Institute of Children's Literature

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DragonTears

Hi all, I was wondering if any of you have gone through them and if so, what was your experience like, what ways did they help you, etc... I am contemplating on enrolling but would like some input from others who have already gone through the course.

Thanks and happy writing!
 
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Fern

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I'd also be interested to hear others experience with them. They made me a little angry when I submitted an application several years ago. Their response was that I had aptitude for writing for children and the course was going to be something like $700. As it happened funds were tight and I couldn't manage that, so I didn't respond. I began getting letters from them every so often, encouraging me to enroll in a course. Then they tried a new tack. . .a letter saying something to the effect that I must not be serious about writing or I would go for the opportunity. Followed that up a short time later with a letter telling me they were offering the course to me at about half the price.

Of course, I know it was a sales tactic, but it really irritated me. Later on I was reading writer's guidelines to a magazine and one of the comments was something like . . ..the worst thing you can tell me is you are submitting your article as your assignment from Children's Institute.

So, as far as their courses and those teaching them, I can't say. They turned me off long before I got that far.
 

Trapped in amber

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Fern said:
I began getting letters from them every so often, encouraging me to enroll in a course. Then they tried a new tack. . .a letter saying something to the effect that I must not be serious about writing or I would go for the opportunity. Followed that up a short time later with a letter telling me they were offering the course to me at about half the price.

Of course, I know it was a sales tactic, but it really irritated me. Later on I was reading writer's guidelines to a magazine and one of the comments was something like . . ..the worst thing you can tell me is you are submitting your article as your assignment from Children's Institute.

Those sound like pretty big warning signs to me. Trying to belittle your ambition as a writer if you don't want to enrol with them is disrespectful and ridiculous.
 

Inspired

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Not a scam. Take it back.

Christine,

Where?? I've never heard anything bad about ICL, and I just did a search here. Not a bad word about them.

Please show me where they are mentioned.

(I just tried to post an extensive response, but it didn't take, apparently.)

I will post again.

But, please - ICL is definitely not a scam!
 

Fern

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I just wanted to add that even though I didn't care for their tactics, they do seem to have been around for a very long time.
 

Inspired

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ICL is the real thing. It's good.

I'm an ICL student and it's worth every penny. If I had to pay for the amount of resources, time and attention I'm getting from my instructor, I'd never be able to afford it. They do have a payment plan, if you like, but it costs less than the big conferences I've recently looked into - and lasts for much longer than a weekend!

I suggest you go to their website, and look around on the web, like I did. There are very few people that haven't loved the course. If you're already a great writer, then you will find it a bit beneath you. But, if you're a newbie and want to break into kid's magazine writing - it fits the bill.

Does this really look like it demeans writers? http://www.institutechildrenslit.com/rx/index.shtml

Would a fraudulent business put out a high quality children's writing publication?
http://www.childrenswriter.com/

Here are some official credentials: http://www.institutechildlit.com/credentials.htm


Can you write without taking the course? Certainly! (But I know one children's book author who said the course took years off her learning curve!)

Do some people say it's not worth it. I've only heard of one. She was a good writer going into it and didn't have an instructor that fit her very well. Most people are newer to writing (have lots to learn) and get a good match with their chosen instructor. If you don't, all you have to do is contact Student Services. They will find someone who fits your style and needs better.

I've seen lots of people go from insecure newbie, to excited magazine writer, to confident book writer - because of that course.

Obviously, I like it a lot.

I can't imagine it being called a scam. No way.
 

Inspired

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Fern said:
I just wanted to add that even though I didn't care for their tactics, they do seem to have been around for a very long time.

They are a business, so I understand that part of it.

I think their print ads are a little - I don't know - scammish looking. I wish they would make them appear more professional.
 

Katiba

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I'm not a student at ICL, but I know several people who are, and they think it's fantastic. And isn't a scam when a company promises something and doesn't deliver? From what I understand, ICL doesn't promise to sell your writing, they offer courses which will help you improve your writing - basically the same as any other educational institution. Even Harvard doesn't promise you a job at the end of your degree! (And they charge a lot more than ICL.)

