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Enrolments now open for summer and fall 2024 classes & consultations

Summer Classes for Young People 2024 with Charlene Smith

Summer offers an opportunity to improve writing, whether essays, poetry, or fiction; prepare for competitions; start writing college essays; or learn speech writing for debates or presentations.
Most writing competitions open from September to March each year; some have minor prizes, while others offer college scholarships or substantial awards. To even be a runner-up in a writing competition is a solid attribute for college applications. My students tend to win or be placed in competitions. And those who complete my college essay classes tend to succeed in entering the college of their choice.
I also run private classes for adults and children during the summer.
Payment is due upon registration, please email for fee structure using the contact form on this site.Classes book up fast. Closing date is May 17.
July 6 – July 27: Saturdays 9am Zoom: Competition writing course for elementary and middle school students. Writing competition season is from September to March each year. There are fewer competitions for elementary and middle school students than for those in higher grades, but this course identifies them and gives students a choice. They can write poetry, fiction, or non-fiction. Pupils learn the techniques for penning a winning entry. My students tend to win or are highly placed in the competitions they enter. Winning or getting placed in a competition moves any private school or college applications up the list. 
July 6 – July 27: Saturdays 10am: Competition writing course for high schoolers. Most colleges no longer demand standardized test scores. What makes the difference is your college essay and any outstanding achievements in writing or literature. They are less keen on your sports or arts achievements (including music achievements unless you are the next Yo-Yo Ma). Winning or being placed in a writing competition makes it more likely that you will go to the top of the pile among applicants to your desired college.
Writing competition season runs from September to February or March each year. Entries for the well-loved Scholastica competition, for example, open in September, and so does the prestigious Bennington Award - prepare your story or poetry to enter one of these competitions in the short five-month window available. Work with a published, award-winning author to create or polish your best writing to potential competition winning status. 
Monday, July 8 & 15, 10am - noon:  Discovering Nature. This elementary-level in-person class meets in Needham. Here, the young writers – armed with pen, notebook, hats, and water will see what birds they can identify and anything interesting about the wetlands, lakes and nature. We often see eagles, owls, and perhaps, in the distance, a raccoon. Across a small bridge, we will find a large beaver nest and quietly watch in case we see these busy creatures working. On the first day, we will observe, and the following week, we will gather to write stories about what we saw. Stories can be fact or fiction, but they will include some of the creatures or sights seen. This is designed to explore all five senses in writing and experience and enhance description writing skills. 
Tuesday, July 9 – August 13: 6pm: Grades 7 to 8 can be challenging. Teachers demand more, homework increases and concepts can be puzzling, plus prepubescence creates hormonal confusion. Time management becomes critical and is taught in this course. There is an introduction to the classics, including the Greeks and Shakespeare. Brief writing will ensure that students feel more confident about essay writing. MLA is introduced and refined. Grammar and literary expectations are outlined. Your student will enter a higher grade with confidence. Tuesdays, July 9 to August 13. 6pm – 7pm.
Wednesday, July 5 – 31 (five classes, Zoom) – Grades 9 and 10. The gloves are off. These are often the most challenging grades for young people. Time pressures are acute. They often feel overburdened and anxious. They are expected to know an incredible amount of literary terms and similes, coupled with analyzing poems and plays, and scant previous preparation can feel overwhelming. Texts often range from Greek mythology to Shakespeare or 19th-century literature with often confusing words (to our modern eyes and ears). Or there may be contemporary literature, fact or fiction, that contains challenging issues many young people have never faced. Some students may also now be preparing for standardized tests. This course is designed to cover all these areas. Students are encouraged to write ahead of these classes to ask for emphasis on subjects that are challenging them, and they will be incorporated into these helpful modules – 75-minute lessons. 
Thursday, July 4 – August 8:
5.30pm: Perfecting essay writing: Writing a good essay, whether for science, history, English, or any other topic, can boost grades or see them plummet.  Essay writing is a life-long skill that a student will use in college and the workplace, whether writing reports or researching. This course takes students through essay structure and how to write an interesting essay that exceeds the often dull rote standards of school instruction and ChatGPT (yes, we address that, too). This course helps students master MLA – the standard expected in schools and colleges. Learn how to create powerful opening and closing sentences, the importance of clever topic sentences – and how to develop them, thesis statements, good transitions, impactful arguments, and ideal research techniques. We'll touch on how essay writing at school differs from the demands you will face in college. This course will help you craft A+ essays.  Thursdays. July 14 – August 11, 5.30pm – 6.30pm. 


