The Institute of Children’s Literature
Long, long ago in the spring of 1996, I found an ad about the Institute of Children’s Literature in West Redding, Connecticut, offering their course on writing for children. I was impressed that they required their students to take an aptitude test before accepting them, so I decided to take the test.
A few weeks later, I received a letter congratulating me on passing the test, along with a personalized commentary of my writing. The Institute invited me to register for the course, which wasn’t surprising to me, since I figured they probably wanted as many students as possible to pay the tuition.
As parents of two young children in a one-income family, however, we really could not afford luxuries like this—nor did I have the extra time and energy to devote to a class. Besides, I wasn’t convinced that I needed a teacher to hone my writing skills, and I already had some of the course books. So I thanked them and explained why I wasn’t registering. But I kept their letter and complementary comments about my writing skills, and over the years that followed, I dreamed of one day being able to take the course.
About a year ago I was able, so I researched many different online and traditional children’s writing courses, and read some online reviews. As far as I was concerned, the “Writing for Children and Teenagers” course offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature still looked like the best.
I sent in a slightly different aptitude test (this time via the internet) and was delighted to receive their congratulations for the second time on passing it. Then they surprised me by telling me that I hadn’t needed to re-take the test, because they had already accepted me into the course in 1996. Imagine an organization that keeps initial contact documents for fourteen years! I was impressed.
I am now working on Assignment 8 of this 10-part course and love every minute of it. Well, maybe not every minute—it is hard work, but still enjoyable. Here are some of the benefits I’ve found:
- Students receive an assignment binder, assignments & course books in the mail, then email assignments every 6 wks or so. I’ve typically gotten a response from my mentor within 3 to 7 days.
- No problem getting an extension (I needed one at Christmas time, and the extra 2 – 3 weeks was great)
- Each assignment is about 30 pages (plus assigned reading in the course textbooks—very manageable and flexible according to your time constraints).
- Instructions are step-by-step, not intimidating or overwhelming, and if you want additional exercises there are more than enough.
- Students have options for payment (I saved a bit of money by paying $730 in a one lump sum payment).
- Most of what a student writes as assignments are ready to be submitted for publication—especially after revising per the mentor’s comments.
- The Student Center on the ICL website is extensive with many resources, including chat rooms.
- There is a nice camaraderie with the mentor; we don’t just send letters about the writing assignments. It feels like a friendship.
- Students get a free trial of the excellent Children’s Writer newsletter, published by ICL, with the latest info on markets and writing for children (very worthwhile, so I’ve subscribed).
Even after doing my own studying into the art and skill of writing for over fifteen years, I am learning a lot from every single assignment. More than anything else, I appreciate my mentor’s personalized and very detailed edits, comments and suggestions on all of my writing. The work is strenuous, but the help, support and encouragement are wonderful.
The school has fulfilled all of its promises and I highly recommend it!