It sounds like their marketing tactics may be a little agressive - but that's a different issue. Many legitimate businesses have annoying or agressive marketing tactics. Just look at any ad on TV, or the daily credit card offers that land in everyone's mailboxes. To figure out if it's a scam, the question should be: Do they actually give me what they say they will in exchange for my fees? And from what I understand, they do. That makes them legit, at least in my opinion.
 

Inspired

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Thanks Christine!

I'm glad you were mistaken. You gave me quite a worry.

I don't want to wrongly label a good thing.
 

pammiechick

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ICL is fine

the worst thing you can tell me is you are submitting your article as your assignment from Children's Institute.

Yes, this is not a very professional thing to say anyway. You don't want a magazine to think you didn't craft your story or article just for them. It sounds as if you are giving them "an assignment". It has nothing to do with the credibility of ICL.

ICL is what got me started and I definitely recommend it to anyone just starting out. You can read more about my opinion on my website (scroll down for ICL, but I also recommend another class as well--don't miss it!):

http://pamcalvert.com/for_children_s_writers
 

DragonTears

Thanks! Decision Made!

Thank you everyone for the valuable input! Ever since I had submitted my 'test' to them, and received a raving letter in return about the short story I wrote, I began getting excited about the opportunity, but wasn't 1000% sure yet. You can never be too careful on who you decide to give money to for services. But with input like yours, the decision is final. One of the ladies there actually called me a few nights ago and again insisted that I have extremely high potential for success as a children's writer based on my short story and really would like to see me enroll, but that of course the choice would be up to me. She then also stated that I could have them extend their $25 off discount so that I could partake of the payment plan when I was financially able to (in about 3 weeks or less) instead of trying to push me into it. She sounded really pleasant as well. Since I am just starting to work FT again for the first time in about a year, I have to get bills caught up, THEN can enroll, but seeing as how that will not be far down the road, I can honestly say that I am looking forward to this with great anticipation!

Thanks everyone for the input!
 

Tish Davidson

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DragonTears said:
Thank you everyone for the valuable input! Ever since I had submitted my 'test' to them, and received a raving letter in return about the short story I wrote!

But do they ever turn anyone down based on the "test" or is it like those photography/modeling agencies that tell everyone their baby has potential to be a model or be on TV and needs a portfolio?
 

Inspired

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Tish,

From what I've heard they do use that test to "weed out" those who have very little potential. They can work with people quite a bit, so I doubt they turn many away. But, it would be a pain to try to teach someone basic spelling and grammar when you're supposed to help them become publishable.

I do know of people who've had to rewrite and resubmit lessons to their instructor, because they needed quite a bit of improvement. I don't think it happens very often, but they do try to maintain a certain standard.
 

dawn

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I've heard good things about ICL, but I've always been rather suspicous of their "test". I'm fairly sure anyone that takes it will pass. I think this because I took and "passed" the test when I was 12 (I'm 31 now) and then was hassled for about six months by them via mail. I finally scrawled "I'm only 12!" on a piece of paper and returned it in one of their envelopes. They left me alone after that.
 

CalicoBean

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I'm sure it's difficult to fail the test, but regardless, the ICL offers a good course. I took it back in 1998 when I was a complete newbie (which I think is the best time to take it), and I learned quite a lot, including how to discipline myself to writing almost daily. The textbooks are good (at least they were in 98). Also good are the assignments, the feedback, and most especially for me, the deadlines!

I have heard that ICL instructors are told to make at least two postive comments on each assignment. I have no idea if this is true, though I did receive positive as well as constructive feedback on each piece I submitted. If it is true, I don't think it's such a bad thing. Newbies need a little encouragement along with the criticism. :Sun:
 

NatashaFX

Note: Everyone passes their test! That's a sign right there. I entered the art one and the story one when I was a teen and got the "invite" to join. I couldn't draw then and still can't. Writing wasn't all that bad but at 15, how good could it have been. It's taken me years to perfect the craft and I'm still learning. I wouldn't waste the money. It's better to take a class from a local writer/teacher who has a proven track record. At least that way you have an opportunity to network and possibly get a referral for an agent etc. Doing it through the mail should send up "red flags". This is just my opinion and my experience.

