Fall 2020 Picture Book Biography Class

I’ve taught two online picture book biography classes this summer. My students were so pleased with the masters-level content, their recommendations led to quite a few inquiries about my next offering. So, I’ve scheduled a fall class, beginning October 18th—perfect timing for getting a manuscript ready for a 2021 submission. I hope you’ll join me. Click here to read recent testimonials.

Class description:

A well-crafted picture book biography looks simple, doesn’t it? In reality, an author must research like a scholar and then distill and shape facts as a storyteller—all to capture the spirit of the subject on the page for young readers. It’s a worthwhile challenge. In this six-week online masters-level class, we will peek inside approximately 75 mentor texts to cover a wide range of craft topics. Between classes, you will be challenged with helpful resources and writing exercises designed to help you find your story’s sparkle. And because publication is the goal, the business side of writing will be covered, too. See below for a list of topics.

Why study with me? My own writing and publishing journey began with a years-long apprenticeship of self-study, followed by the publication of both expository nonfiction and award-wining narrative picture book biographies, including Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness (Lee and Low Books)Abraham Lincoln’s Dueling Words (Peachtree), and King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara (Peachtree). More titles will be announced soon. All of those books were acquired before I pursued an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA), during which I focused my critical thesis on creative approaches to picture book biographies and the often-fuzzy nonfiction line. You see, I adore the challenges and artistry of writing picture book biographies, and I am eager to share what I know with other writers.

This course is appropriate for all experience levels but especially meaningful for intermediate writers who have a picture book biography subject in mind.

Some topics to be covered include:

  • Nonfiction vs. fiction
  • Narrative vs. expository
  • How to analyze mentor texts
  • Finding your connection to your character
  • Marketable ideas
  • Choosing a tight angle/focus
  • Point of view and psychic distance
  • Theme (the heart of your story)
  • Character arc
  • Narrative arc
  • Voice
  • Structure (there are so many great options!)
  • Beginnings & Endings
  • Research & organization
  • Backmatter
  • Revision & Submissions
  • The publishing and income process

Class recordings will be available to registered students for two weeks after each session

BONUS #1 — A guest author will join us for a Q&A session, offering you an additional industry perspective
(previous guests include Barb Rosenstock, Laurie Walmark, Deborah Hopkinson, Lesa Cline-Ransome)

BONUS #2— To facilitate ongoing conversations and to create a community of like-minded colleagues, class attendees will be invited to a private Facebook group.

BONUS #3 — At the end of the 6-week class, you will have the opportunity to purchase a deeply discounted developmental p.b. bio. critique from me for $125.
OR you can join one of my small-group online manuscript critique groups (often referred to as workshopping–max of 5 writers) for $150, which includes a developmental critique from me, feedback from four of your peers, and a group Zoom meeting to brainstorm each manuscript.

REGISTER HERE

I’m Teaching a NF Picture Book Class! Join Me!

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
Point-of-view
Tense
Structure—linear and nonlinear options
Creative options in nonfiction and how they affect the nonfiction classification
Word choice / Tone
Theme
How to leave room for the illustrator
Research (where to start, when to stop, how to organize)
Back matter
I will share relevant process information about my own books, too.

Students will:

  • 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).

Learn more about the class and how to register here.

Contact me with questions here