Summer School: Revising and Re-Imagining Picture Book Manuscripts
June and July 2017

Picture books are short and simple, written for young children, so they must be easy to write--or so we hear from people who have never attempted one. Picture book writers know that's not true, but their length does make it more practical to revise them, perhaps multiple times, and even to completely re-think or "re-imagine" them, than when working with longer forms.

That's what we aim to help you do in this summer school class with your picture book manuscripts, both during the class and for years afterwards. As independent editors, and in-house children's book editors in New York before that, both of us have years of experience in working with writers on picture books. So we created our successful "Revising and Re-Imagining Your Picture Book" in-person workshop. We then developed it into an online presentation in spring 2015, presented an updated version earlier this year, and now have built this summer session around that course. Like the earlier workshop, this teaches you techniques to help you find problems with your manuscript, reshape it, and then polish it up before you send it out.

Time frame: At your convenience during June and July. Optional critique sessions will be scheduled in July on evenings and on the weekend.

Workshop registration: Coming soon. If you have questions not answered on this page, please contact us.

Price: We are still determining the fee for the summer school and the critique option; they will be less than the $200 class fee and $100 critique fee we charged for the live class.

The course is still under development--we are considering adding special features and would be happy to hear your suggestions.

A free recording of a preview session, The Unwritten: What You Don't Say When Writing a Picture Book, is available.

This self-guided summer school is based on materials developed for our recent webinar class on the same subject. Students will have complete access to the materials, and a guide to using them. Eileen and Harold, your teachers, will be available to answer questions and give feedback on any "homework" sent to them. Students can work through the materials at their own pace, in a sequence of their choosing, with the help of the guide and their teachers. Materials include:

  • Complete video recordings from the six sessions of our just-completed "Revising and Re-Imagining Your Picture Book Manuscript."
  • The text of the chat room discussion from that class.
  • A text transcription of the audio from that class.
  • Handouts for every sessions, with resources, templates, etc.
  • A separate recording of "Feedback from Others," on critique groups, beta readers, and working with children, with handouts, etc.
An option that students can choose is a "model" critique group of 4-6 people that will meet online (an audio meeting with shared screens as needed) to give and get structured feedback on manuscripts (participants will have guide questions from us), with either Harold or Eileen as facilitators and commenters. Sessions will be available on evenings and weekends, and will run for about an hour, with each participant getting 10-15 minutes of feedback from the group plus a written report from the "faculty." To see what people have said about our past workshops, see our What Our Students Say page.

Brief summaries of what we will cover in the course:

Session 1 -- Using Reader Response Theory to Deepen Our Understanding of How Picture Books Work: After some introductory points about the unique challenges of writing picture books, in this session we will look at the two opposing approaches to understanding literature and explore how to use the least familiar of the two, reader response theory, to enrich your picture book.

Bonus Session -- Getting Feedback from Others, from an earlier webinar series, on critique groups, beta readers, and working with children.

Session 2 -- Revising at the Big Picture Level to Get Your Story Working: In this session we will explore ways of seeing your story in a new light--the true meaning of "re-vision." We will try out techniques from the one-line summary to the story grid.

Session 3 -- Re-Imagining Character and Setting to Find a Fresh Approach: Sometimes there's nothing much wrong with a story, but it needs a fresh approach. It, or part of it, needs to be re-imagined. In this session we will look into methods to learn more about your main character and how to use different settings to tell a different story.

Session 4 -- Re-Imagining POV and Voice to Find a Fresh Approach: In this session we will continue to re-imagine, this time looking at point of view and voice, and find ways to transform how we are approaching them.

Session 5 -- Revising at the Word Level to Polish Your Story: In this session, we will present and demonstrate self-editing methods that you can use to clean up your manuscript without hiring a copyeditor.

Session 6 -- Discussion, and the State of the Market: In this session we will review the course, answer all remaining questions, and take a look at the current picture book market and how it affects (and doesn't) what you have to do as writers.

In each session, we provide a clear framework, examples from current and classic picture books ("touchstone" books), hands-on exercises, handouts and tools, recommended resources, and time for questions and discussion. Some sessions bring in homework examples as part of the live class.

Like the live class, this summer session will be a protected space in which you can feel free to make mistakes, ask questions you worry are stupid, and try out new directions; there will be no agents sitting in, no pitch sessions, no "opportunities to submit a manuscript" to win, because we want you to be able to focus on your writing and revising and on what you are learning in the class without feeling self-conscious and anxious to get it "ready." This will be two months of digging deep into your picture book writing, and we want you to enjoy it and be challenged by it in a good way.

Course materials are provided via DropBox, in organized folders.

Critique option: More to come soon on this special offer, available only to summer schoo participants; we will be offering picture book critiques in a critique group setting at much less than our usual rates.

Frequently asked questions from the original course: If you have questions, you may find them answered on this page.

Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson have worked together since 2008 to bring something different to aspiring authors. They have created online classes and tutorials and in-person workshops, presenting and working with writers at SCBWI conferences, recent workshops in western Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pittsburgh, and an annual 4-day retreat at the Highlights Foundation. More information on our backgrounds.

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