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In Search of the Novel

Find strategies for introducing and teaching ten commonly taught novels - from Frankenstein to Harry Potter.

A video workshop on teaching the novel for middle and high school teachers; 8 one-hour video programs, 2 supplemental Authors’ Notes videos, workshop guide, and website.

Discover creative strategies for bringing novels to life for middle and high school students with this workshop, featuring the words and works of 10 novelists, including Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, J. K. Rowling, and Toni Morrison. Within the framework of real classroom practice, the workshop offers interviews with contemporary authors, literary critics, teachers, and students, as well as film clips from adaptations of the novels featured. In Search of the Novel poses basic questions that can help you examine the genre from multiple perspectives and bring it to life for your students.

Individual Program Descriptions

Workshop 1 – Who Owns the Novel?

This workshop probes the living nature of the novel by illustrating how each reader makes a novel his or her own. It shows that the interpretation of a novel changes, depending upon the reader’s culture, class, generation, sex, and personality. In the video, novelists, teachers, and students explore the mystery of how readers assume ownership of the novels they read.

Workshop 2 – What’s the Story?

Many different ways of telling a story are discussed. What are the conflicts, the crises, and the resolutions? This workshop explores how an author spins a story and why it is the most important aspect of the novel. In the video, participants examine the importance of the hook and the story itself, and the “why” behind the events. They also consider various ways into difficult novels.

Workshop 3 – Are Novels Real?

Characters, their motivations, their stories, and the times and places should bear some likeness to reality. Or should they? This program explores how novels connect with the reader. In the video, teachers, students, and novelists probe the origins of stories.

Workshop 4 – Where Do Novels Come From?

This program explores the genesis of the characters, plot, themes, and interpretations from the novelist’s point of view. In the video, participants examine the relationship between the novel and the objective reality from which it may spring.

Workshop 5 – Why Do I Have to Read This Book?

The qualities of the ten novels chosen are explored to see why they appear on recommended reading lists and what makes them award-winners. The program also looks at the essential elements of good writing and storytelling. The video examines various ways in which novels are challenged by students as well as by communities, and it explores positive reasons for reading.

Workshop 6 – What’s In It for Me?

A novel can transport readers to other places and times, real or imaginary, allowing them to meet people and experience life in many different ways. In the video, teachers explore ways to help students respond to novels on deeply personal levels.

Workshop 7 – Who Am I in This Story?

The reader steps into the novel in various roles: the protagonist, the narrator, the author, or another character. In the video, students and novelists examine the complex ways readers may identify with characters in a novel.

Workshop 8 – Am I Getting Through?

In this summary, teachers examine their own effectiveness in helping students comprehend and appreciate novels and in setting them on the road to become lifelong readers. In the video, teachers discuss and demonstrate strategies for evaluation.

Authors’ Notes: Part I

Writers recall the genesis of the idea for their novel. Includes: Daniel Keyes, Orson Scott Card, Ernest Gaines, J. K. Rowling, Arthur Golden, Katherine Paterson, and others.

Authors’ Notes: Part II

Writers share their thoughts on the qualities of a good story, character development, and writing dialog. Includes: Arthur Golden, Nora Roberts, Horton Foote, Ernest Gaines, Katherine Paterson, and others.

Authors’ Notes: Part III

Writers talk about the writing that influenced them, how they learned to write, and the importance of a point of view. Includes: Katherine Paterson, Daniel Keyes, Leslie Marmon Silko, Ernest Gaines, Arthur Golden, J. K. Rowling, and others.

Authors’ Notes: Part IV

Writers discuss the importance of research and of having an editor. They dispense advice for teachers on getting students to love literature. Includes: Orson Scott Card, Nora Roberts, Katherine Paterson, Arthur Golden, Daniel Keyes and others.

Support Materials

The support materials (workshop guides) for In Search of the Novel are available for download in PDF. Please note that these PDF files contain some blank pages. Leave these pages in when making copies for your group, as it preserves the correct page numbering. Click on the links below for PDFs.

You will need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to read these files. You can download it for free from Adobe.

Special Guests

Stephen Hunter
Author and film critic for the Washington Post

Arthur Levine
Arthur Levine Books, publisher of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Brock Peters

Emma Matthewson
Bloomsbury Press, publisher of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Cliff Robertson

Dr. Joseph Bierman
Psychiatrist and Frankenstein scholar

Arthur Golden

Anna Foerst
Research scientist and theological advisor for Cog & Kismet, MIT

Susan Lederer
Curator for the National Library of Medicine’s exhibit on Frankenstein

Orson Scott Card

Betty Bennett, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of American Literature, American University

Horton Foote
Author and dramatist

Geoffrey Harris

Susan Shreve

Nora Roberts

Charles Taylor
Literary critic and author

Thelma Green and Tony Williams, Ph.D.
Scholars and directors of the Dickens Collection, London, England

Sydney E. Onyeberechi
Scholar and Associate Professor of English and Languages, Morgan State University


Eric Christenson (Senior Content Advisor) taught English and American Civilization for thirty-two years in Arlington, Virginia, retiring in 1993 to become an associate producer of the PBS documentary “The Marshall Plan: Against the Odds.” Mr. Christenson founded and designed Arlington’s adult education program in English, an ungraded center serving a diverse community. Today he operates a tutorial service for seniors preparing for college called Write Into CollegeTM. His articles on teaching composition have been published in English Journal and elsewhere. A production potter for thirty years, he has brought the workshop techniques of the pottery studio into the English classroom. He was nominated as Teacher of the Year by Yorktown High School in 1986.