Thursday July 11 – August 15 - Zoom
6.30pm – 7.30pm: Journalism. The art of journalism is about perfecting simplicity in writing, truth-telling (which means excellent research techniques), courage (it is not always easy to speak truth to power, or even to go an interview the mailman about what he has learned in his work, so courage = confidence, especially if you don't feel you have it). Journalists need to be well organized and be able to write about complex subjects fast and within tight word counts, eg. discussing a war in 700-800 words. Long-form journalism, in good magazines, however, can be as many as 5,000 words or more. I share my long experience in journalism: print, radio, television documentaries, and the internet, and in fields as diverse as politics, investigations, health, and economics to help you write and research better. In this course, you will be expected to research and write something for either your school newspaper or magazine or a commercial publication. It will definitely take you out of your 'comfort zone' (to use an awful cliché), but there is no thrill better than seeing your name in print.
Friday, July 5 to August 9, 5.30pm – 6.30pm: How the Greeks influenced Shakespeare. Schools now teach Shakespeare and the great Greek playwrights (Homer, Sophocles, etc.) in Grade 7. There are ways to decipher and discover the Greeks and Shakespeare that make understanding them far easier. This module looks at ways to translate these scripts into modern language and suggests movies and videos that help you better understand them – it is important to remember that the Greek playwrights and Shakespeare were writing for mostly non-literate audiences, so their works are better understood in performance. We will learn about Greek life at the time of the writing of the plays you will study at school, as well as life in Medieval England. We will translate texts, understand the motives of some key figures you will learn about, and write a sonnet or a brief play. This course will guarantee high grades for these modules at school. Suitable for students from Grade 6 – Grade 9. A more advanced course can be created for higher grades upon request.

Fall 2024 Writing Classes for School Children with Charlene Smith

Classes start on  Tuesday, September 3 (the day after Labor Day) and end on Sunday December 15.
There are no classes on the following public holidays: Veterans day, November 11, and Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 28, 2024.
Fees are available upon request using the contact form on this site, please remember to include your name and place of residence/work.

All classes are on Zoom unless by special arrangement. 
Please register by May 15, 2024. Payment due by June 5, 2024

If the student is prepping for standardized tests, a special assignment (eg. a project) or private school admission let me know when you register so I can design classes to suit the student's needs. This can be done even if the student is in a group class because it will be done in a way to benefit all.
Monday - 4.10pm Grades 3 and 4
Tuesday – 4.10pm Grades 5 and 6
Wednesday - 5.15 pm Grades 7 and 8
Thursday – 6.15pm Grades 9 and 10
Friday – 5.15pm Grades 11 and 13
Friday - 6.15 pm Grades 7 and 8
Saturday, Jan 6:  10am: Higher Grade English Writing and Literature
11am: College prep – what to expect, college tours, college essays. There is a separate fee structure for this, it is $70 per student in a group class. College essays are exceptionally challenging and unlike any essay most students have previously done. By the end of the semester students should have more than one excellent 650-word college essay, two 250-word essays, and one 150-word essay (Harvard).

What to expect from book editing or writing coaching

Helping writers clear the mists

I am a developmental book editor and writing coach. I help authors navigate the writing and publication process. Behind many of the best books you read are editors and coaches like me, who gently aid writers, not all of whom are on their first book. Some of my clients have written multiple books. Often, I am approached by authors who are in the early stages of writing, they have written 20,000 to 30,000 words and are now stuck. They are unsure how to complete the book. On occasion, the author is not certain how to begin; he or she may have done some research, but the opening lines or structure of the book evades them.

First steps
The client and I discuss his or her project by email, ia Zoom so that I get a sense of his or her vision. We discuss options for progress.  I edit existing copy, and that gives a sense of gaps and opportunities in the work.
A developmental editor checks and corrects grammar and punctuation. I also identify where you may need to clarify something,ne or individual, add context or research, or restructure a paragraph, scene, page, or chapter layout. I guide you through your research. The rate of progress depends on how much time you can devote to the project.