Good luck.

Natasha
www.NatashaFX.com
 

Inspired

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Natasha,

All the teachers at ICL do pass the test of experience. They've all published numerous times. The course is good.

It has the appearance of being lower quality, but it's not. It is for newbies, though, not for advanced writers.

I don't think it's related to the drawing course, is it?
 

Brainerd T.

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I don't necessarily want to diss them, but I am a graduate of their writing course.

They are a business. They sell to the masses. They give you a sense of security while providing any real sense of achievement. Everyone passes the entrance exam. That is a signal right there.

I wanted to improve my writing skills. At the point I took their course, I was having a hard time financially. They did work with me. It took almost three years to pay them. They were ready to sue me. I answered their threatning letters tit for tat. I didn't want to profit from them, so I deliberately didn't finish the course until I paid for it.

The content was, well...... There is no such thing as a grade. You do the assignments. That's it. You pass. The critiques that were given to me, I said "Good grief. I knew that", but I let it slip.

They offer good advice, but the knowledge you could gain from a forum such as this is, in my opinion, just as good.

As I said, I don't mean to diss them, but think about it. A lot of money, a lot of advice. Do the assignments, and no matter how bad your writing is, you pass the course. There is no struggle to get a grade good enough to "earn" a grade. You just pass or quit. I was (am not) a quitter. I signed my name and I wanted to get what I paid for. They were willing to sue me even if I didn't finish the course.

I think any good Writer's Digest course, or even a Physical writer's Group (if you can find one) gives one all kinds of knowledge. I advocate reading everything in these forums. There's enough education here for anyone who's willing to soak it up.

However, they do deliver what they say they will. A course on writing. Myself, I didn't really learn that much, but I did learn. (somewhat)

But if money is tight, remember, it is a legally binding contract. They will sue.
 

Inspired

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That's interesting. (I mean it - not sarcastically.)

They have a "if you're not satisfied . . ." clause. Didn't that work? Yes, you pass, just like any other course - unless you want the college credit. But, I think if you go into it with little writing experience you learn a lot.

It sounds to me like you really knew more than the average person (me) who wants to write but doesn't know how to get started.

Didn't your instructor help you at all? The individual feedback I get is worth it. I don't have other places where I can get my pieces line-edited and lots of advice without paying.

I've heard of others dropping out of the course and picking it up years later without any problems.

Like you said, they are a business. So, some people are likely to get more or less out of it than others. And, yet they all have to pay the same amount.

I hope you've taken your experience and gotten a lot published. It sounds like you can do it without help.

(I don't mean to look like the ICL spokesperson here, but I do want to address the issues.)
 

Brainerd T.

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As I said, I don't mean to diss them. I had a good instructor. She did give me many insights. I don't fault them for anything. All I'm saying is "Keep your eyes open" and "If you want to learn something bad enough, there are resources under your nose you never dreamed of".

I have never been published. It is my fault. Being published is harder than writing. I'd rather write. It's what I do. It's part of me. Marketing is not. I write for the joy of it. My "pay" for 45+ years has been the smiles, the thank you's.

I've only recently tried to do something about the accumulation. It is truly overwhelming. I've never written TO the market. Marketing is very intimidating. It takes me all day to find the "perfect" market. Then, when I find it and submit, it's the perfect "wrong" market. (Examples: I submit a childrens piece, but they don't want any violence. Or I submit to children's but they don't want poetry)

I've written TO the person, usually myself. And people love it. Even ICL did.

What's important is that people get the help they need. Some people feel better by spending money. Some feel better by having a personal tutor.
 

lauram

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dawn said:
I finally scrawled "I'm only 12!" on a piece of paper and returned it in one of their envelopes. They left me alone after that.

:) That's pretty funny. I had the same suspicions though, because I took it when I was around 14-15 years old and passed.

I have toyed with the idea of signing up recently though. How much is the course?
 

cwgranny

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Good Morning,

I have written courses and worked for the Institute.

#1. They are not connected, IN ANY WAY, with the "draw bambi" art school. Different folks. No relation.

