Writing for Children and Young Adults

Achievements by Students and Alumni in Writing for Children & Young Adult

  • E.B. White Honor Book Award
  • Ezra Jack Keats Award
  • Parents’ Choice Gold Award
  • American Library Association Rainbow List
  • ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers List
  • Starred Review from Publishers Weekly
  • Good Morning America Best Summer Read
  • Publishers Weekly Flying Start title
  • Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award
  • Nebraska Golden Sower Award
  • Indiana Young Hoosier Award
  • Lone Star Reading List

Download a writing for children and young adult brochure, here.

Writing for children and young adults is  for students who wish to write for young audiences. The four-semester Spalding program stands alone in giving equal weight to audience considerations and serious study of craft. One or two semesters are spent on craft instruction in one of five focal areas: playwriting, fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, or screenwriting. This approach ensures that students learn to engage their young audiences with work of literary merit through study with a wide selection of faculty.

Each semester begins with an intensive, invigorating residency, in which students and faculty work together for ten days of group instruction. After the residency, students return home for personalized instruction through one-on-one correspondence with a faculty mentor for the rest of the semester.The Spalding MFA Program offers cross-genre workshops, interrelatedness of the arts through attendance at cultural events, low student-faculty ratios, and editing/publishing components. Spalding MFA faculty members are prize-winning, publishing writers who are also experienced teachers.

Instructional Overview

Semester 1 focuses on the intended audience in terms of basic creative writing considerations: subject, structure, and style.

Semester 2 involves workshops and mentoring focusing on technique in the genre of the student’s focal area: playwriting, fiction, poetry, screenwriting, or creative nonfiction.

In semester 3, students have the option to continue in the focal area from semester 2, choose a new focal area, or return to a focus on the intended audience, as in semester 1.Semester 4 and the fifth residency culminate in combining audience awareness and technical expertise.

Students may also choose to enroll in the optional ENG650: Enrichment Semester and/or ENG660: Teaching Practicum.

Focal Areas

At Spalding, writing for children and young adults students choose their focal areas in semesters 2 and 3. For example, students who wish to write . . .

  • children’s plays, or to adapt work for children’s theater, may opt for a semester in playwriting
  • middle-grade, young adult, or crossover novels may opt for a semester in fiction
  • picture books or novels-in-verse may opt for a semester in poetry
  • historical nonfiction or science books may opt for a semester in creative nonfiction
  • screenplays for children and young adults, or to adapt work for film, may opt for a semester in screenwriting

Application deadlines are February 1 for the spring and summer semesters, and August 1 for fall semester.

Choosing Among Fall, Spring, and Summer Semesters

Students may enter the program in any of our three semesters: fall, spring, or summer. Fall and spring semesters begin with a residency at Spalding in Louisville; summer semesters commence in a variety of locations abroad. Students may choose from any of the semesters for a total of four, plus a fifth residency for graduation, to complete the MFA degree.

The same amount of writing is expected every semester; the tuition is the same for every semester. What varies is the pace at which the writing at home occurs and the location of the residency.

Students should choose a combination of spring/fall study if they wish to complete the program in two years; prefer to attend residencies in Louisville, a culturally rich, easily accessible American city; and choose to spend 25 hours a week on their studies.

Students should choose summer study if they wish to enrich their creative writing studies with international travel, can participate in a residency more easily in summer than in spring or fall, prefer a longer semester with a less intensive writing schedule at home (15 hours a week), would like to spread tuition costs over a longer period of time and want to complete the program in about four years.

Students who wish to study in the longer semester without traveling abroad may attend the spring residency.

Students who mix the summer and spring/fall semesters can finish the program in about three years.

Summer residency destinations (past and upcoming) include London/Bath (2008), Barcelona (2009), Buenos Aires (2010), Rome/Tuscany (2011), Paris (2012), and Dublin/Galway (2013).

Faculty in Writing for Children and Young AdultsOur faculty members have won awards for picture books, middle books, and young adult novels, which include contemporary, historical, science fiction, and fantasy.

David-Matthew Barnes
Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Edith M. Hemingway
Leslea Newman

Previous Visiting Writers
Sneed B. Collard III
Lisa Rowe Fraustino
Jack Gantos
Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket)
Heather Henson
Paul Brett Johnson
Alexandria LaFaye
George Ella Lyon
Patricia MacLachlan
Gardner McFall
Donna Jo Napoli
Naomi Shihab Nye
Lucy Recht Penner
Scott Russell Sanders
Lola M. Schaefer
Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
Samatha Thornhill
Nancy Willard
Jacqueline Woodson

What Our Graduates Say

Kelly Creagh, Kentucky, author of Nevermore and Enshadowed (Simon and Schuster): I feel confident that I have received the best education from one of the top brief-residency programs in the nation. I attribute so much of my success as a writer to my time spent at Spalding and to the knowledge I have gained through my mentors, faculty authors, and fellow students. Be warned! This program will delve deep, push you to your limits, refine your skills and polish your style—all while encouraging your uniqueness as an artist and nurturing your individual talent.

Tori Murden McClure, author of A Pearl in the Storm (HarperCollins) and winner, Christopher Award: The Spalding MFA program was the best educational experience I’ve had in a lifetime of learning, including degrees earned from Harvard and Smith. High academic standards, in a caring atmosphere, both nurtured and challenged me as a writer. I am a better writer thanks to this program.

Stephanie Stuve Bodeen, Wisconsin, author of The Gardner, featured on Good Morning, AmericaMost low-residency MFA programs separate Writing for Children from the other genres, and I really appreciate the fact that at Spalding, Writing for Children is a respected peer alongside fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, playwriting, and screenwriting. (Stepanie’s other work and awards include The Compound (Feiwel and Friend), nominated 2009 Best Books for Young Adults, also winner of the Ezra Jack Keats Award for Elizabeti’s Doll.)

Lisa Veronica Pires, Maryland, author of Extension (Crescent Moon Press): The Spalding MFA program gave me the confidence to put my ideas into writing.  As I learned and grew, so did the quality of my work, and publication became something within reach.  I can honestly say that being a part of the Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Spalding and working with some of the best mentors in this genre was what shaped me into the writer I am today.
Jessica Love, California, author of Push Girl and In Real Life (St. Martin’s): The Spalding MFA program is a rigorous program of high standards and amazingly talented faculty, but it’s also a welcoming program full of positivity and encouragement from everyone involved. Writing for kids is treated with respect here, and there is a genuine balance of being challenged and nurtured as a writer.

Lydia Griffin, Colorado, Prunes and Rupe (Filter Press): I feel so lucky to have found the Spalding MFA  Program. The leadership, faculty, residencies, and schedule make it so conducive to living as a writer and student.

Joan Donaldson, Michigan, The Secret of the Red Shoes (Ideals): From my first contact with the MFA office, the Spalding faculty and students have encouraged, guided, and nurtured my writer’s soul.


Complete faculty information

Contact us:

MFA Office: (502) 873-4400 or (800) 896-8941, ext. 4400

FAX: (502) 992-2409

MFA in Writing
Spalding University
851 South Fourth Street
Louisville, KY 40203