From Scripts to Panels: An Introduction to Graphic Novels

Online | Early Readers and Chapter Books, Novels, Illustration
Put your ideas into the graphic novel and/or comic form with storytellers Jacqueline Barnes and Kayden Phoenix and special guest agent Janna Morishima.

October 12, 2023 - October 19, 2023




A Short Intensive Online Course

Wondering where and how to start your graphic novel? Do you need to be an author/illustrator? Do images come first, or a script? Join storytellers Jacqueline Barnes and Kayden Phoenix with special guest agent Janna Morishima to discover ways to bring your idea for a graphic novel to the page. This online intensive workshop will include presentations, small group discussions, a Q & A gathering, and more!

  • Live Lectures (with closed captioning, and recorded for those who cannot attend live):
    • Thursday, October 12 (7:30pm – 9:30pm Eastern)
    • Thursday, October 19 (7:30pm – 9:30pm Eastern)
  • “Homework” to brainstorm ideas between sessions and prepare for small group discussions
  • Optional Studio Session (with faculty office hours) to work on homework and ask questions between sessions on Tuesday, October 17 (7:30pm – 9:30pm Eastern)
  • 24 participants max

Why This Workshop?

Wondering where and how to start your graphic novel? Do you need to be an author/illustrator? Do images come first or a script?

There aren’t simple responses to all of these questions, but Jacqueline Barnes and Kayden Phoenix have advice!

This workshop will help you put your ideas into the graphic novel and/or comic form.

We’ll begin with a deep dive into a variety of examples, unpacking the ways that graphic novels are constructed. You’ll have the chance to think in panels and page turns. We’ll ask you to define your personal skills and needs when it comes to writing and/or illustrating a book-length project.

During the week between sessions, you will have the opportunity to brainstorm ideas, consider the questions set out in the opening session, and build your project overview.

In addition, should you opt to attend the studio session between lectures (October 17), you can ask Kayden and Jacqueline questions, and even meet informally with them to discuss your project.

The second session will dig into graphic novel scripts and meet with our guest agent Janna Morishima to learn more about the graphic novel market and ways to submit as author, illustrator, or author/illustrator.

During our live sessions, you will:

  • Analyze graphic novel examples
  • Discover what it means to use “visual language”
  • Learn how to create a project overview (for authors, illustrators, or author/illustrators)
  • Set up and format a graphic novel script
  • Engage in studio hours and Q & A
  • Understand the ways that panels and page turns work together to form scenes in graphic novels
  • Learn about the graphic novel market and submissions

Feedback Expected

  • Informal: You will create during the course.  Sharing in the virtual classroom and/or during the optional studio session will provide some feedback.
  • Informal: Attend the optional studio session to visit with Jacqueline (illustrators) or Kayden (writers) to ask questions and receive informal feedback on your homework on Tuesday, October 17 between 7:30pm – 9:30pm Eastern.

It’s a Great Fit For…

  • