In the rapidly changing field of post-graduate education, Stony Brook Southampton’s Children’s Literature Fellowship Program is being touted by administrators as an ideal blend of rigorous coursework, hands-on fieldwork and networking opportunities—all available from the comfort of one’s couch.
For the second year, the college is offering one-year certificates through its Master of Fine Arts and Creative Writing in Literature program, which it says is tailored to accommodate exceptional students who may be too busy—or too broke—to complete a three-year graduate program, yet still want to pursue careers in children’s book publishing.
In-state students can sign up for $8,000, while those who live outside of New York can enroll for about $13,000. Officials are accepting only a dozen students into the next program, which starts early next year, though the online component will allow interested parties from across the country to apply for a spot.
Developed by Children’s Literature Conference Director Emma Walton Hamilton and the school’s creative writing director, Julie Sheehan, the program not only offers 16 graduate-level credits, it also aims to be equally helpful in assisting students who want to break into the field. In addition to working one on one with the professional authors who make up the school’s faculty, students will attend two industry conferences—one in July 2014 and another in January 2015—that will be held on the Shinnecock Hills campus to further their education in the world of publishing.
During their year as a fellow, which is set to begin on February 1, 2014, and run until the following January, students are expected to complete one publishable manuscript and then pitch it to editors and agents attending the January conference. According to the program’s website, publishers in attendance will include those from HarperCollins, ICM Partners, Little Brown, Scholastic and School Library Journal, among others.
“There are very few programs like this out there for aspiring children’s literature authors, but children’s literature is among the strongest and fastest-growing sectors of the publishing industry right now,” Ms. Walton Hamilton said.
She described the process of completing the certificate program as follows: “Mentorship is accomplished in distance learning mode via email and/or Skype. Once each month over the course of each semester, students submit their manuscripts in progress [or their] latest chapters, and then receive written feedback and the next assignment from their mentors.”
The fellowship director added that while the field is certainly open to local authors, being from the East End does not require that you make appearances on the campus for face-to-face instruction. All students, however, must attend the two conferences.
“We do have two local students participating this year, but even they appreciate being able to work from home on their own schedules due to their family and other professional commitments,” Ms. Walton Hamilton said.
A current fellow, who is part of the inaugural program that will conclude this January, is Manhattan children’s book author Julie Gribble. She has already published her first children’s book, “Bubblegum Princess,” even though she has not yet completed the course. In a press release, Ms. Gribble stated: “Being a children’s lit fellow is like having a guided tour of a city you’ve always wanted to explore.”
Janas Byrd, a middle school teacher and mother of two from Florida who is also a 2013 fellow, said the program is ideal for those like her who simply do not have the time to go to class. “The [fellowship] is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. It is a one-on-one mentorship with award-winning authors who are also brilliant teachers,” Ms. Byrd said. “I will finish and polish my novel in nine months, a feat that would not have been possible on my own.”
The deadline to apply for a 2014 fellowship is December 1, 2013. For more information, visit www.childrenslitfellows.org.