Teen Writers

Novel Writing Certificate Program

The San Jose Area Writing Project launched its Novel Writing Certificate Program in the 2018-2019 academic year; the only program of its kind in the nation geared toward teen novelists.  The first year of the writing certificate program is comprised of two semester long classes taught primarily online to be taken in the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019.  This program is designed to be flexible and accommodating of students with already busy schedules who wish to pursue their passion for novel writing in a community of supportive peers.  Because most of the novel writing cohort’s work together occurs online, students can access course materials throughout the day at times that suit their individual schedules.  However, concurrent enrollment in the fall and spring Saturday Seminar Program will be required of all writers enrolled in the program, and is included in the tuition costs of the writing certificate program.  As this program is designed to nurture our most serious writers of fiction within a supportive community, an application with 5-10 novel pages from an original manuscript, a statement of intent, and a sample paragraph of written feedback for peers will be required for admission consideration.

Program Overview

Who: Writers in grades 8-12

What: Writing Certificate Program Year 1

  • Course 1: Novel Beginnings
  • Course 2: Novel Writing Into The Middle

When: September 1 – December 9 (Fall Semester), February – April (Spring Semester Dates TBA)

Where: Primarily online, with in person meetings following the 1stand 3rd Saturday Seminars of the Fall Semester at San Jose State University

Cost: $800 per Semester Course.  Fees include Saturday Seminar admission and tickets to our Author Talk series.  SJAWP will be offering full and partial scholarships to select students who apply.

Curriculum at a Glance

Curriculum at a Glance Fall Semester – Course 1: Novel Beginnings

In this course students will study dynamic novel launches from a variety of texts in order to analyze the skills that writers employ to craft captivating first pages.  This course is all about exploration and explosive creativity in order to support students in writing stories that incite passion and spark interest. Topics of study will include crafting the ordinary world of the protagonist, what makes a scene, and effective narrative launch devices.  A particular focus will be taken on the life and schedule of a writer in order to support students in creating sustainable writing habits.  As such the program will host guest authors of published fiction to gain insight into their writing lives and career trajectories.  By the end of the course students should have a working draft of the first 30 pages of their novel, though it should be noted that students can expect to write at least twice these pages to fulfill course requirements.


Curriculum at a Glance Spring Semester – Course 2: Novel Writing Into The Middle

This course will take up where Novel Beginnings left off: by exploring what happens to characters when they leave their ordinary worlds behind and launch into journeys that forever change the trajectory of their lives.  Whereas the first novel writing course focused on crafting the ordinary world of the protagonist, this course will additionally focus on exploring secondary characters and subplots in order to create complex and dynamic worlds.  A particular focus will be on writing fast and writing strong in order to hit the ground running in the early middle of the novel and to continue structured practice of the habits that allow writers to blast through the initial drafts of their novels.

Week at a Glance

The certificate program is designed to give students the time to draft meaningful pages and the flexibility to continue participation in other extracurricular activities while giving them structured support to achieve forward movement in their writing goals. As such the cohort will receive new lectures, discussion questions that require thoughtful engagement within the community, and assignments for written pages on the drafts of their novels every two weeks. Because the program is online, students can complete the assignments in their own time as long as they submit required course materials by the stated due dates.

Week 1

Monday – lecture, discussion questions, & writing assignment posted online

Thursday – initial responses to discussion questions due

Sunday – novel pages due online

Week 2

Monday – Friday – students post feedback online & continue to engage in conversation on the weekly discussion questions

Saturday – peer feedback due, instructor feedback given

Sunday – online discussion (zoom chat)

Fall Calendar at a Glance

  • August 5 applications due

  • August 19
    admission emails sent

  • August 26
    fees due for Fall Semester

  • September 3
    Welcome Week

  • September 23
    Online discussion

  • September 29
    Saturday Seminar & in person meeting after

  • October 7
    online discussion

  • October 20
    Saturday Seminar (no meeting after)

  • October 21
    online discussion

  • November 4
    online discussion

  • November 10
    Saturday Seminar & in person meeting after

  • November 18
    online discussion

  • November 19 - 25
    no classes in observance of Thanksgiving

  • December 9
    final online discussion

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a student apply for the program?

