I love teaching and inspiring writers who are serious about improving their craft.
Since I started writing for young readers more than two decades ago, I have studied every aspect of craft across multiple genres. I even created a mentor text analysis process along the way—a popular topic I am asked to speak about at events. My fascination with the craft of children’s books inspired my pursuit of a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Writing, with a focus on children’s and young adult literature, from Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA).
Though I am skilled with many genres and book formats, I have unique expertise with picture books, especially picture book biographies, both academically and as an award-winning author. I even focused my critical thesis on creative approaches to picture book biographies and the often-blurry nonfiction line. I strive to provide the most comprehensive craft-centered class in the industry. Happily, a large number of my former students’ went on to publishing success.
I have taught sold-out classes for various writing-related organizations, including Highlights Foundation, SCBWI, the Writing Barn, and directly through my website. Subscribe to my e-newsletter to be among the first to know of future class offerings.
Peruse my blog for heaps of craft-related posts, and check out some of my craft-related interviews and articles for others, linked on the About page.
- September 5, 2021 —October 10, 2021 —Writing Picture Book Biographies that Shine—Six-week online class.
- December 12, 2020—MFA-Style Picture Book Manuscript Critique Workshop.
- October 18, 2020 — Nov. 22, 2020—Writing Picture Book Biographies that Shine.
- July 5, 2020 —August 16, 2020—SESSION TWO—Writing Picture Book Biographies from the Inside Out—Six-week online class.
- May 9, 2020 — June 14, 2020—SESSION ONE—Writing Picture Book Biographies from the Inside Out—Six-week online class.
- March 5, 2020—How to Analyze Mentor Texts: Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books Through Novels. Zoom presentation for Rochester Area Children’s Writers and Illustrators
- March 5, 2020—Tone, Voice, and Mood: Not Just for Angsty Teens—Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP)
- October 2-5, 2019—Picture Book Biographies—Highlights Foundation, co-faculty with author Lesa Cline-Ransome.
- June 8, 2019—How to Analyze Mentor Texts. Austin SCBWI
- June 9, 2018. 9:00am – 4:00pm—Picture Book Biography Workshop. SW Texas SCBWI
- June 11- July 30, 2018 Sundays—Style & Substance: Picture Book Biographies—The Writing Barn.
- December 3, 2016 3:30-5:30pm—Picture Book Biographies: How Creative is Too Creative? The Writing Barn.
“Donna’s class was more like a mentorship. I felt like we were in the same room as her, peering over her shoulder as she works through analyzing mentor texts, doing research, and writing up her manuscripts. She was always approachable and shared so many insider tips and insights. I wish I’d taken it before I started writing PB bios, but even after having had a PB bio published, I still learned a ton from taking this class! It was such a wonderful experience.” —Teresa Robeson
Click here for a kind mention by a former student in an interview about transitioning from professorship to children’s writer
“I received more applicable, in-depth information in your class than any other class I’ve attended thus far… I would GLADLY recommend this class (already have).” —Lori Housley
“Donna’s class on PB biographies gave me far more than I expected. She answered many of my questions on how to continue researching when I’d gotten stuck. Also, I’d never heard of mentor texts, and Donna shared examples of many styles of PB bio writing, while noting what made each type creative and appealing to children. Most of all, Donna offered a short session at the end of our class to each student, where she gave feedback and answered questions about our specific project. I cannot believe this is included with her six classes–best help of all! Thanks again Donna, for your wholehearted devotion to teaching the art of PB biography writing.” —Laurie Cutter
More Kind Words
“This class was by far the best investment I made toward improving my skills in researching and writing biographies. Donna has created a master class that covers everything a writer needs – from choosing the subject to completing the final manuscript. Each of the six sessions was fun and easy to follow, thanks to Donna’s engaging style and well-chosen examples. The key tools she taught us — The Bowman method for analyzing mentor texts and the subject “bible” organization — have made all the difference for me. The class equipped me with what I needed, and I got out many times over what the course cost. Thanks to what I learned from Donna in her terrific course, I am more inspired, committed and fulfilled as a writer than I have ever been.” —Kamalani Hurley
“Donna’s Picture Book Biography six-week intensive was truly outstanding! I looked forward to each week of her well-organized and very thorough presentations on the many craft elements of PB biographies. Donna covered all aspects of writing from start to finish – from choosing a topic to finding a publisher, and I honestly can’t think of anything she left out! I especially loved her emphasis on the importance of analyzing and comparing mentor texts and will continue to do this on my own. The course was packed with really practical information and handouts along with great exercises to put into practice what we learned – and I can’t wait to learn from her again.” —Susan Stewart
Whether you’ve never written a picture book biography—or if you’ve already published in this genre—you’ll find Donna Janell Bowman’s course inspiring. She is a superb teacher—well-organized, thorough, and sensitive to students’ needs. Her knowledge of the creative process and the business side of picture book biography is invaluable.” —Patricia Bell-Scott, author of the award-winning adult biography, The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice.
