delivered through our secure online educational platform. On this course you'll get, direct from us:

  • Participation in weekly writing workshops with Catherine Johnson and your student peers, taking place in a secure group space, hosted on our exclusive Learn platform. Each student will receive two dedicated workshops on their novel-in-progress across the course.
  • 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 and notes on key topics with Catherine, and homework to include writing exercises and discussion. Catherine will lead discussions on the teaching topics in our dedicated student forums.
  • A Q&A session with Curtis Brown and C+W literary agents specialising in children’s and Young Adult fiction, plus a commissioning editor from a major children's publisher
  • A chance to have the all-important pitch letter critiqued by agents from Curtis Brown and C+W.
  • 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.
  • Teaching videos, notes and feedback from the course will remain available to participants after course-end


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 our 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.

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 01 April– Sunday 07 April

Teaching topic 1: Inspiration and Reading as Writers

Monday 08 April – Sunday 14 April
Teaching topic 2: Beginnings

Writing Workshop

Monday 15 April – Sunday 21 April
Teaching topic 3: Characterisation

Writing Workshop

Break Week

Monday 29 April – Sunday 05 May
Teaching topic 4: Point of View

Writing Workshop

Monday 06 May – Sunday 12 May
Teaching topic 5: World-building

Writing Workshop

Monday 13 May– Sunday 19 May
Teaching topic 6: Everything Matters – integrated writing and the importance of dramatisation

Writing Workshop

Monday 20 May – Sunday 26 May
Teaching topic 7: Dialogue and Description

Writing Workshop

Monday 27 May – Sunday 02 June
Teaching topic 8: Planning, Plotting and Dreaming

Writing Workshop

Monday 03 June – Sunday 09 June
Teaching topic 9: Children’s Writing Troubleshooting

Writing Workshop

Monday 10 June  – Sunday 16 June
Teaching topic 10: Endings and Resolutions; Series or Standalones?

Writing Workshop

Monday 17 June – Sunday 23 June
Teaching topic 11: Editing and Rewriting

Writing Workshop

Monday 24 June – Sunday 30 June
Teaching topic 12: The Synopsis


Monday 08 July
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 01 April 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 CBCcourses@curtisbrown.co.uk

Apply now

  • Please apply with the first 3,000 words of your novel, and a synopsis of no more than a page. The deadline for applications is midnight, end of day Sunday 10 March, and we will respond to applicants by Wednesday 13 March. Make sure you include your synopsis and opening 3,000 in the same document, as you can only upload ONE file as part of the application below. Please apply with a 3,000-word opening of the novel you would like to work on during the course. If you encounter any problems during the application process, or have any more questions about the course, please email cbccourses@curtisbrown.co.uk for assistance.Note: Our server has been experiencing some issues in recent weeks: if you are unsure that your application has gone through, haven't received an automated confirmation email, or if you are unable to upload a file, please email us immediately at cbccourses@curtisbrown.co.uk
  • Personal Details

  • Please include country code is applicable
  • eg. name@domain.com
  • We won't share this data
  • Application Details

  • No more than 150 words please....
  • State here the details of any previously published work, awards, prizes and other writing achievements
  • If yes, please write code in box provided
  • Names and contact details of two referees (professional, reputable figures able to provide a character reference on our request. NB they do not need to be able to speak about your ability as a writer)
  • Accepted file types: pdf, txt, doc, rtf, docx.
    Please upload your synopsis and opening chapter in one document. Only PDF, TXT and DOC files accepted, file size must be less than 8mb