Picture Book University EXTRA! Take a Children's Writing Course

Hope all of you are busy writing outside on these beautiful spring days! As it happens, I've just had the wonderful experience of participating as a judge for a picture book contest. I read about 100 manuscripts and it gave me some ideas for new blog posts. :-)  PBU Extra! is supplemental material for those that might need a bit of specific advice.

I've had many people come to me, asking for advice--from friends to friends of friends to my critique clients. I can tell by the first page whether someone has just decided to venture into this business sight unseen--meaning with no training at all. I want to make it clear that writing picture books, although seemingly simple, is anything but easy. In fact, I had been published in Highlights for Children and I still couldn't break into picture books. Why? Because I'd had no training in writing them! I didn't know how to set them up, even though I'd read a lot of them.

If you want to get published, you will have to invest in this as a career. If you don't want to be bothered with extra education, then you really need to think of something else to do. I mean, if you're a professional, didn't you go to college to learn your trade? A doctor goes to med school, a lawyer goes to law school, a business person gets their business degree. Why in the world wouldn't a picture book author learn the art of picture book writing? Yet time and time again, I see picture books written by people who obviously have never taken a class about writing for children.

Is this you?

Are you writing and writing and writing, sending out manuscript after manuscript and either getting silence or rejection? Or are you the person who on a whim has this funny joke or idea and thinks kids will like it? So you write it out and feel it must get published. Your kids laughed after all!

If you think you don't need training, I will wish you great good luck and send you on your way. But if you just didn't realize there were classes out there, and you really want to succeed, then I have some great advice for you!

1. Take Institute for Children's Literature--I cannot be any more clear or loud about this school. It
will teach you everything you need to know about writing for children. I say start here because if you don't, your learning curve will be high and long. They will pair you up with a published author that will mentor you through many manuscripts and you will start "seeing" like a child and therefore, write better for them. I was published in a children's magazine only 9 months after taking this course! But I couldn't write picture books well, so if you want to write those...you will need even more education.

2. Do my free PBU workshop--This is a great start for you and it won't cost you a cent! I would advise doing the lessons one at a time and at the end of each lesson, do the assignment. They can be done at your own pace, but DO THEM! By the time you're finished, you will have a better understanding of how to set one up. And you will have read and studied over 80 picture books! After you're done with this...you STILL need more help! (Sorry...but you will...)

3. Take a picture book class--The one I can endorse is Anastasia Suen's Intensive Picture Book Workshop. She will go through one of your manuscripts with this intense class while you and seven others critique as well. It's amazing how she can fine tune a manuscript. I put PRINCESS PEEPERS through her second workshop and sold it! I would never have been able to write that manuscript if I hadn't taken the first course, though.

4. Other classes--I've heard from around the blogosphere of other picture book classes. I cannot vouch for them, but I know good things about the teachers themselves and they are either editors or highly accredited authors. So I will list them here:

Picture Book Academy--Many different authors participate as mentors.

Writer's Digest picture book workshop--ongoing classes. Check to find availability.

The Loft--picture book course--taught by picture book author, Molly Beth Griffin

Revising and Reimagining Your Picture Book--by Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson. The workshop is full but they are offering a discount for those who want to join in on the recordings.

5. Join a critique group--Only after you've done all that, NOW you are ready for a critique group. You have to get the basics down first before others can even start making your work better. A great way to get a group is in Anastasia Suen's class. It's set up like a critique group and in my class, we started one. ALL of my fellow critique group members became published: Katherine Rollins, Barbara Kaninnen, Dianne White. How's that for rate of return?

6. Get a professional critique--I only advise this if you've done all of the above yet you still can't get an agent and you still can't get published. Having a professional look at your work is amazingly better than having someone on your writing level review it. A GREAT way to find out if you have a good story is to join Rate Your Story. For a minimal annual fee, you can have one manuscript a month reviewed by a professional. If you score a 6 or better, I'd say your manuscript is worth paying a professional to help you.

I happen to offer a professional critique service. I must say that all those who do pay for my service are well on their way to achieving their dream. Why, you say? Because people who are not ready to invest in their work are not ready to succeed. I can say I'm very proud of all of my clients. They really are a cut above the rest! It's fun being the mentor to these talented writers. :)

I hope this post is helpful to you. I can honestly say that over the years, those who don't give up do get published. They keep honing their craft, keep learning, and one day...they get that fabulous call.

Someone wants to publish your work!

Crack open the celebratory libations! HOORAY!

Happy writing,


KMR said...

Thanks for the mention Pam! Even after you publish, there is still no stop to the learning and the working.

Pam Calvert said...

Exactly, Katherine!!!! ;-)

Dianne White said...

Nice post, Pam! As Katherine said, there's always more to learn, but being part of a great critique group is certainly part of that. Thanks for the mention! :-)

Vincent Daubenspeck said...

I appreciate all of the work you put into this and the care you have for the industry and your love of the craft. I am honored to be your friend...

Pam Calvert said...

Dianne--I believe that group really helped me be the writer I am today! So happy for your success!

Vince--Aww...thanks! I'm honored to be yours, too. I have such talented friends. :0)