Workshops for Writers

I am the author of nearly 50 novels and nonfiction books for young readers.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, I spent twenty years in book publishing.  As the Editorial Director of the Teen People Book Club and an Executive Editor with the Scholastic Book Clubs, I learned what makes a book stand out to kids, teachers, and parents.

Along the way I’ve worked hard on the art and craft of writing and editing. I love sharing what I’ve learned with other writers, and I’m excited to present the following workshops.

You can download a complete list here: Laurie's Writing Workshops.pdf

Inner Lives:

Using Meditation to Dig Deep Into Character


Using relaxation and guided meditation, find a richer, deeper connection to your characters with the techniques method actors use to step into someone else’s skin.  Exercises will be followed by writing periods, and—time permitting—opportunities to share your work.  Writers should arrive with a character in mind and be ready to explore new territory with your character and your story. 

“The character meditation was the best thing about my weekend.”

NE SCBWI workshop attendee

“Laurie’s character meditation was a real breakthrough for me and my story. It opened up aspects of my character’s personality that I hadn’t considered before. Amazing stuff! This is a tool I plan to use often to deepen my characters and their stories.”

Rebecca Kraft Rector

“I recently attended Laurie Calkhoven's Character Meditation workshop where meditation was used to bring depth and richness to my main character and story. Guiding us to a place of calm through controlled breathing, Laurie led us to write about our character, providing various writing prompts. It was one of the most unique and helpful workshops I have ever attended and I have begun practicing meditation when my mind wanders everywhere but on my writing.”

Barbara Underhill, President, RACWI

Meditations for Writers and Illustrators

Whether you're brainstorming new ideas, searching for the heart of your story, trying to conjure up a scene, revising, or just getting to know your characters, meditation can help.

Deep breathing and guided meditation, followed by free writing sessions, will help you build a richer, deeper connection to your stories and your characters.

This workshop is available in a shortened version (45 to 90 minutes) for conferences, but the very best way to do this is in a full-day workshop that allows writers and illustrators ample time to meditate, write, and sketch.

“Laurie’s meditations provided exactly what I needed to discover new aspects of my main character, giving him stronger goals, motivation, AND a skill that saved his life! Her method also helped me connect to an unusual side of another character, which was a plot changer for a second book. “

Marnie Brooks

“Nobody could lead a workshop like this better than Laurie Calkhoven.  The experience for this writer was inspiring, soothing, non-threatening, and productive. What I learned will stay with me.  I would sign up again anytime!” – Robin Pulver

Scene Structure:

Key Elements in the Building Blocks of Your Story

The scene is the basic building block of any story, but what makes a great scene? 

Delve into the key elements that go into writing great scenes—stage setup, characters and their motives, large and small action, dialogue, and point of view—all working together toward an exciting scene climax. 

Examples are drawn from popular works of contemporary middle grade and YA fiction.

Digging Deeper:

Using Subtext to Add Depth to Your Stories

Subtext, the true meaning simmering underneath the surface, adds depth and layers of meaning to our stories. Often what’s missing in the text is the most important part—the motives, thoughts, emotions, and human truths that resonate with multiple meanings. Using examples from multiple popular works of fiction, we’ll look at the many ways to use subtext to add meaning beneath the words.

“What a character doesn’t say might just be the key to getting a scene, and a manuscript, to come to life.  Laurie Calkhoven’s session on subtext is a lucid exploration of the implied, the half-visible, and the unspoken. Vivid examples illustrate abstract concepts.  Well done!” – Karen Dowicz Haas, NJ SCBWI November 2014

“Laurie’s workshop on subtext provided tools and examples on how to add depth and meaning to stories. It was just what I needed to help me revise my manuscript.” – Pamela Brunskill

Plot Points and Key Scenes:

Using Screenwriting Techniques to Plot Your Novel

Drawing on the teachings of screenwriting gurus like Robert McKee and Sid Field, this workshop unravels the mysteries of the standard three-act dramatic structure employed by Hollywood’s best screenwriters.

From inciting incidents and plot points to the final twist in the climax, I draw on my own novels and popular books and movies as examples, including Where the Wild Things Are, The Hunger Games, Toy Story and E.T. to outline the classic plot structure that keeps readers turning the pages.

“The workshop has set me a clear path to follow when I revise (once again) my manuscripts.”

NJ SCBWI workshop attendee

For more information: