Our Story

In 1968, ICL Founder Douglas Chouteau was inspired by the Famous Artists School ...

... an art correspondence course institution. Chouteau realized this educational model could be applied to other crafts, including writing for publication.

In the correspondence course model, Chouteau saw the opportunity to create a more meaningful learning experience for students that allowed for a customized, flexible learning strategy for different lifestyles and work obligations. Students could build continuity through each lesson and assignment, with the support of the instructor mentor throughout their journey.And so, in 1969, Douglas Chouteau combined his years of experience at Harcourt, Brace & World (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and his aspiration to create a writing school, and founded the Institute of Children’s Literature. The Institute eventually found a home in West Redding, Connecticut. In 1975 a longtime friend of Douglas Chouteau's brother, Bryan Judge, became the President of the Institute of Children’s Literature, and served in that position for 40 years until 2015. Under his leadership, the Institute of Children’s Literature formalized its educational model, developed a more robust body of course offerings, and became recognized as the foremost teacher of new children’s writers in North America. Bryan was shortly joined by Prescott Kelly and his wife, Pam, and together they led the effort to obtain certification of the Institute of Children’s Literature as a school of Higher Education. As a result, our students were able to receive credits and academic support more typical of colleges and universities starting in around the year 1984-85.

Achieving the approval for college credits was a challenge at first; traditionalists were doubtful about the effectiveness of our correspondence model, the rigor of our literary training, and how a school that had “classrooms” stretched across distances could be a sustainable means of learning. We knew that this model was innovative, but we also knew that it fit perfectly within the realm of “traditional” learning one finds at a college. We were providing students with a small classroom (so small, in fact, that it is one student paired with one instructor) within which they could directly learn from an experienced professional.

Enrolled students’ testimonies were overwhelmingly positive, and many of our students returned to take other courses. Graduates of the Institute were becoming published authors not long after they completed their studies with us. Their instructors were not only successful writers, authors, and editors, but, through our training process, were supportive and effective educators. With such a high rates of success with our enrolled students and graduates getting published, the educational evidence for the value of our education became clear.

Our courses are approved by the Executive Director of the State of Connecticut Office of Higher Education, and they are recommended for college credits by the Connecticut Board of Academic Awards. Today, regardless of where our students are located, credits can be submitted to any college, university, or board for college credits. We are also an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau in Connecticut, with a stellar rating due to high rates of student satisfaction.

Pamela Kelly, author, editor, and lifelong educator, was integral in the development of our unique curriculum. Combining her extensive experience with educational design and literary markets, she oversaw the development of all of our courses, and the training program for our faculty. The Institute of Children’s Literature's instructional model was so successful at preparing writers for the children's market that students asked for our quality education to expand into other markets. In 1989, Long Ridge Writers Group was founded, named after the road in West Redding where the Institute for Children’s Literature was located. A sister school to the Institute of Children’s Literature, Long Ridge Writers Group (now renamed The Institute for Writers), specialized in training writers for the adult novel, non-fiction, and magazine markets. Long Ridge Writers Group used the same proven method of instruction; a customized, one-on-one course with a professional, published faculty.

The Writer’s Bookstore, our unique resource for writers, was another innovation by Bryan and Prescott. The original aim was to give our students and graduates books and resources that would give them an advantage in whatever literary market they chose. Now open to anyone, the Writers Bookstore offers content not found anywhere else, including ICL’s famous annual directory, Best of the Children’s Market, and From Inspiration to Publication, among others. New to the Writer’s Bookstore are more products for the published writer on marketing and selling books, and digital products of all kinds.

For more than 50 years, the Institute has continued to transform our founder’s vision into proven success. Countless numbers of our students have gone on to become published authors. We are proud that we continue to be one of the leading teachers of new children’s writers in North America. In 2015, the Institute of Children’s Literature and Long Ridge Writers Group found new leadership, with Jerry Davis serving as President, and Katie Davis serving as CEO and School Director. Their combined extensive experience in children's publishing, youth markets, digital media, and education meant that they could bring an energy to the Institute with a focus on the publishing marketplace, trends in education, expansion of our course offerings, and the changing demands on writers in the digital age.

Under their direction, the Institute of Children's Literature and Institute for Writers have expanded digital offerings, added support services for students in both schools while upholding the tradition of providing reliable, high quality training to writers across the globe. Katie and Jerry have been innovative in expanding the ways that both schools support our students so that our community continues to thrive and grow, even after our students complete their courses.
In 2016, Long Ridge Writers Group officially became the Institute for Writers, to reflect our expanded mission to support writers not just as they start their career, but as they continue through it (and also to reflect new address). Though it has a new title, the Institute for Writers upholds the legacy of Long Ridge Writers Group as the successful sister school of the Institute of Children's Literature.

Today, Douglas Chouteau’s vision in 1969 has become an important, sustainable institute. We have trained writers of all kinds, from Newbery winners to magazine writers, to teachers needing continuing education credits to those looking to write a family history. Welcome to the family.

I couldn't have started my career without all the help and support from ICL!

Donna Burke Seim

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