So you want to write for teenagers. You’re not alone: young adult blockbusting books have been sweeping the country, from the meteoric rise of the Harry Potter series to the Twilight and Hunger Games phenomena. It’s still considered a niche genre, though – one that isn’t always respected at the college level, as I’ve found through personal experience.
Yet it’s easy to see that networking and peer critiques are incredibly important, and you may even want an MFA – but it might be difficult to get accepted into a typical or traditional MFA program with only young adult writing samples. Here, I’d like to give you a few tips and tricks to finding organizations or programs if you’re a YA writer.
Your best bet, at least to start with, is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, more commonly known as SCBWI. SCBWI is one of if not the absolute largest organization of people working in the children’s book industry. It hosts conferences and contests, gives awards and grants, and boasts over 22,000 members and 70 regional chapters across the world.
Canadian YA writers may be interested in CANSCAIP, or the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers. CANSCAIP is an association of Canadian children’s entertainment workers with around 400 members.
Classes or graduate work in young adult literature is also an option. While traditionally there has not been many YA programs, there are classes and degree-granting programs available for those interested in the topic.
Those in the Minneapolis, MN area may be interested in taking classes at The Loft. While The Loft is a literary center rather than a young adult-specific establishment, it offers several classes for adults who are interested in writing for young adults. Don’t forget to check your local writing or literacy centers as well as your local public library system to see if there are any similar classes – and you can also check your local degree-granting institutions as well.
Vermont College is known for the first program focusing on an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. This low-residency program allows degree-seeking candidates to take distance learning classes, allowing students to continue working full-time in their current career while simultaneously learning finer points of craft. The program boasts a number of published alums and a postgraduate study program.
Hamline College in Minnesota also offers an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. The program is also low-residency, as is the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Spalding University in Kentucky.
There are many great options for those interested in writing for young adults. Beyond these listed, you can also search on your own or even found a new organization dedicated to young adult literature.