Creating Nonfiction Picture Books for Children in a Changing World 2020

November 20 - 22, 2020

Online Course Info:

This intensive online weekend course will bring together nonfiction picture book writers & illustrators to discuss the craft of creating books that resonate with the needs of today’s children. Throughout the weekend there will be LIVE Zoom sessions featuring:

  • Faculty lectures on research, craft, creativity and responsible representation.
  • Q&A sessions with faculty: books, nonfiction topics and more.
  • An interview and Q&A with guest editor Kandace Coston
  • Office Hours: themed informal talks, problem solving, or genre specific discussions.

In addition to the group LIVE Zoom sessions, you will meet with a faculty mentor at the beginning of the course and again at the end of the course.

Online Workshop Participant Cap:

24 students.

What You’ll Learn & Experience:

  • Meet one-to-one with your faculty mentor at the beginning and end of the course to frame your revisions for your in-progress nonfiction picture book.
  • Attend office hours on topics of interest like biography, submissions, and poetry.
  • Complete hands-on activities to develop the true story that is calling to you.
  • Study in a small-group, virtual setting where you can ask questions that pertain to your work.
  • Enjoy time for writing or revising.
  • Examine the publishers and markets for picture book biographies and nonfiction picture books with  publishing professionals.

Upon enrollment, your welcome letter will provide details about submitting pages prior to the start of the workshop.

Attend If:

  • You are working on a biography for kids. Our faculty wants to help you create the best biography for our children.
  • You are working on an environmental or humanitarian themed story. We will help you find the narrative in nonfiction topics to create emotionally impactful stories for children.
  • You are a picture book author eager to expand your work into nonfiction. Our faculty is well versed in many areas of nonfiction picture books, and is here to help.
  • You are an author/illustrator or an author & illustrator team. Learn from nonfiction author/illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton about her own projects and her collaboration with Cynthia Levinson.
  • You love nonfiction and are eager to write TRUE stories. This workshop provides a comprehensive introduction to the world of nonfiction picture books.
  • You have an in-progress or finished manuscript and would benefit from expert feedback. Meetings with your faculty mentor give you time to ask questions, get suggestions for revision and get support for your goals.
  • You have ideas about this changing world that you want to share with children. The powerful stories we share at this workshop are meant to inspire, uplift, and ignite us all.

Tentative Agenda (Subject to Change):

Note: Agenda will be finalized before the course begins and posted in Thinkific, our online learning platform.
Friday, November 20, 2020
1pm Eastern
Throughout the day, first one-to-ones with faculty mentors.

5:30pm Eastern
LIVE Zoom sessions: Workshop Meet & Greet
Gather to introduce yourself and your work in small groups
*There will be a brief break before the next session.

6:30pm Eastern
LIVE Zoom sessions:
Welcome and Introductions
Opening session with Cynthia Levinson and Vanessa Brantley Newton: “Giving Your ALL for OUR Children”
Followed by Q & A

Saturday, November 21, 2020
12pm Eastern
LIVE Zoom session: Digging Deep into Research with Traci Sorell
Followed by Q & A
*There will be a break before the next session.

3pm Eastern
LIVE Zoom session: “Crafting Words, Setting, and Emotion” with Mitali Perkins
Followed by Q & A
Followed by writing and revision time

5:30pm Eastern
LIVE Zoom Open Office Hours: Themed informal talks, problem solving, or genre specific discussions. Topics to be announced.
*There will be a break before the next session.

6:30pm Eastern
LIVE Zoom session: Interview with special guest, editor Kandace Coston
Followed by Q & A

Sunday, November 22, 2020
In the virtual classroom, students can catch up on any missed videos, work on writing exercises and revisions.

1pm Eastern
LIVE Zoom session: Unblocking Your Creativity: A hands-on exercise with Vanessa Brantley Newton
Followed by writing & revisions.

Follow-up one-to-ones with faculty mentors

5:30pm Eastern
LIVE Zoom session: Open Office Hours: Themed informal talks, problem solving, or genre specific discussions. Topics to be announced.
*There will be a break before the next session.

6:30pm Eastern
LIVE Zoom closing session with Faculty to discuss their books, topics in NF, and in the world
Followed by Q & A


True Storytelling: Writing Picture Book Biographies & Narrative Nonfiction
Interview with editor Kandace Coston on Literaticast
Picture Book Word Count, and Other Rules that are Meant to Be Broken
Birthdayographies, where Donna Janell Bowman celebrates over 700 (so far!) picture book biographies
Get It Right With Research
10 Things to Consider When Writing a Picture Book Biography


Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Vanessa Brantley-Newton is a self-taught illustrator, doll maker, and crafter who studied fashion illustration at FIT and children’s book illustration…
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Mitali Perkins

Mitali Perkins has written many novels for young readers, including Rickshaw Girl (chosen by the New York Public Library as one of…
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