Children’s nonfiction is increasingly popular these days, especially in the picture book form. Yet, it’s difficult to find relevant instruction in writing books, workshops, or classes. With ever-changing styles and creative approaches, it is important to seek out up-to-date expertise on the subject.
I’m thrilled to be teaching a six-week class about nonfiction picture books and picture book biographies at The Writing Barn in Austin this summer. In addition to authoring the recently-released (and, thankfully, acclaimed) STEP RIGHT UP: HOW DOC AND JIM KEY TAUGHT THE WORLD ABOUT KINDNESS (Lee and Low, 2016), and the forthcoming ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S DUELING WORDS (Peachtree, 2018), and KING OF THE TIGHTROPE (Peachtree, 2019), I completed my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I researched the heck out of picture book biographies for my in-depth, fifty-two-page critical thesis. See, I am smitten! Oh, did I mention that I’ve also written books for the education market? Or that I have other p.b. bios. and nonfiction p.b.s in various stages of revision and submission?
Enough about me.
I am planning our class syllabus around a primary goal: to lead you to creative breakthroughs about your own current and future nonfiction projects. We will do this by analyzing published nonfiction picture books as mentor texts. During class times, we will explore decisions about:
Choosing a viable topic
Narrative vs. expository styles
Scope & Angle—finding the kid-friendly story
Intended audience (length and sentence complexity are a clue)
Word count and page length
Structure—linear and nonlinear options
Creative options in nonfiction and how they affect the nonfiction classification
Word choice / Tone
How to leave room for the illustrator
Research (where to start, when to stop, how to organize)
I will share relevant process information about my own books, too.
- Revise current projects and begin new projects
- Receive feedback me and fellow student
- Join in collaborative discussions with classmates (in class and on a private Facebook page)
- Read many nonfiction picture books—assigned and student choice–with an analytical eye
- Maintain an informal bibliography with low-stress annotations.
- Have fun, be inspired, and develop priceless friendships with fellow writers
Class begins June 11, 2017. Last class is July 30, 2017.
We skip June 18 (Father’s Day) and July 2 (for July 4th travelers).