PB&J: Picture Books and All That Jazz 2020

June 20 - 23, 2020

Join Us To:

Dig deep to dissect and understand current picture book bestsellers to find the best way to tell your story. Study picture book craft, format and components: character, plot, rhyme, audience and more. Get one-to-one critiques with all faculty and hear editor feedback from an acquiring editor.

What You’ll Learn:

Everyone loves picture books! But writing stories that sell means going beyond a fun idea. In addition to structure, word choice, and plot, have you considered voice, style, rhythm, layout, rhyme, audience, tone, and sound? This workshop with award-winning picture book authors Darcy Pattison, Leslie Helakoski and Kelly Bennett digs deep into the many layers that create strong creative stories.
You will:

  • Examine current picture book bestsellers.
  • Dissect books with that elusive read-again-and-again quality.
  • Hear an editor discuss why she chooses the books she chooses.
  • Study picture book components: character, plot, getting the story down.
  • Consider word choice: rhythm & rhyme.
  • Look at format: what’s the best way to tell your story?

Work on your craft:

  • Learn how to entice readers with your writing.
  • Find new ways to understand story.
  • Investigate how art enhances writing and inspire yourself to make room for the art as you write.
  • Complete writing exercises and have free writing time.
  • Discover how to generate ideas for your next picture book.
  • Work on your focusing statement and three-act structure.
  • Learn the differences between being traditionally published and doing it yourself.

Network and be mentored:

  • Hear editor feedback from an acquiring editor.
  • Participate in round table critiques.
  • Get reviews on your manuscript from faculty members.

Attend If:

  • You want to learn how to write a good picture book. Beginners and experienced writers will both benefit from understanding what makes a book sell and how structure and voice help tell the story and satisfy the reader.
  • You have some finished picture book drafts, and want to make them better. After examining best-sellers, considering format and listening to our faculty experts, you’ll be in a strong position to revise.
  • You’d like some professional feedback on your work. You will have one-to-one critiques with all faculty; hear from an acquiring editor and participate in peer roundtables. Get ready to improve your manuscripts!
  • You’ve wondered about self-publishing your picture book. Darcy Pattison has successful traditionally published and indie published picture books and brings that unique dual perspective to the workshop.


Day 1
Arrival and check in

Appetizers & Dinner
After dinner:
Introductions and sharing: What’s your favorite picture book?
Picture Book Components–Character, Plot, Getting the Story Down
Focus and Structure: Focusing Statement and Three-Act Structure

Day 2
Breakfast with a story
Forms: What’s the Best Way to Tell this Story?
Word Choice/Rhythm and Rhyme

Lunch with a story
Q&A with designer
Roundtable critiques
Free writing time

Appetizers & Dinner
After dinner:
Faculty presentation
Brute thinking #2

Day 3
Breakfast with a story
Editor presentation
Scoring Successful PBs; Making Dummies

Lunch with a story
Roundtable critiques
Free writing time
First pages with an editor

Appetizers & Dinner
After dinner: Re-envisioning your Picture Book: Quantum Leap Revisions; Cutting

Day 4
Breakfast with a story
Brute Thinking #3: Working on the Next Picture Boo…Ideas
Final Round Table Critiques

Lunch and farewells

A Note About Highlights Workshop Agendas


9 Picture Book Topics to Avoid
How Do You Know If You’ve Written a Picture Book?
Writing Picture Books That Soar
Short and Easy, Right? How Hard Can It Be to Write a Picture Book?
3 Tips for Writing Funny Picture Books
Pointers for Writing Powerful Picture Books
Nonfiction Picture Books: Get it Right with Research


“Leslie, you were actually one of the first people to really believe in this manuscript and it never would have come to be if it wasn’t for you and Darcy. It had a completely different setting and style until you and Darcy challenged us to rewrite the beginning of one of our manuscripts on the first night of PB&J. I tend to cling tightly to my first ideas so it was the perfect exercise (and your critique was the perfect reminder) to not settle for the first thing that comes to mind. I have already shared with my writer groups what an amazing experience that workshop was and gave it my highest recommendation.”

“The faculty was excellent – knowledgeable, focused, and generous with their time.”

“The PB&J workshop was delicious! Darcy and Leslie encouraged, enlightened, and energized in a most personable way.”

“This conference was great! A perfect mix of learning and practicing our craft.”

“Darcy and Leslie were extremely accessible for advice, critique and casual conversation.”

Scholarships Available

Scholarships are available for this workshop:
Application deadline is April 1, 2020. Scholarships will be announced May 1, 2020.
Click here to apply!
For more information about scholarships, click here.


Darcy Pattison

Published in ten languages, children’s book author and writing teacher Darcy Pattison has been published with Harcourt, Philomel/Penguin, Harpercollins, Arbordale,…
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Leslie Helakoski

Leslie Helakoski is the author and sometimes illustrator of 11 picture books. Her newest additions are Ready or Not, Woolbur Goes…
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Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is the author of many award-winning books for children—mostly picture books. Her stories, such as Not Norman, A…
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Trisha de Guzman

Special Guest Trisha de Guzman is an Associate Editor at Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of…
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All-Inclusive Event Cost: $1,099.00

All-inclusive registration includes workshop tuition, lodging, meals, beverages, and snacks. Free shuttle service is available from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AVP) International Airport. Airport pick-up at Newark Airport is also available for $75 round-trip.

We offer payment plans as low as $75/month. We'll be in touch with details after you register.

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workshop information

Begins on Saturday June 20 with dinner; ends on Tuesday, June 23, with lunch.