Andrea Alsup has taught English in Vermont and New Hampshire public schools since 1983. She is the founder of the Secondary School Shakespeare Festival in Woodstock, Vermont. Ms. Alsup was a faculty member of the Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger Library in Washington, DC. Among her honors: a CBE Independent Studies in Humanities Fellowship; Teacher of the Year in Woodstock, Vermont; and Outstanding Vermont Teacher at the University of Vermont. Her publications include two short stories, “Immaculate Conception” and “Moving Mountains.”

Janice Delaney has for the past fourteen years been the executive director of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, which sponsors the PEN/Faulkner Awards for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, and the Writers in Schools Program, which sends noted writers of fiction into Washington, DC, public high schools to teach classes about their work. The Foundation is located at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where Ms. Delaney presents the monthly fiction reading series. Ms. Delaney is co-author of The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation.

Patricia Griffith is a novelist, playwright, short story writer, and screenwriter. Her latest novel, published in 1996, was Supporting the Sky. Her previous novel, The World Around Midnight, was chosen one of the outstanding books of 1992 by the American Library Association. Two of her short stories, published in Harper’s and Paris Review, were included in O. Henry Prize anthologies. She is a recent president of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and teaches at George Washington University. She is currently writing a screenplay of The World Around Midnight for Golden Road Productions.

Michael LoMonico is an English teacher at Farmingdale High School and Suffolk Community College. He is the editor of Shakespeare magazine and has written many articles for that publication and for English Journal and CPB Digest. During his thirty-two-year career he has conducted workshops throughout the country on writing, media, computers, and Shakespeare. He has also served as a master teacher and director of the Folger Library’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute.

Louisa Newlin has been an English teacher for forty years, mostly in independent secondary schools in the Washington, DC, area. She has also taught at international schools in Belgium and France and at American University and the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. Over a fourteen-year period, Dr. Newlin worked for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Education Department, developing programs for students and teachers. She remains a consultant for this department. She has just retired from St. Albans School and is beginning the life of a freelance teacher and scholar.

Faith Z. Schullstrom joined NCTE as executive director in July 1997. Ms. Schullstrom has completed the doctoral coursework in education administration, and she taught at the secondary and college level before becoming District Administrator for Instruction and Staff Development of the Guilderland Central School District in New York. Schullstrom has contributed to various state and regional committees and has been recognized with the Florida STAR Teacher Award, the Institute for the Development of School Administrators (IDEA) Fellowship, and the Select Seminar on Excellence in Education. She has also participated in a variety of national and state projects such as the development of standards for “schools in the middle” with the National Study for School Evaluation (NSSE) and with New York State’s Compact for Learning project.

Susan Richards Shreve is the author of ten novels. Her recent work includes two anthologies: Skin Deep, edited with Marita Golden; and Fiction Beginnings. She also has written more than a dozen children’s novels. Ms. Shreve has an M.A. from the University of Virginia and is a former president of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. She has taught creative writing and literature for many years and is presently teaching at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.


Executive Producer

  • Ira H. Klugerman


  • Sally Heldrich
  • Lynn Falcon

Senior Content Advisor

  • Eric Christenson

Head Writer

  • Ruth Pollak

Production Manager

  • Anne Neison

Post Production Supervisor

  • Dan Rose

Associate Producer

  • Andrew Blackwell


  • Dan Rose
  • Michael Colonna
  • Bryan Reichhardt


  • David Arnold
  • Bryan Reichhardt
  • Dave Lendt
  • Art Fitzsimmons
  • Roddy Blelloch
  • Pascal Dieckman
  • Nick Gardner
  • Keith Page
  • Wendell Basinger

Audio Recording

  • Charles Dixon
  • Rob Shire
  • Marianna LaFollette
  • Ben Williams
  • Craig Spencer
  • Brent Lestage
  • Muno Cardenas
  • Doug Tamooka

Production Assistants

  • Angie Athayde
  • Aimee Kniceley

Assistant Editors

  • Aimee Kniceley
  • Rita Wilensky


About Annenberg

Annenberg Learner, formerly Annenberg Media, is a unit of the Annenberg Foundation, and uses media and telecommunications to advance excellent teaching in American schools. Annenberg Learner funded educational series and teacher professional development workshops and courses.

The notable series, workshops and activities of Annenberg Learner include Destinos, French in Action, Journey North, Literary Visions, The Mechanical Universe, The Private Universe Project, Signature, the Teaching Math Libraries, Voices & Visions, and The Western Tradition.