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Our characters are the heart of our stories. Getting to know them can spark your desire to get your story going. Make them rich and believable and they’ll stay with your readers long after they’ve finished reading. We’ll build a character profile, try exercises to help you see your characters in unique ways, and tap into their deepest secrets—useful tools for developing your protagonist and creating a multi-dimensional supporting cast.
Stephanie Kuehnert is the author of two young adult novels, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone and Ballads of Suburbia, and she has a young adult memoir forthcoming from Dutton in 2017. Stephanie has also been a contributing writer to Rookie, an online magazine for teenage girls, since its inception in 2011. She received her MFA from Columbia College Chicago in 2006 and has been teaching since 2009. She’s taught general Fiction Writing courses, classes that focus on character, and Young Adult Fiction courses to teenagers, undergraduates, graduates, and working professionals both in person and online at a variety of institutions including Columbia College Chicago, StoryStudio Chicago, MediaBistro, Hugo House, and Seattle University.
Teaching philosophy: I believe that learning to write is a never-ending process (and this is why I take classes at Hugo House too!). I strive to help my students build their writerly toolbox by providing helpful exercises and ways to look at storytelling that they can continually revisit. All of my classes include a generative component and a focus on craft. In workshops, I aim to create an environment that is positive and productive and helps each student zero in both on what needs work and what already is working.
Writers I always return to: Francesca Lia Block, Melissa Marr, Libba Bray, JK Rowling, John Steinbeck, and Louise Erdrich
Favorite writing advice: Let reading be your greatest teacher. Study the books you love, examine them at a craft level, and use what you learn. Also: Butt. In. Chair. Fingers. On. Keyboard. Do what you need to do to finish your draft. There is no one magical routine, but you know what works for you—do it!
Past Student Feedback:
“I loved Stephanie's year-long class. Stephanie is smart and organized, all-around supportive, and a great mentor. She was always open to new ideas, considered everyone equals, and was encouraging of all discussion, never shying away from emotion. Very inclusive. She has a unique view of the world, and that perspective seems to put everyone at ease. She's a kind and funny person with a good sense of humor, but also gave honest and valuable critique. I learned a lot quickly, and also felt like there was time for questions and building community. Great experience!”
“Stephanie is the kind of teacher who uses positive, thoughtful feedback to tease the best stuff from writers in her classes. On the other hand, she's not shy about giving exercises that stretch us out of our zones of comfort, including identifying (and pushing) our story's main idea and diagramming our entire book (drawings optional) before we've even finished chapter four. She's organized and prepared. She really knows her stuff, which gives her students confidence in her.”
“Stephanie is an inspired teacher with a gift for bringing out the best in her students. She is always well prepared to discuss every angle of the writing process and brings a tremendous amount of energy to each class. Stephanie is extremely supportive and engages with her students’ work, always finding positive ways to help. I was constantly amazed at how meticulously she read each student’s work and gave constructive feedback. Her enthusiasm and passion for the craft of writing is contagious.”
“Stephanie Kuehnert is an awesome, talented combination of teacher and facilitator. At the start of our yearlong YA fiction writing class, she provided the class with a well-organized syllabus and suggested reading list. After each class, we received class notes in email form which proved useful both for people who missed class and for those in attendance. She also provided us with in-class writing exercises and handouts that I continue to reference. Along with being very knowledgeable about the craft of writing, Stephanie is also skilled in the art of critique. She provided helpful feedback on my writing, both in written and verbal form, offering encouragement and suggesting areas that could be changed to make my writing stronger. During in-class critiques, she would start the class off by providing her own, brief feedback on a student's work, and would then open the discussion up to the class. While she allowed the discussion to flow organically, she kept it respectful and on topic, which was appreciated. She also kept the class on schedule, both in regards to the syllabus and to the individual classes, which is no easy feat. I found Stephanie's YA fiction writing class to be the best writing class I've ever taken (and I've got a BA in Creative Writing). Not only did I learn countless writing techniques and tips to add to my writer's toolbox, but through her encouragement, I have started querying my novel with literary agents. I greatly respect Stephanie as a teacher, a writer and an all-around supporter of the writing community.”