Children's Literature: Writing for Children

Students in our Children's Literature: Writing for Children (MFA) program nurture their creativity with engaged critical study and analysis of literature for children and young adults.

Students sitting in class

Dare to imagine

Transformative works from folklore, fantasy, nonfiction, poetry, and realism set rich contexts to your developing vision and voice. Small group critiques, individualized mentorships, and grounding in the publishing industry fortify your developing career as a writer.

Explore genre and audience. Engage with picturebooks, young adult realism, beginning and middle-grade readers, graphic novels. Dare to discover new audiences and forms all your own.

Learn from colleagues from across professions. Core classes will include teachers, librarians, editors, illustrators, academics. Join experienced authors and illustrators in unique events such as the summer institute at the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons, Horn Book at Simmons Symposium, and Boston's annual literary events. From P.E.N. New England Discovery Night to the Boston Book Festival, participate in today’s literary heritage as you create tomorrow’s.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution. While many of our current students majored in English as undergraduates, we encourage applications from across the humanities, arts, and media studies; additionally, applications for the social sciences and education are welcome. Applicants must submit official transcripts of all degree work, two letters of recommendation, a statement or purpose, a resume, and, for international students, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

MFA applicants must submit a writing portfolio not to exceed 20 pages as well as a statement of purpose that reflects on their writing process. This statement should address the applicant’s goals as a writer, their publishing history, and/or any works-in-progress.

An interview is strongly recommended, though not required. Admission deadlines are rolling for all three semesters.

Degree Requirements

Thirty-two credits are required for the MFA degree. The program consists of four academic courses and four writing courses. The final requirement is a two-course sequence in which a student works closely with two different publishing mentors to develop two manuscripts from conception to submission.

  • CHL 401 Criticism of Children's Literature
  • CHL 403 The Picturebook
  • CHL 430 Writing for Children I
  • CHL 431 Writing for Children II
  • CHL 441 Mentorship I, supervised study
  • CHL 442 Mentorship II, supervised study
  • Four credits of history coursework drawn from general electives
  • Four credits of genre coursework drawn from general electives

Electives

  • CHL 404A Poetry for Young Readers: You be the Judge (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 411 Victorian Children's Literature (h)
  • CHL 413 Contemporary Realistic Fiction for Young Adults (g for MFA only; required MA)
  • CHL 414 Fantasy and Science Fiction (g for MFA only; required MA)
  • CHL 415 The Whole Book Approach (2 credits)
  • CHL 419A Canadian Children's Literature: Fantasy (2 credits)
  • CHL 419B Humor (2 credits) (g)
  • CHL 420 Thesis (f, sp, su)
  • CHL 421 History of Children's Book Publishing
  • CHL 422 Editing the Children's Book Manuscript (2 credits)
  • CHL 423 19th Century American Children's Literature (4 credits) (h)
  • CHL 424B Nonsense and Subversive Rhymes (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 424C Series Fiction (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 427 Special Topics: Folk & Fairy Tales (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 427B The Americanization of Fairy Tales (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 428A A Single Text:The Graphic Novel and *The Wizard of Oz* (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 429A Re-Reading Race in Classic Children's Literature (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 429B The Girl Reader 1868-1908 (2 credits) (h)
  • CHL 429C Culture Matters (h)
  • CHL 429D The Girl Reader 1908-1934 (2 credits) (h)
  • CHL 434 The Child and the Book
  • CHL 435A Creators and Aesthetics: Eric Carle (2 credits)
  • CHL 435B Creators and Aesthetics: Gary Schmidt (2 credits)
  • CHL 436A Nonfiction-Narrative (2 credits) (g)
  • CHL 436B Nonfiction-Expository (2 credits) (g)
  • CHL 437 Special Topics in Children's Literature: Positionality (4 credits)
  • CHL 450 Independent study
  • CHL 451 The Reviewer (2 credits)
  • CHL 50X Summer symposium and institute (4 credits)

(h) indicates that the course counts toward the required four elective credits of history coursework for the MFA and MA degrees.

(g) indicates that the course counts toward the required four elective credits of genre coursework for the MFA degree.

An elective course can only count toward one category. For example, CHL 427 can count two credits toward the history elective or the genre elective requirement, but not both.

Our students work with two mentors to advance their creative work toward publication. Authors, literary agents, and editors serve as mentors. Recent mentors have come from:

  • Candlewick Press
  • Charlesbridge Books
  • Scholastic Books
  • Tu Books
  • Walden Media
  • Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency

Alumni of our MFA program have served as Boston Public Library Children’s Writers-in-Residence and St Botolph Club Emerging Artists. Recent M.F.A. alumni have been contracted by Simon and Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and HarperCollins. Two May 2014 graduates received the P.E.N. New England Children’s Book Caucus Discovery Award.

Programs at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

All Children’s Literature degree and dual degree programs are offered on the Boston campus. In addition, the MA in Children’s Literature, MFA in Writing for Children, the dual degree MA/MFA are also offered at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. Students can complete the MA in Children’s Literature/MS in Library Science with MA courses at the Carle and LIS courses on the Mount Holyoke campus. Founded by Eric Carle, the renounced author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the Carle is the first full-scale museum in this country devoted to national and international picture book art.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

In collaboration with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Simmons offers all four graduate programs in Children's Literature onsite at The Carle. This includes our M.A. in Children's Literature, M.F.A. in Writing for Children, M.A. in Children's Literature/M.F.A. dual degree, and M.A. in Children's Literature/M.S. in Library Science dual degree offered in collaboration with Simmons's School of Library and Information Science program at Mount Holyoke. Founded in part by Eric Carle, the renowned author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is the first full-scale museum in this country devoted to national and international picture book art. The Carle is located in Amherst, in the heart of the Five Colleges area of Western Massachusetts. Learn more about the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Ready to take the next step? We'll guide you through the requirements and deadlines — and get you started on your way.

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Children's Literature at Simmons University

From picture books to young adult literature, classic works to contemporary prize-winners, you will explore the artistry of literature for children and young adults. Dare to discover new audiences and stories all your own.

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