#2. Folks do fail the test. I happen to know without a doubt that they do. Also, if someone should be coached through the test but cannot write or isn't getting anything from the course, the instructor is told to tell the Institute and the Institute refunds the student's money. It happens. I've done it to students who weren't getting anything because they (1) couldn't or (2) wouldn't. I haven't done it often because the test does weed out folks can't handle the course pretty well.

#3. I honestly cannot imagine the Institute suing anyone since I know -- for a fact -- that the money back promise is real. If you didn't want to pay you could have complained about the quality of the course (clearly you had a chuck load of complaints) and you NOT ONLY would not have had to pay, you would have been given your money back. Naturally there is a time limit to when this can happen after you've finished the course but I know -- for a fact -- that they have refunded money; there's no excuse for paying if you hated the course so much.

#4 I know -- for a fact -- that if you don't like your instructor and he/she is telling you stuff you already know and doesn't seem to be helpful, you can have a new instructor. Zip. Just like that. No pain, no strain. No one breaks the instructor's legs or anything. I've had students ask for a new instructor (some folks don't like actually being told what's wrong and what they need to change to be published -- they wanted an instructor who said more good things than corrective things and they told the institute that. The institute gave them what they wanted -- they couldn't get college credit, of course, but the Institute wanted them to complete the course with joy, and some folks don't care about college credit.) So there is NO EXCUSE for having an instructor you don't get anything from. Not every two people mesh, but the key is to be proactive, not to sit through the whole course with an instructor who isn't helping you or giving you what you wanted. If you wanted a "tougher" instructor -- we're out there and the Institute would have happily given you one.

#5. The course doesn't give grades or passes or whatever. It's not high school. It's designed to improve your writing -- period. The students in the magazine course I teach, you only get a diploma if you produce work that I believe could get published. I have a lot of experience in magazines so if I believe it can get published -- it can. If it's obvious a student is not going to get to that publishable place -- I tell the Institute and they give back the student's money. That doesn't happen often -- it's very rare. My students work very hard and I'm very corrective. I only have 8 lessons to get them up to publication level so I don't mess around. But they have to put into it to get success. They must be proactive. Passive people aren't going to be happy in the course.

#6. I took the Writer's Digest course not long ago because someone else paid for it for me. If the class of students wasn't unhappy, they are an incredibly tolerant bunch because there was NOTHING, ZERO, ZIP, NADDA about improving their work for publication. The concept of publication wasn't brought up at ALL. And some of the folks were producing work that was not going to sell in today's market but the instructor NEVER ONCE told them that -- she looked only at things like grammar and minor writing style points. I expect some of the folks may have seen some improvement but if ANYONE was ready to be published at the end, it was because they were ready to be published at the beginning. And ALL, every single bit of the set instruction was cut and pasted from writing books readily available from any bookstore. So you were paying for that critique from the instructor -- and it wasn't cheap.

#7. Now having said all that. I would not have taken the Institute course in my early years. The marketing grossed me out. And it was expensive. And I was poor. So I got published the old fashioned way -- I collected rejection slips until I figured it out on my own. This was not a quick process but I'm pretty proud of it. I do know of multi-published authors (Verla Kay, for one) who took the Institute course and says it shaved years off the publication process. That's cool. Those years were already spent for me before I learned the nasty ICL marketing wasn't reflective of the course itself.

But out of all the ICL graduates I've heard online -- probably in excess of three dozen -- I have heard exactly two complaints. Both would have been solved with a change of instructor. In other words, both would have been solved by taking advantage of the options in place to prevent unhappiness, but the two people didn't want to 'make waves' or some such. Or maybe they just didn't know and didn't feel like calling the 800 number for the Institute to find out what they could do about being unhappy. So they decided to stick with it, be unhappy, and have something to grumble about. The Institute doesn't want unhappy students and they would RATHER have given you back your money. They gave it to other folks. So basically you screwed yourself out of all that money back...sounds like it wasn't the Institute you should be mad at.