Getting published
Once you have completed the manuscript or are in the final throes, I give advice - if needed - on the book proposal (if this is a work of non-fiction), query letters to agents or publishers, or aid you through the self-publishing process. We discuss ideas about marketing and distribution, this will determine how many copies of the book you sell. When I first started writing books, authors were feted by publishers who took care of the marketing and distribution. Today, with fewer independent publishers and even big publishers with fewer staff, it is imperative for a writer to think of the marketing and sale of their book almost from the time they first put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. 

What's Next
Books I have aided with this year and that are due for publication over the next two to three years, dependent on publisher schedules, include a remarkable witty business memoir; a wildlife adventure in southern Africa; an author who used trauma to create inspiration; a composer and his journey to break through cultural barriers and become a famous musical talent; a work of historical fiction inspired by a literary classic; a judge and what working in the judicial system taught him about people and the ways in which the law needs to change to better serve them. 
 Contracting Me

I love meeting with new clients. There is a low fee for the brief initial meeting, although most clients are referred to me by past clients, and we get straight down to coaching and/or developmental editing. Please use the contact form on this site, remember to sign your name, and give brief details of the project and how far you have progressed.

Book Coaching and Editing

Writing a book is challenging. Many inexperienced writers start a book and in a short time write 40 or 60 pages - and then freeze: what next? 

      I help you to get over those hurdles, plan your book, and guide you through the process, all the while editing and helping you out of those dark places when inspiration flees.


    If you have a manuscript ready for an agent or publisher, I am happy to edit the document - I am a developmental editor so may make suggestions to enhance the text. I will also ensure facts are correct - and will give ideas of how to write a pitch or query letter, or how to self publish, if desired.

    My writers include Ivy League deans and academics (I am Boston-based). They include folk on four continents and in a wide range of fields, whether judges, nuclear engineers, medical specialists, pastors, journalists, architects, and more. Their books have included non-fiction and fiction, ranging from memoir to historical novel; travel to crime writing; novels for second language speakers; educational or academic books; and more.

     My rates are competitive, and confidentiality is assured.


Liz Magill signing the book contract with Joanna Bradley of Upper Room Books

Pastor Liz Magill took an online course with me to turn her thesis into a book. This is not easy because a thesis is written in academic jargon. A book for the commercial market needs to be written in an enjoyable reading style.
I came up with a working title: Five Loaves, Two Fishes, Twelve Volunteers, which was accepted by the publishers.

Liz Magill's book is about food kitchens and feeding programs run by churches.
By the end of the course, we had three chapters ready for submission to a publisher or agent.
 I helped Liz with a query letter and book proposal to take to a publishing conference to help her pitch to agents and publishers.
She succeeded! This is her signing a book contact with Upper Room Books.


Mandela: In Celebration of a Great Life by Charlene Smith (Random House)


With a bear on Lightning Mountain, New Hampshire, March 2013.

Don't Feed the Bears (see link below), The Boston Globe Magazine. 

"We underestimate the ability of wild animals and humans to get along,' says New Hampshire environmentalist David L. Eastman. 'But getting along also requires humans to behave.'"

On November 26, Charlene Smith was invited to speak on the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Some 350 guests arrived, and a book-signing took place afterward.

Interviewing Nelson Mandela on the third day of his release, and first day back in Soweto

A referee wrote, “Charlene Smith is a powerful, highly skilled and experienced journalist, author and communications professional. She is adept at finding the right channels for messages. She has immense patience and love for people – no-one is unimportant or undeserving of her time or mentoring.”
As a journalist, author, authorized biographer of Nelson Mandela, and ghostwriter, I have been privileged to witness the best in the great and had the time to ponder their flaws. I am struck by the fact that humility and a true love of people is the mark of greatness.
Journalists are the first writers of history and so our responsibility to truth-telling and fairness is eternal.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, I reported on anti-apartheid resistance and economics in South Africa. In Japan and Argentina, I reported on politics and economics. Publications I have worked for include the Los Angeles Times, Independent, Guardian, Washington Post, Le Monde, and others. As a television documentary maker I worked with Tony Burman at Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Ted Koppel at ABC Nightline, and Ed Bradley and Anderson Cooper at CBS 60 Minutes, and others.