Friday, March 21, 2014

Weekend Links: Online Course taught by Emma Walton Hamilton

I signed up for Julie Hedlund's 12x12 writing program this year. I've benefited immensely from all the resources Julie has offered, not the least of which was an opportunity to be selected as a beta student for award-winning author Emma Walton Hamilton's Middle Grade/Chapter Book course.

I'm only one week into the 14-week course, but I feel like I've already had those light-bulb moments that I need to fix a languishing middle grade novel.

Some of the tips that resonated with me were:
  • Each character needs to further the story. If not, the character needs to go or be combined.
  • Each chapter needs an ending hook to keep the reader wondering what's next.
  • Each page needs emotional or dramatic tension.
  • Don't preach. Let the story set up a scene that allows the reader to draw their own conclusions.
One of the exercise we were asked to do was to write down the dramatic question. What is it that the reader needs to learn or achieve by the end of the book? Keep that question in mind as you draft your plot.

Emma also recommended a book on writing that intrigued me greatly: The Writer's Journey, by Christopher Vogler. Vogler uses the mythic structure explored by Joseph Campbell to outline an effective story-telling method.

There's much more, but that was enough to get me going in a direction I needed. I'll update as the class goes on. Emma has a picture book class and now a middle grade and young adult class she offers through her site,

She is a faculty member for Stony Brook Southampton's MFA in Creative Writing and Literature, which means I'm basically getting a college course on my computer at my own pace with an award-winning author to teach me. I'm so excited to have this opportunity and so is my poor novel.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. The video is Emma and her mother, Julie Andrews talking about writing and how it links up with other art forms. I love it. Perhaps because of my own acting background, but I thought if ever I do a school presentation, a reader's theater would be a great way to get children to interact with your book.


  1. Readers theater to interact with a book is a great idea for a school presentation!

    1. I think so too. If you ever try it let me know how it goes :).

  2. Sounds like a great course. Congrats on those light bulb moments!

  3. I love hearing about good writing courses. I feel like the writing craft is one thing you can never stop learning.

  4. Thank you so much for this information, Johnell! I am tagging it for future reference!