Institute of Children's Literature--any alumni?

My 19-year-old niece just sent me a message that she has taken a writing aptitude test and been accepted by the Institute of Children’s Literature. I don’t know much about this organization (only the ads that I’ve read in *Writer’s Digest *and The Writer) and I only know that her mother took this course about 16 or 17 years ago. Needless to say, her mother has not been published (I don’t even know if she even finished the course) and I’m just wondering if the course is worthwhile.

Frankly, I’m happy my niece is showing interest in something other than just hanging around the house, helping her mother with her younger siblings and reading (she graduated from high school this past June.) However, this course (or whatever it is) kind of smacks of those “poetry anthologies” you see advertised in magazines where they will publish your “high quality” poetry in their anthology which is available for purchase for a mere $50 (and of course, you WANT to buy the anthology, or how else will you ever prove you’ve been published?)

My niece has this dream of being a writer (don’t we all???) and I really don’t want to discourage her, so if anyone has ever had any experience (good or bad) with the Institute of Children’s Literature, I’d love to hear from you. But the truth is–and I’m not trying to be mean or petty–if her e-mails are any indication of her writing ability (and I’m talking spelling, grammar and punctuation, never mind content!) then they are really just scamming eager wanna-be writers. Of course, it’s possible her mother “edited” her writing samples before she submitted them. But if she didn’t, then it seems to me that any reputable writing course would tell her first off to brush up on her basic grammar and spelling before attempting to write a book.

I may be all wrong, so I look forward to any information anyone can give me. I’ve been writing for almost twenty years and still waiting for my overnight success (biggest coup: got published in “Virtual Humor” in Reader’s Digest, October '97! $200!!! Other than that, a dazzling array of rejection slips!) so the reality is that she isn’t likely to turn out the next “Harry Potter” series… but you never know!

Thanks to all and God bless!

I’m not an alumni but I did try to take the course decades ago. It seemed to be reputable and the course materials were well-written. Unfortunately, I only managed two lessons because of the atrocious speed of snail mail coming from the U.S. to the Philippines. It was so bad I was being asked for assignments before I even got the course materials I was supposed to work with. Of course, that wasn’t their fault. Nowadays, I probably wouldn’t have that problem thanks to e-mail.

Generally, the course will make you do writing assignments and they’ll send it back pointing out any writing errors along with suggestions to improve your work.

Perhaps the Institute would help her correct any grammar and spelling problems? I don’t know how things work now with the Institute.

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