Online Courses

MA in Writing Online Courses

The Johns Hopkins MA in Writing Program is now offering select fully online courses in addition to its onsite courses in Baltimore and Washington, DC.

For 24 years, the Johns Hopkins Masters of Arts in Writing Program has provided an intensive, nurturing environment with craft-based courses designed to improve your writing and drive you toward publication. Our students and alumni have published hundreds of books, plus thousands of short stories, essays, articles, poems, reviews, and other work, in hundreds of magazines, literary journals, and digital publications. With scores of local, regional and national awards, our graduates become authors, freelancers, and teachers, or they get jobs as editors and staff writers for digital and print magazines, journals, newspapers, and publishers.

Now, for the first time, the MA in Writing Program is offering a select number of fully online courses to supplement our thriving onsite program in Washington DC and at the main Homewood campus in Baltimore, MD. These fully online courses are taught asynchronously, so students may work at their own convenience.

Spring 2019 Online Course Offerings

490.765 Writing Children’s Books

Children have an insatiable appetite and need for stories. The books we create for them opens their minds to new ideas that are cherished and remembered forever. Writing for this audience is soulful, complex and deeply satisfying. This fully online course introduces stories for picture books, middle grade chapter books and young adult novels and challenges participants to write their own through discussion, sketching ideas and story development.

Instructor: Scott Nash

Scott Nash has illustrated over fifty children’s books, including Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stompand The Bugliest Bugby Carol Diggory Shields, Over The Moonby Rachel Vail, Snow Day!, Beach Day! and Rainy Day! by Patty Lakin, and Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. In 2004, Scott made his debut as an author/illustrator of  TUFF FLUFF, The Case of Duckies Missing Brain. His most recent novel is titled The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate.

In addition to designing identities for Nickelodeon, PBS, ABC, Comedy Central, FX and Corus Entertainment, Scott’s design clients include American Girl (Pleasant Company), Disney, Mattel, Microsoft, Milton Bradley and the Boston Children’s Museum. He has experience developing and producing animated properties for Disney, Nickelodeon and MTV as well as animated and live-action promo spots for Comedy Central, FX, and PBS. He has lectured widely and taught at Boston University, Northeastern University and The Art Institute of Boston and Maine College of Art where he established the Illustration Department. Currently, Scott is the Director of Illustration Institute.

490.767 Writing the Nonfiction Book Proposal

This fully online course is designed for writers who have a specific nonfiction book project in mind and are looking to secure an agent or publisher based on the well-drafted proposal. Students can be working on a book based on reporting, a memoir, or a collection of essays. In the course, students will draft, revise, and refine a 15-page proposal, will develop a chapter outline, and will write a sample chapter or two. Based on feedback from the instructor and fellow students, each writer will complete the course with a polished proposal based on publishing industry standards.

Instructor: Karen Houppert

Karen Houppert is the author of three nonfiction books, a contributor to five, and co-author of the Obie-award winning play Boys in the Basementbased on her trial coverage of a rape in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. A former staff writer for The Village Voice for nearly ten years, she has won several awards for her coverage, including a 1991 National Women’s Political Caucus Award for feature writing, a 2003 Newswomen’s Club of New York “Front Page Award,” a 2011 Council on Contemporary Families Media Award for Print, and 2015 and 2016 Maryland/DC/Delaware Press Association Award.

Houppert’s reporting has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The Washington Post Magazine, The New York Times, Newsday, Baltimore City Paper, The Nation, Slate, Salon, Mother Jones, The Village Voice, Ms, Glamour, Mademoiselle, Redbook, Self, and Parenting. Her books include The Curse: Confronting the Last Unmentionable Taboo: Menstruation; Home Fires Burning: Married to the Military—for Better or Worse and her most recent book, Chasing Gideon: The Elusive Quest for Poor People’s Justice, which was selected as one of the Top 10 Investigative books of 2013 by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

490.766 Completing the Novel

Many writers begin novels, but far fewer finish them, let alone have the manuscripts fully ready for a publisher’s consideration. This fully online class will help students move forward with their works. The class will focus on writing, revising, selling novels in general, as well as some workshop components. The “point of no return,” effective set pieces, quality dialogue and utilizing lessons from film and other art forms are a few of the class topics.

Instructor: Tim Wendel

Tim Wendel, Writer in Residence for the MA in Writing Program, is the author of 13 books, including Summer of ’68, and High Heat, which was an Editor’s Choice selection by the New York Times Book Review, and his most recent book, Cancer Crossing, a memoirHis fiction publications include the novels Castro’s Curveball, Red Rain, and the novella Habana Libre. His reporting and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, American Scholar, National Geographic Traveler, USA Weekend, Washingtonian, GQ, and Esquire. Wendel’s fiction has been published in Gargoyle, Stymieand Potomac Review. In addition, he regularly contributes to Huffington Post and USA Today’s op-ed page, and he co-wrote one of the 2005 finalists for the Good Morning America national memoir contest.

