Some Like it Hot: Young Adult Fiction Writing Workshop (March 5 – April 30)

For many of us, the books we read as teens have stayed with us for the rest of our lives and may even have shaped our values and ideas on our place in the world. Today, the YA market is thriving, making it an exciting time to be a YA author. However, the genre can be challenging. The writer must create stories that engage young readers, authentically reflect their world, and speak to them in a way that is never pedantic or condescending. The writer must do all this with plots that are fast-paced and original, and with characters that are believable and never clichéd. This eight week course, hosted by the Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF), is lead by YA authors Monique Polak and Lori Weber. The course is Monday nights (6-8pm) from March 5 to April (with no meeting being held on April 9) at the QWF’s office (1200 Atwater Avenue, Suite 3, Westmount QC H3Z 1X4)

In this workshop, we will look at the components of the YA novel, including character, voice, plot, structure, setting, dialogue and figurative language. We will also discuss how to generate ideas, the writing and editing process, marketing and working with editors. Participants will also learn how to deal appropriately with sensitive topics such as sex, violence and profanity. We will explore various forms of the YA novel, such as traditional narrative, journal form and the verse novel. We will also talk about different sub-genres, such as fantasy, mystery, reluctant reader, and others.

By week five, each participant will submit copies of a 10 – 20 page manuscript for both a personal critique by one of the workshop leaders and by the other participants. The manuscript could be a short story or a chapter from what may become a YA novel. After a thorough workshop by the group, the writer should have plenty of solid ideas on how to take the manuscript to the next level.

Week 1: Introductory session with Monique Polak and Lori Weber; each author will discuss her writing process and provide an overview of the units that will be covered during the upcoming sessions; discussion of work-shopping schedule; introductory writing exercise; recommended books.

Week 2: Lori looks at techniques for handling plot and structure; Monique looks at techniques for developing character and voice. Workshop participants do an exercise to help them learn to “listen” to a YA character’s voice.

Week 3: Lori looks at setting. Workshop participants do an exercise that will allow them to explore a unique setting; Monique looks at techniques to help create dialogue that is fluid and true to teens. Workshop participants do an exercise that will help them learn to use dialogue effectively.

Week 4: Lori looks at figurative language that enriches the YA novel, including imagery, symbolism and metaphor. Participants do an exercise to help them experiment with the use of figurative language in their own work; Monique offers tips on publishing, sending out letters etc.

Week 5: Workshopping session. Preselected texts will be critiqued by the group.

Week 6: Workshopping session. Preselected texts will be critiqued by the group.

Week 7: Workshopping session. Preselected texts will be critiqued by the group.

Week 8: Party time! Each student will have an opportunity to read an excerpt from his or her own work; possible guest speaker.

Monique Polak is the author of 12 YA novels. Her novel What World Is Left won the 2009 QWF’s Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Monique is a freelance journalist whose work appears regularly in the Montreal Gazette. She has also been published in Maclean’s and The Globe and Mail. She teaches at Marianopolis College.

Lori Weber is the author of six YA novels, the most recent being Yellow Mini, a verse novel published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside (2011). Her first picture book, Granny Loves Hockey, is due out in Fall, 2013. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Concordia University, a Master’s Degree in English from Acadia University, and a Diploma in Education from McGill. She has taught English in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and is now teaching English and Creative Writing at John Abbott College in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. She began her writing career by publishing short stories and poems in various literary journals, then in 2003 began writing young adult fiction. All of Lori’s novels have been Best Book selections by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, and If You Live Like Me was selected for Choices 2010 by the Cooperative Children’s Book Centre in Wisconsin. She currently lives in Pointe-Claire, Quebec with her husband, daughter, two cats and a vast salt and pepper collection.

To register, email


Please Note: This is not a program of the CCBC. Any questions you have regarding this workshop should be directed to Julia Katers at the Quebec Writers’ Federation.