A Short Intensive Online Course
Thinking about writing a picture book, but don’t know where to start? Already started a picture book and feeling stuck? Join author Nikki Shannon Smith to kickstart your picture book project, with an overview of picture book formats and structures, plus strategies for idea implementation, drafting, and revising. This online intensive workshop will include presentations, small group discussions, a Q & A gathering, and handouts on topics like word count, first pages, and more!
- Live Lectures (with closed captioning and recorded for those who cannot attend live): Saturday, January 14 (2pm – 5pm Eastern), Saturday, January 21 (2pm – 5pm Eastern), Optional Faculty Q & A, Thursday, January 19 (7:30pm – 8:30pm Eastern)
- Hands-on exercises to draft and/or revise your picture book, with time to work independently on your draft between live sessions.
- Optional post-course critique (at an additional cost): Nikki Shannon Smith will review your manuscript (up to 1000 words, double spaced and in 12 pt Times New Roman [or similar] font) and provide written feedback. You will receive written feedback on your project within 4-6 weeks of submission.
- 25 participants max
Why This Course?
Thinking about writing a picture book, but don’t know where to start? Or, already started a picture book and feeling stuck? This workshop will help you put ideas into practice to start your picture book manuscript. Join Nikki Shannon Smith as she shares the basics of picture book writing from idea, to draft, through revision.
The first session will familiarize picture book beginners with picture book formats, and explore what to consider as you form your idea and write your first draft. Topics in this session will include beginnings, story structure, character, pacing, and endings.
During the week between sessions, you will have the opportunity to draft or revise your own picture book so you can apply your learning to your work and share/workshop it in the second session.
The second session will focus on analyzing your picture book draft in preparation for revision.
Writing exercises and time for questions and discussion will be included in both sessions. And of course, each session will include at least one picture book read-aloud!
During our live sessions, you will discover:
- Where to begin your picture book
- The opportunities for story structure
- Ways to develop character
- Analysis tools for plot, pacing, and setting yourself up for revision
During the week between the presentations, we hope that you will set aside independent time to work on your draft and the writing exercises. You have the option to attend a drop-in office hour during the week to ask Nikki any of your related questions.
- Informal: You will create during the course. Opportunities to share in the virtual classroom and/or during your peer group meeting will allow for informal discussion.
- For a more structured feedback, Nikki Shannon Smith can review your manuscript (up to 1000 words, double spaced and in 12 pt Times New Roman [or similar] font) and provide written feedback. You will receive written feedback on your project within 4-6 weeks of submission. The cost for this optional critique is $100. Details will be shared during the final session of class.
It’s a Great Fit For…
- Picture book beginners: Whether you are brand new to writing or new to writing picture books, this short course provides an overview of picture book fundamentals.
- Illustrators who want to learn more about picture book writing. Many picture books are a beautiful balance between words and pictures. If you feel confident in your illustrations but want to learn more about the writing and structure of a picture book, please join us.
- Those who like the structure of a short course with time to work on your own draft in between sessions. You’ll have time to implement some of your learning and offer your work to fellow writers who can give informal feedback and encouragement.
- You like the flexibility of online programs with recordings available for at least 30 days following the course.
All times are in Eastern Standard Time.
Part 1: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning
Saturday, January 14, 2pm – 5pm Eastern
- Welcome with brief introductions
- Read Aloud #1 (Book list of all titles shared will be available during session.)
- Presentation #1: Picture Book Formats and Structures
- Let’s clarify and prepare for today’s writing activity
- Mini-lesson and Writing Exercise: Let’s Get Started!
- Q & A
- Draft and/or revise your own picture book, so you can apply your learning to your work. Your Part 2 experience will be enriched if you have a draft or part of a draft to share.
- Join the OPTIONAL drop-in office hour with Nikki Shannon Smith to ask any draft/revision related questions on Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 7:30pm Eastern.
Part 2: Analysis, Revisions, and Community!
Saturday, January 21, 2pm – 5pm Eastern
- Read Aloud #2 (Book list of all titles shared will be available during session.)
- Presentation #2: Analysis and Revision
- Mini-Lesson and Writing Exercise: Another Look
- Small group discussions: Share your draft and/or writing exercise with your picture book community
- Q & A and Farewell
Throughout the Workshop
- Access to handouts and resources in the virtual classroom
- Book list of all titles mentioned in the course
- Interaction with fellow writers and faculty
Optional Post-Course Written Critique Opportunity
Following the class, there is the option to add a written critique from Nikki Shannon Smith. You may submit one work-in-progress (draft form), up to 1,000 words, plus a cover letter offering Nikki details on where you are in the process of this project and a little about what brings you to the project. Submissions are due by February 4, 2023. You will receive written feedback on your project within 4-6 weeks of submission. Cost of the optional post-course critique is $100. Details will be shared during the final session of class.
Commitment Required for the Best Experience
This intensive is best if you attend or watch all lectures. We recommend setting aside time to try the homework so that you can participate in the small group discussion during Part 2 of the program. (Note: If your schedule does not allow you to attend the live sessions and you would still like to register, that’s OK! You’ll have access to the recordings with closed captioning. They’re posted the day after the session, and they’ll be available through February 28, 2023.)
The Highlights Foundation strives for a safe and inclusive environment. You will have access to our Community Standards prior to the workshop where we ask for your respectful engagement with fellow creatives, including our faculty and staff.
How It Impacts Kids
Picture books are the first entry point for getting children engaged in story. At this workshop, you will learn how to turn your ideas into action to start the process of bringing your story to young readers.
Testimonials from Our Community
“Nikki was amazing! I learned so much about picture book writing from her. She kept the work interesting and read mentor texts that help to connect the dots.”
“Loved Nikki elaborating on so many affirming points: no need for history clarification; reading like a writer – I would love a course on how to build this skill more; speaking to the space for non conventional storytelling… And warm gratitude.”
“Nikki’s wonderful big questions gave space for me to question my own writing and be in relationship with my own creativity. Affirming spaces are wonderful for creative abundance!”