Writing the Rainbow: Crafting Picture Books With LGBTQIA+ Themes Online Workshop June 2021

June 1 - 18, 2021


Online (Facilitated)

COVID Reschedule/Refund Policy
What’s the difference between Highlights Foundation workshop types?


3 weeks (June 1-18, 2021)
Two sessions per week, plus 1:1 meetings




Picture books bring the world into the hands of young readers. They celebrate all of us as individuals, families, and communities. In many ways we are different, and in many ways we are alike.

This workshop is designed to bring LGBTQIA+ writers and allies together to craft picture books with clear LGBTQIA+ themes. We will craft books that celebrate joy, respect, and appreciation to children in today’s world, showing beauty and strength in our rainbow of experiences.


Kids see their communities, families, and selves as part of the world through the pages of a picture book. Picture books can encourage early and lifelong allyship and resonate with children’s family structures, identities, and orientations.

Why do we mention this? Learn about the Highlights Foundation mission.


  • Picture book authors or author/illustrators writing with LGBTQIA+ themes
  • All picture book genres are applicable (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and more)


  • Live sessions with Q&As will be held Wednesdays, June 2, 9, 16 (7-9pm Eastern); Friday, June 18 (7pm – 9pm Eastern); and Saturdays, June 5 & 12 (2-4pm Eastern). (Note: If your schedule does not allow you to attend live sessions, that’s OK! You’ll have access to the recordings. They’re usually posted the day after the session, and they’ll be available through July 31, 2021.)
  • Many sessions will include an optional (but encouraged) writing exercise.
  • There is a full manuscript critique included in this program. You will schedule 1:1 time with a faculty leader to review your feedback during the week of June 7, 2021. Your submission of a picture book manuscript for this session is due by Friday, May 17 (word count limit is 1000 words, not including author’s note or back matter).
  • There are additional opportunities for paid written feedback following the workshop with faculty and special guests at a rate of $100 per 1000-word picture book manuscript.

Trying to figure out how this course fits into your schedule? Read some ideas about planning for the right level of commitment.


Join Lesléa Newman, Rob Sanders, Kyle Lukoff, A.M. Wild and Gloria Day for three weeks of craft-focused lectures, mentor text study, manuscript feedback, Q&A, and community.

Together we’ll:

  • Work to understand the needs of our diverse LGBTQIA+ community
  • Affirm Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s important message of mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors in children’s books
  • Analyze current and historical picture books with LGBTQIA+ themes and topics
  • Identify new topics for LGBTQIA+ themed picture books
  • Explore tools of storytelling for both fiction and nonfiction picture books
  • Examine how to turn story ideas into books that children will love
  • Learn tools for revision
  • Hear from publishing guest(s) about the submission process and LGBTQIA+ needs in the market
  • Receive critique on a full picture book manuscript (included) with option to add on another (paid)


Week 1
Session 1: Wednesday, June 2, 7-9pm Eastern

  • Welcome and Introductions
  • General Session: The Possibilities Are Endless: One Topic, Many Stories
  • Writing Exercise: 99 Ways to Tell Your Story

Session 2: Saturday, June 5, 2-4pm Eastern

  • Mentor Text Read-Aloud
  • General Session: Finding and Telling Untold Stories
  • Office hour discussion(s)

Week 2
Individual 1:1 consultations with faculty for feedback on your manuscript. You will schedule your session with faculty at a time that’s convenient for your schedule. (Submissions due by Friday, May 17; word count limit is 1000 words, not including author’s note or back matter.)

Nervous about critiques? See how the Highlights Foundation approaches the process here.

Session 3: Wednesday, June 9, 7-9pm Eastern

  • Mentor Text Read Aloud
  • General Session: Guest Speaker Kyle Lukoff
  • Writing Exercise: Waterfall Writing

Session 4: Saturday, June 12, 2-4pm Eastern

  • Reading the Rainbow
  • Office hour discussion(s)
  • Optional peer group meetings (4pm – 5pm Eastern)

Week 3
Session 5: Wednesday, June 16, 7-9pm Eastern

  • Mentor Text Read-Aloud
  • General Session: Dump Trucks, Dresses, and Dolls, Oh, My: Smashing Gender Stereotypes in Children’s Literature
  • Writing Exercise: The Cutting Room Floor, Less Is More, Delete Your Darlings: Revising and Tightening Your Manuscript

Session 6: Friday, June 18, 7pm – 9pm Eastern *special date for closing session

General Session: Editor Special Guest, Wiley Blevins
Where to Go from Here: Resources to Guide You on Your Journey, Questions, and Closing Remarks
Details about optional 1:1 critiques with faculty and consulting rates from faculty for continued mentoring.

Wondering if this is the final agenda? Read about why the agenda might not be final yet.


Writing the Rainbow: Rob Sanders and Lesléa Newman Talk About LGBTQIA+ Picture Books

More LGBTQIA+ Picture Books: Why?

Kids Need Queer Books

Lesléa Newman’s websites: and

Rob Sanders’ website:

Kyle Lukoff’s website:
5 Questions for Kyle Lukoff from The Horn Book

A.M. Wild’s website:

Gloria Day’s website:

Watch a Lee & Low Books webinar: LGBTQ+ Children’s Books: A Conversation with Authors and download their list of books and resources

The Gay History of America’s Classic Children’s Books (just for fun!)


“Lesléa and Rob were both fantastic! Lesléa is always super professional and very knowledgeable about her craft. Rob was fun and interesting. His energy was contagious! They made an excellent team!”

“Rob and Lesléa are so fantastic. From the moment I sat down to the first session through the very end of the last, I felt the joy, passion, engagement, and care that Rob and Lesléa brought to this retreat. Generous does not quite cover it. They provided us with so many resources to take home, engaged with us during one-on-ones with care, positivity, and a deep sense of appreciation for the stories we each brought to the table. I felt championed, celebrated, and supported throughout this whole experience. Lesléa brought a precision and wealth of knowledge to the table and Rob brought an excitement and openness that was infectious. There was a fantastic balance of craft, questions, and play. Finally, I was so impressed by their level of kind professionalism paired with a willingness to share their personal trajectories. I walked away with a better understanding of how to be a good literary citizen, the fundamentals of my craft, tricks and tips to employ while writing and revising, industry ins and outs, and how to run a successful workshop! I feel so lucky to have been a part of this.”


Lesléa Newman

Lesléa Newman is the author of 75 books for readers of all ages including the children’s classic, Heather Has Two…
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Rob Sanders

Rob Sanders is a teacher who writes and a writer who teaches. He is known for his funny and fierce…
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Kyle Lukoff

Special Guest Kyle Lukoff writes books for kids and other people. Right now you can pre-order his debut middle grade…
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A.M. Wild

Special Guest A.M. Wild (they/she) is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. Their debut picture book, Not He Or She,…
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Gloria Day

Special Guest Gloria Day is a writer, illustrator, and educator. Her experiences in the classroom are often her source of…
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Wiley Blevins

Wiley has worked in publishing for almost 30 years. He has written several early readers, such as Max Has a…
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