From Notebook to New Work

Discover how a writer’s journal can revitalize your writing practice

Use your writer's notebook to recharge your writing. Explore descriptive language, scene building, character, and conflict. Then transform your notebook sketches into the core of a story, novel, personal essay, or memoir. Gain professional feedback each unit. Option 1 includes five writing assignments and two revisions; Option 2 includes four assignments and four revisions, plus a 2,000-word critique.

At a glance

What: From Notebook to New Work

When: Start anytime, complete within 1 year

Where: Online

Cost: Option 1: 1.0 CEUs, $150 | Option 2: 2.0 CEUs, $175

Instructor: Angela Rydell

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For additional information, contact Christine DeSmet: 608-262-3447

Writer’s journals aren’t diaries. They have one goal — to keep you writing good work. Countless writers have used notebooks to strengthen their prose skills, maintain solid writing habits, and let their imaginations roam wild. In this workshop, explore how to customize your own notebook. Find a satisfying balance between playful experimentation and rigorous craft. Come away with sharpened storytelling skills and a notebook full of ideas to get you writing and keep you writing.

Who this course is for

  • Novelists, memoirists, short story, or personal essay writers who want to use the structure of a journal to take story ideas from seed to budding draft to cultivated new work
  • Journalers looking to introduce creative writing craft tools into their notebooks
  • Beginning and intermediate writers who enjoy the rigor of craft exercises designed to strengthen skill with storytelling
  • Fiction and nonfiction writers* looking for techniques to spark ideas, generate material, and help ensure the wellspring doesn't run dry

*If you’re a poet and want to use a journal to help strengthen your skills, consider Taking the Poetic Leap, which has a writer’s journal section in each unit.

What we cover in this course

Get one-to-one feedback from an experienced writing coach guiding you through five units. In each, you’ll explore essential craft techniques of good prose.

  • Collecting Details: Observation and Scene
  • Focusing Ideas: Memory and Theme
  • Developing Characters: Desire and Dialogue
  • Creating Conflict: Tension and Plot
  • Crafting New Work: Drafting and Revising

The units lead you step-by-step through writing prompts, craft tips, helpful links, as well as sample notebook and new work excerpts. You’ll use your notebook to warm-up, experiment, draft, revise, and generate new work. Course assets include:

  • Tricks for gathering material so you’ll never run out of ideas to write about.
  • Freewriting techniques to help you outrun the inner critic.
  • Tangible techniques to get you started and keep your pen moving.
  • Tips for writing tight.
  • Self-editing skills.
  • A generous dose of exercises that stimulate imagination and introduce craft, including how to dazzle with image, breathe life into a scene, fuse character and setting, and focus point of view.
  • Triggers to explore memories for buried treasures and uncover a goldmine of subjects.
  • Wise quotes by established writers.
  • Writer checklists to review key points.

How the course works

You’ll end each unit by writing and submitting a short sketch and trying out your new skills. Via email, you’ll receive a written critique of your submission, explaining craft techniques you've mastered and those you can improve. For Option 1, you’ll work on a short craft sketch for each unit and build skill with revision techniques (submitting revisions for units 3 & 4). For Option 2, upon completing one short sketch and revision in each of the first four units, you’ll submit 2000 words of a story, personal essay, or opening to a novel or memoir for Unit 5.

There are no deadlines. Enjoy the leisurely pace of journaling and submit work for each unit whenever you’re ready. You have a full year to complete the course.

Whether you simply journal, or write fiction or creative nonfiction, the course is designed to walk you through new techniques to help spark and expand ideas you’ll write about today, tomorrow, and in the years to come. 

Contact: For more information about From Notebook to New Work, contact Christine Desmet at or call 608-262-3447.