AUTHORS LAB: The Art and Craft of the Novel and Memoir

What is Authors Lab?

Charlotte Lit’s Authors Lab is an intensive one to three-year program that guides writers through the process of writing a full-length novel or memoir.

Authors Lab members join a community of dedicated writers, teachers, and mentors who support one another in the writing process while participating in structured programming designed to provide the skills necessary to write, revise, and prepare a full-length manuscript for publication. In addition to significant enhancement of craft skills, Authors Lab members develop the writerly habits and confidence essential for a lifelong writing practice.

The three main components of Authors Lab are craft classes, customized coaching, and a supportive cohort community. (Details on these can be found below.)

Applications for our new cohort open early this summer. Programming runs from September 2021 to August 2022. Writers may enter at any stage of the drafting process, from concept to completed first draft. Those starting from scratch can generally expect to stay in program for two years—occasionally longer. Those entering with a completed first draft can expect to finish an extensive rewrite in a single program year. Of course, many writers will enter somewhere in between, with a partial first draft, and finish somewhere in between, too. In short, Authors Lab membership is flexible according to individual goals and needs; members can commit to additional program years on an annual basis.

Entrance is competitive; we receive more applications each year than we have available spaces. An application, writing sample, and story summary are required for admission. (Application link and instructions available at the bottom of this page beginning June 1, 2021.)

What makes a strong application?

• A firm grasp of your chosen genre (writers are readers first).

• A strong story concept and an ability to summarize the basic story arc (understanding, of course, that the story arc may change during the drafting process).

• A well-crafted writing sample. (While we accept writers with a range of writing and publication experience, writing a full-length manuscript requires above average writing skills. Applicants should have previous craft class experience and completed at least one full-length short story or essay.)

If you want to apply to Authors Lab but need to learn more about the novel or memoir genres, test your story concept, or develop a short story or essay as a writing sample, consider registering for Charlotte Lit’s spring 2021 Novel Jumpstart or Memoir Jumpstart. As a bonus, we’ll waive the Author Lab application fee for students who complete either course.

PROGRAM COMPONENTS

Craft Classes: A deep dive into essential writing skills

  • Bi-Monthly Classes. The full cohort, which includes writers at all stages of the drafting process, meets at Charlotte Lit for intensive skills training, all day Saturday and Sunday, six times during the Lab year. (For the 2021-22 cohort year, a virtual attendance option will be available.) Class topics include essential skills for all writers, such as crafting effective dialogue, building story worlds, and showing and telling; genre-specific classes; and skills classes matched to one’s specific needs.
  • Generative Writing and Feedback. Most classes will include a generative component, so that writers can work on their books while building their skills. Writers will also submit work monthly and receive instructor feedback.
  • Electives. In addition to the cohort classes, Lab writers take four electives from Charlotte Lit’s public class calendar.

Customized Coaching: Personalized attention from the faculty

  • Program Leads.Throughout the year writers work with the Program Leads, first to understand and plan their book project, then to receive monthly feedback on their writing.
  • Mentors. Writers are matched with a mentor based on their genre and other factors. The mentor and writer meet six times during the year to discuss manuscript progress, brainstorm story possibilities, and collaborate on developing an effective writing practice.

Cohort Community: The heart of Authors Lab

  • Main Cohort. The cohort of up to 24 people take the book journey together, with guidance from faculty and mentors. Each writer faces the solitary task of putting words onto the page, but that job is easier (and more fun!) with a supportive community.
  • Sub-Cohort. Each writer is placed in a small subgroup—accountability partners, sounding boards, and feedback partners.
  • Socials. In addition to the monthly class meeting, the cohort also gathers for a series of working socials for additional craft lessons and sharing experiences.
  • Online Community. All writers are part of an online community, which includes discussion boards, class resources and recordings, Lab news, and more.
  • Group WritingCharlotte Lit hosts two weekly no-fee opportunities for writing in community—one two-hour writing “sprint” using the Pomodoro Technique and our one-hour Pen to Paper prompt-based session with optional sharing.
  • Open Studio. As a member of Charlotte Lit, Lab writers have access to our lovely and quiet writing studio in Plaza Midwood.

Authors Lab Faculty

Authors Lab faculty members teach classes, lead feedback sessions, and coach program writers. Program leads for our 2021-2022 cohort are Kathie Collins, Paul Reali, Megan Rich, and Kim Wright. You can read their bios on our Lit People page. More faculty will be announced soon.

Your Investment

Your investment has three parts:

  • Your time and energy. To be successful in Authors Lab, a writer must be dedicated to their writing and to their cohort. This means: writing consistently; attending at least five of the six weekend-long cohort gatherings; attending elective classes; meeting with the mentor and cohort accountability partners; and participating in the online community, an average investment of 7-10 hours per week.
  • Base fee. The base fee for 2021-22 is $225 per month. Developmental feedback—recommended after each draft is completed—is an additional $1,200 for the first 80,000 words.
  • Charlotte Lit membership. All Authors Lab participants must be Charlotte Lit members; options begin at $75/year (or $7/month).

Scholarships

Charlotte Lit has limited funds available for full and partial scholarships. You can make a preliminary application here. Writers making it to the final round may be asked for income verification in the form of IRS filings.

Questions?

Applications will open this summer for the cohort that begins in September. This page will have additional program details, and dates for information sessions, as they become available. In the meantime, program questions can be sent to authorslab (at) charlottelit.org.