As an ex-student, you can call the Institute and schedule a visit if you're ever up in CT. I know they'll be happy to show proof of the things you doubt -- like students who complained and got instructors who suited them better, students who didn't pass the test, and students who got their money back. They are serious about helping you be comfortable with what you got and understand what you're talking about.

gran
 

Brainerd T.

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cwgranny

It sounds as if your missive was directed at me. I think you misunderstand. I was never mad at anyone. I was never unhappy. However, I've been "taken" enough times that I was skeptical from the beginning.

The Institute always praised my work. At that point (early 1980), I had been writing for 30 years, but I had never shown it to anyone except a few friends.

I know what false praise is. I was sold a Sales Training Course in the 1970's because they told me my test scores showed I was "One point below genius". I didn't become ecstatic, I became skeptical. I don't doubt my thinking ability, but I do doubt "One point below genius". It was a sales gimmick. They wantd my thousand dolars. (In 1970 this was a LOT of money) Therefore, when the Institute kept praising my work at every turn, I thought it was just mere marketing.

Let me explain from another angle. My High School grades were always D-. (I had a horrible teenage years. I always took books home, but was never able to open them, so every grade I got was honest, but was based on what I remembered in class. My "daily homework", if not done in class, always drug my grade down.)

On my writing alone, although I loved doing it, and had done it privately for years, I never got above a C in class. That was if I was able to get it done in class. The work I was most proud of only earned a C in High School. (There were a couple that got an A in Junior High at another school).

I was not used to having my work praised. In my own mind, I wasn't that good. That's it. Maybe the institute was right. Maybe I was that good. Maybe the Sales Training class was right. Maybe I was "One point below genius". But given my background, wouldn't you be skeptical?

As I mentioned previously, I never intended to diss the Institute. Not at all. I did get things out of it. I was not unhappy. I was not mad. I had an ongoing feud with them about paying for the course because I was broke, but that is another issue.

What I posted about ICL was simply a "beware" sign. Know what you're doing before you do it. Check it (or anything) out so that you don't get burned. Any business has unhappy customers. You have to expect that. But what about the overall reputation? Check with the Better Business Bureau. Do a little homework before you put out a lot of money. I was very naive, and I didn't check out either one of the schools.

In any event, thank you for your post. If I had it to do over, I would have gone through the course again. Then again, maybe not. I wouldn't have taken on something like that if I knew in advance I wouldn't have been able to pay for.
 

cwgranny

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Well, Prescott Kelly (one of the big guys there -- I can't remember his actual title, I have a mind like a sieve in my old age.) told me that NOTHING is more important to them than the happiness of their students. I believe that if you contacted them -- even today after all this time -- they would work to make you happy. You didn't give them a chance at the time since it doesn't sound like you told them you were worried about all the positive comments, wanted more corrective remarks, felt like your instructor was loading "fake" praise on you, etc. (And I have had students switched to me for feelings like that, feelings that they needed more constructive criticism, just as I have had students switch away from me because I didn't give enough up talk -- though, in my own defense, I don't slam writers -- I just always have a sense of pressure to make sure my students have everything they need to improve and sometimes it probably is pretty tough on tender young egos.)

But, I would be willing to bet they would try to find something that would give you a warm fuzzy feeling when you think of them instead of it being a bummed out memory.

gran
 

JennaGlatzer

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Brainerd, I can't help but grin at your insight. Maybe you really are good. Shocking, ain't it? :tongue I do know what you mean, though, about feeling like sunshine's being blown up your butt. I've felt that way sometimes with teachers. Sounds like you could have benefitted from switching to someone like Granny's suggesting-- with a tougher approach. But you never know... maybe you did have a tough teacher and your work really was as good as she said.

But I'll say this for the ICL: They're one of the very few companies I've actually encouraged Absolute Write's business manager to approach to advertise with us. I, too, was skeptical of their marketing, but over these past few years, I've heard time and again from people who took the course and were very happy with it, mostly citing the great feedback and personal attention from excellent teachers. In the writing world, grades don't count anyway, so I think your best measure of achievement is your own feeling about it: Do you feel like a better writer after the course? Did you pick up usable skills? Then its done its job. If not, you can and should talk to the company to see if they'll remedy the situation.
 

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