Students can access the online application here.  Please note that the application requires several documents to be uploaded, including 10 novel pages (12 point Times New Roman double spaced font), a 1 page statement of intent that introduces the student and outlines his/her goals for the program, and 1 paragraph of written feedback on a writing sample provided within the application packet.

Why do students need to provide a paragraph of sample feedback for a peer?

Our program is dependent upon a community of dedicated writers who support one another throughout the writing process.  As such, it is imperative that students develop positive and constructive relationships with one another.  The San Jose Area Writing Project expects that all students conduct themselves in a positive manner and maintain respectful interactions with peers and instructors at all times.  Giving and receiving feedback is sensitive in nature and students must demonstrate the ability to communicate feedback in a compassionate yet constructive manner in order to be considered for admission into the program.

Will students get feedback from the instructor as well as peers?

In addition to peer feedback, students will receive written feedback from the instructor on the pages that they submit every two weeks.  Students will also receive individual guidance at the end of each quarter giving them direction and goals for novel progress in between courses.  In addition to bi-weekly discussions that focus on feedback for specific students who have signed up to workshop their writing, students may opt to sign up for an additional individual online chat of up to 30 minutes with the instructor to develop plans for novel progression and improvement.

What is the weekly time commitment of the program?

The Novel Writing Certificate Program is designed to accommodate students with already busy schedules. Students can choose to complete the coursework in their own time, as long as due dates for specific assignments are adhered to.  Students can expect to spend 2-4 hours per week on coursework including but not limited to reading lectures, articles, and mentor texts; responding to discussion questions; crafting original novel pages for their manuscripts; providing peer feedback; and engaging in online discussions via google hangout and/or zoomchat.

Are scholarships available for students in need?

The San Jose Area Writing Project wants to encourage all students who are interested to apply, regardless of socioeconomic status.  We are currently working on an application to offer merit-based scholarships to a select number of students in need.  Any student who is interested in applying for financial assistance should indicate so on his/her/their application.  In addition to the merit-based scholarships, SJAWP always offers discounted admission to students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.  To qualify for reduced admission students must submit a letter from their school district stating that they qualify for free and reduced lunch.

My student just found out about the Novel Writing Program.  Can (s)he/they join the program mid-year?

Our program depends upon a community of dedicated writers who follow each other’s novel writing progress closely and work to support one another throughout the process.  As such, a new cohort of students will be introduced on an annual basis and admission only occurs once a year in the summer.

What happens at the end of the year?

At the end of the year students will be awarded a Level 1 Certificate in Novel Writing from the San Jose Area Writing Project.  SJAWP hopes to add a second year curriculum starting in the Fall of 2019 so that students who wish to be considered for re-admission into the project can continue working with their cohorts on their novel manuscripts.

What should my student do in between courses? How should they keep up with their novel writing projects?

Students are encouraged to stay engaged with their writing cohorts throughout the year, even when courses are not in session.  During the summer students who are able should enroll in SJAWP’s summer programming, including the Writing Workshop and the Teen Writers Institute.

Who should I contact with additional questions about the program?

Please refer any inquiries to Jane Gilmore, Associate Director of SJAWP in charge of the Novel Writing Certificate Program.  Jane can be reached at jane.gilmore@sjsu.edu.

About the Instructor

Jane Gilmore is an Associate Director of the San Jose Area Writing Project who co-directs the Teen Writers Institute and directs the Novel Writing Certificate Program.  She is a teacher with over a dozen years of experience both in the classroom and leading professional development for teachers.  She has a Masters in Education and two teaching credentials (in English and Social Studies) from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a Certificate in Novel Writing from Stanford University Continuing Studies.  Aside from working on her own manuscripts Jane’s favorite endeavor is supporting students in developing their own novels and creative talents.  More likely than not your students have played her original creative writing games at a Saturday Seminar and she looks forward to helping nourish and flourish the careers of some of our brightest young writers.