“Writing Picture Book Biographies from the Inside Out is an excellent class taught by an exceptionally talented and generous author. Donna Janell Bowman shares her wealth of experience in a course that includes craft insights, industry updates, individualized feedback, group discussions, and class camaraderie. And Donna offers all of this in a flexible format to suit writers at any stage of a project—from polishing an existing WIP to plotting a new narrative.” —Ashley Walker
“Donna Janell Bowman’s six-week picture book biography class overflowed with practical information on craft, publishing, and mentor text dissection. I have a master’s degree in writing for children and young adults, have attended numerous Highlights and SCBWI conferences, and I found so much new and useful information in Donna’s class. It’s a must for anyone interested in writing and selling picture book biographies.” —Anita Pazner
“Donna Janell Bowman’s Six-week Online Intensive—Writing Picture Book Biographies from the Inside Out is one of the most outstanding courses I’ve ever taken. Donna’s brilliant skill, organization, and insight is invaluable to anyone aspiring to write picture book biographies. The teaching is spot on. The atmosphere of the webinars is homey and comfortable. And, the lesson material is indispensable.” —Phyllis Lyte, Writer
“This class exceeded my expectations especially in learning how to analyze mentor texts….allowing me to gain deeper knowledge and insight into the craft of writing. Donna’s depth of knowledge, skills, and organization made this class a standout!” —anonymous student testimonial, 2020.
“ABSOLUTELY! I’ve taken another NF PB Bio class that left much to be desired. This was the full package! My head is still spinning from all the great content.” —2020 student testimonial, via anonymous post-class survey
“Donna’s class is extremely thorough and will open you up to the myriad possibilities available when writing picture-book biographies.” —2020 student testimonial via an anonymous post-class survey
“This class was everything I hoped for and more. A deep dive into craft, a community of like-minded people, and the perfect combination of practical information and inspiration. I left each session energized and ready to write!” —Jessica Fries-Gaither
“Donna tailored the class to meet our individual needs. I came away with such a deep understanding of the content I feel totally prepared to write. Best writing class I’ve taken!!! Donna ROCKS!!!” —Gail Shipley
“I was wise to take a summer class with the talented Donna Bowman. During it, I labored, persisted, stretched and cried a little. If you want to grow and learn, please take any class with Donna. You will be forever changed and inspired.” —Wendi W.
“If you’re new to writing PB bios or have been writing them for a while but want to dig in deeper, you should definitely take Donna’s class! The handouts are invaluable, the camaraderie she develops both in class and in the Facebook group are incredible, and the analyses of many, many current PB bios have made me feel ready and excited to dig into my next few writing projects.” —Debra Shumaker
“This is a MUST class for any writer wanting to learn about PB narrative non-fiction. Donna’s mentor text analysis process and topic exploration sheets are worth their weight in gold. This class has taken my understanding and writing of NF PB Bios to a new level.” —Darshana Khiani
“I got SO MUCH out of this class! I loved the depth of insight you presented and feel that it worked on so many levels – simple enough for beginners, but complex enough for those further along on their writing journey.” —Gayleen R.
“Taking Donna’s course was just what I needed to gain confidence in my writing and join a writing community. She is an expert on picture book writing and shares her knowledge so generously with all of her students.” —Susan H.
“There is an overwhelming amount of information to learn about writing nonfiction picture books, and Donna Bowman’s course on Nonfiction Picture Book Biographies taught me the building blocks I needed to advance my own work. For the first time, I finally understood the process of research and how to go about tracking and connecting the pieces of information I want to include in my narrative nonfiction projects. Donna’s style is friendly, while the course was well-organized and moved at a fast pace.” —Lynn Pedersen
“Donna’s picture book biography class will make you look at children’s books with a new set of eyes. The examination of picture book biographies will hone your focus on writing styles that may best suit you as a writer. Donna gives examples of published authors’ works as she guides you through this wonderfully detailed course. She encourages you to read, read, read so that you can learn the practice while learning a bit about history along the way. I highly recommend this workshop to anyone wanting to write in this genre. After all, don’t we want to entertain our readers, while educating them at the same time.” —Debbie Lodato
“It was a great gift to myself attending your class. I enjoyed your teaching style and the input from classmates. It was excellent!” — Tracy V.