Creating Picture Books with Humor and Heart: A Working Retreat 2020

July 26 - 29, 2020

Please note: this course is full. Please click here to be placed on our waiting list.

If you’re looking for a picture book workshop, check out:
PB&J: Picture Books & All That Jazz, June 20-23
The Ins and Outs of a Picture Book and Its Many Forms, August 13-16

Join Us To:

Learn the process of creating funny and/or emotionally satisfying picture books. Get feedback on two manuscripts: a one-to-one with a faculty member for the first and a group critique for the second. Hear presentations and do hands-on activities to prepare for submission. Learn craft tips: establishing your voice, accessing your inner comedian, creating relatable characters, connecting your readers with powerful emotions, and more.

What You’ll Learn:

Two award-winning, bestselling authors, Emily Jenkins and Elise Broach, and writer, editor and publisher Sunita Apte (Reycraft Books/Benchmark) will guide you through the process of creating funny and/or emotionally satisfying picture books that connect with young readers. In this writing intensive course, you will learn:

  • Techniques for powerful beginnings and endings.
  • Ways to create a compelling story arc.
  • How to establish a distinctive style/voice.
  • Tools for creating unique but relatable characters.
  • How to identify your hook.
  • Tips for accessing your inner comedian.
  • Ways to use rhythm and repetition.
  • How to focus on the emotional lives of children.
  • Revision techniques for humor and heart.

Mornings will be structured around lectures, workshops and group hands-on activities; afternoons will be for writing and revising.

Attend If:

  • Your inner comedian wants to break free. Kids love humor, and this workshop will show you how to use it to create emotionally satisfying stories for kids.
  • You have multiple finished picture book drafts. Craft lectures and free time for writing means you’ll need to have some drafts to revise.
  • You love picture books and want yours to stand out. We’ll be taking a look at some good picture books and analyzing what makes them work. You’ll hear from faculty about developing your voice, your style, relatable characters and more.
  • You’re ready to share you work and get feedback for revision. Attendees are asked to bring two complete picture book manuscripts of 1000 words or fewer, one for individual critique with a faculty mentor and one for workshopping with fellow students.


Day 1
Arrival and check in

Appetizers & dinner
After dinner: Opening session with Elise, Emily and Sunita. Introductions; preview of weekend; workshop goals and schedule of manuscript reviews (individual and group); picture book read-aloud for inspiration (we’ll provide the books).

Day 2
Beginnings, Endings, and Everything in Between, Elise Broach
One-to-one critiques, free writing time

Writing with the Pictures in Mind, Sunita Apte
Free writing time (optional writing prompt)
How to be Funny, Emily Jenkins
What’s the hook?” pitch session to panel of Emily, Elise, and Sunita

Appetizers & dinner
After dinner: MSS group workshop (3 students)

Day 3
Rhythm, Repetition, and the Emotional Life of the Child, Emily Jenkins
MSS group workshops (4 students)

Ask us Anything: Writing, Editing, and Publishing Q&A with Elise, Emily, and Sunita
Free writing time (optional writing prompt)

Appetizers & dinner
After dinner: MSS group workshop (3 students)

Day 4
Revising for Humor and Heart, Elise Broach
MSS group workshop (3 students)
Final Q&A, next steps

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


“Elise and Emily were smart, knowledgeable, and brilliant teachers. They brought their real-world experience to each class and workshop session. I was also impressed by the way they gave us shared mentor texts on the first night, which they then referred back to as examples in the classes and workshop sessions. We had a common reference point through this teaching style.”

“My favorite part was the one-on-one critique. Elise’s insight into my story is going to move it to the next level.”

Scholarships Available

Scholarships are available for this workshop:
Application deadline is January 5, 2020. Scholarships will be announced February 4, 2020.
Click here to apply!
For more information about scholarships, click here.


Elise Broach

Elise Broach is the author of more than twenty books for young readers, ranging from board books and picture books…
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Emily Jenkins

Emily Jenkins writes YA, middle grade and books for the very young.  Her twenty picture books include A Greyhound, A Groundhog, Toys Meet…
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Sunita Apte

Special Guest Sunita Apte is the half-Indian, half-Hungarian child of immigrants. She has lived and traveled in Asia, Europe, South…
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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.

Do you want help finding a workshop or resources that will fit your needs?
Talk to one of our ambassadors.

workshop information

Begins on Sunday, July 26, with dinner and ends on Wednesday, July 29, with lunch.