All online courses are asynchronous, so you may do the work on a schedule that works best for you. Our courses join workshop components with videos, readings, discussions, and lectures, and bring students together to form a community within an exciting online environment.

These three courses mark the beginning of a new online component for the Johns Hopkins MA in Writing Program. We plan to continue offering more fully online courses, and soon we’ll offer fully online certificates and even a full MA degree in fiction and nonfiction.

Summer 2019 Online Course Offerings

From Page to Screen: Adapting Your Novel (or Short Story or Memoir) for Film

While adaptations of literary works continue to rule the box office, providing an unparalleled opportunity for fresh, diverse voices to find a broader audience, the differences between writing for the page and for the screen remain vast and stark.  This fully online course, designed for writers looking to adapt their own work, will explore the unique challenges and requirements of visual storytelling and provide step-by step guidance for adapting pre-existing source material for film and TV.  Over the course of the semester, through discussions, readings, and writing assignments, students will learn the fundamentals of screenplay adaptation, from story development and structuring, to the nuts and bolts requirements of physical production, all the while putting that knowledge to practical use in the development, outlining, and commencement of the first draft of their own adaptation.

Arts & Culture Writing: Hot Takes and Debates

This workshop and reading elective is designed for writers who want to explore the ways in which arts writers both critique work and explore current events and ideas through the entertainments we consume. Artworks we’ll discuss and write about include dance and theater, film and television, literature and comic books, music, visual and performing arts, and emerging combinations of all of the above. Through readings and writing assignments students will learn how pop songs, Netflix series, or comic books can be a springboard for talking about politics, gender, or race in America while they’re being reviewed as potential wedding reception playlists, binge watches, or beach reads. Students will also explore how reporting on the arts can be a pathway for discussing economic development, urban policy, and public history.

You may apply for the MA degree in Fiction or Nonfiction, and mix online courses with onsite courses to complete the degree. Or, you may apply as a special, non-degree student to take one or more courses separately. (Should you enroll as a special student and later wish to switch to the degree program, all courses you’ve taken as a special student will count toward the degree.)

Before you can enroll in any of the online courses offered in Spring 2019, you’ll need to complete an application to the program. You can find information on applying here.

Registration for the Spring semester begins on November 1, 2018 and ends on January 13, 2019. Remember, you must submit an application to the MA in Writing Program before you can enroll in a course.

Contact Us

Contact MA in Writing Program director Mark Farrington with any questions.

What Our Graduates Say about the Johns Hopkins MA in Writing Program

Dave Housley, 2007 graduate, and author of Massive Cleansing Fire; Darkness Got to Give; If I Knew the Way I would Take You Home; Commercial Fiction; and Ryan Seacrest is Famous.

“I was thirty when I decided to find out if I could actually be a writer, and The Johns Hopkins MA in Writing Program gave me a chance to learn and grow in a structured and supportive environment, all while I was working full time as a  Web Manager for a large environmental nonprofit. I definitely wouldn’t be any kind of writer without that program and the space it gave me to figure out how to do both things at the same time, which is something I’m still doing now, twenty years later.”

Michelle Brafman, 2007 graduate, Writing Program faculty member, and author of Bertrand Courtand Washing the Dead.

“I applied to the Hopkins M.A. in Writing program because I lacked the proper tools to write the stories I desperately wanted to tell. Hopkins does an exceptional job of teaching technique. I’ve published two novels and now teach creative writing, and I still find myself perusing my old notebooks and assigned readings. My degree is the gift that keeps giving.”

Josh Rolnick, 2002 graduate, Writing Program faculty member, and author of Pulp and Paper, Winner of the Iowa Fiction Award.

“I was new to fiction writing when I applied to the Johns Hopkins Writing Program, with little knowledge of technique or the world of publishing. Hopkins demystified the process of writing, from the first words on a blank page through revision to submission for publication. The program’s focus on craft gave me the tools I needed to become a storyteller – including lessons on plot, structure, and voice that still resonate almost twenty years later. Being immersed in a community of talented, committed writers – reading each other’s work, exchanging feedback, engaging in lively discussions about contemporary authors – spurred my creativity like nothing else had, inspiring me to become an active literary citizen. Hopkins was my first step toward a career in writing, publishing, and teaching fiction. It’s really no stretch to say the Johns Hopkins Writing Program changed the course of my life.”

And from Mark Farrington, the director.

“Our focus in on craft. Our goal, to help you become a better writer.”

“Some writing programs receive hundreds of applications in a year and accept six students. We have a broader mandate. If we feel you have the skill and desire to do well in our program, we can accept you.”

“In fulltime writing programs, some students put their ‘real lives’ on hold for two years, and when they finish, they struggle to merge their writing lives with the rest of their lives. In our part-time program, students continue to work at their jobs, raise their children, tend to every part of their lives, while also taking classes and writing essays, stories, poems and books. When they finish, they have already learned how to make writing a part of their daily lives, so they can move smoothly forward as lifelong writers.”