A-Z: 26 Ways to Learn the Craft of Picture Books, But How You Apply Them Is Up To You

Apr 26, 2023 | Picture Books

We’d like to thank Theresa Cocci for this blog post! She received a 2022 General Scholarship and chose to use it for two online, on-demand courses with Sudipta Bardhan-QuallenPicture Book Characters A-Z and Picture Book Plotting A-Z. Here she shares her experience. Thanks, Theresa!

The form of Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s A-Z Picture Book courses are designed to take writers on a structured journey through the craft of picture books. But she wants students to know one important thing.

She says in the course intro:

“Everything I’m going to teach you are things that I think are important about picture book plotting. Not every tip is going to make sense to you, and that’s ok. Because you and I are not the same writer, and we’re not going to approach writing in the same way.


So take the things that really resonate with you, and incorporate those into your writing. Anything else, I’d like you to deeply consider it. I am telling you them because-based on my experience-these are important things to think about.


But if something really doesn’t work for you, that’s ok.


Don’t force yourself. Because the most important thing you have as a writer is your voice and your point of view. And nothing-no teacher, no critiquer, nothing-should make you lose focus from that. That’s so important.”

Theresa experienced this idea first hand.

She said, “As I began my study, it was like discovering a treasure, starting with the letter “A for Arc” for the Plotting Course, and “A for Archetype” for the Character course, all the way down to Z. Each letter that Sudipta had outlined delved into the foundation of character-driven books and plot-driven books. I was taking a deep dive and learning with a new perspective, guided so eloquently by Sudipta.”

Theresa also appreciated the breadth of resources and time with Sudipta that was available to her.

“There were writing exercises, writing prompts, analysis sheets, lists of picture books that correlated with each section of study, video tutorials, and one of my favorites, meetings online with Sudipta!”

“Sudipta would start by asking what concerns or questions we had and was so knowledgeable and helpful, providing encouragement and guidance. She would help with pinpointing the section of the coursework that my questions would apply to and expound on those sections. In addition, Sudipta shared her life journey as a writer. We also looked at what the picture book industry is currently expecting from word counts, page layouts to agents and editors,” said Theresa.

Theresa is using what she learned now to build her career.

She says: “My interest in learning to write had led me to self-publish and work with a hybrid publisher. But I wanted to continue to learn the art of picture book writing. Several of my book group critique partners had completed in person and online writing courses with the Highlights Foundation, so I decided to investigate finding an online course, which I thought may have been more suitable for me at the time. The scholarship led me to Picture Book A-Z with Sudipta, and this opportunity has provided me with an arsenal of knowledge that I will use to continue creating and submitting my work in the world.”


Theresa Cocci’s love for telling stories began early in her teaching career. As an elementary school teacher, with a certification in Orff Schulwerk Music, she enjoys integrating movement and music while spinning a tale or two. Her books, Harry’s Horrible Hair, winner of a Mom’s Gold Choice and Henry the Hungry Hound, include interaction along with valuable life lessons. She has published several lessons on “Teaching with Orff” and “Music ConstructED”. They can be found at: https://teachingwithorff.com/lesson-harrys-horrible-hair/ and https://bit.ly/HenryTheHound-Cocci. Theresa is currently continuing her writing journey by enrolling in courses at the Highlights Foundation and SCBWI. She enjoys being with family, school author visits, playing the piano, long walks and giving “belly rubs” to her dog Molly.

Photo of Theresa Cocci

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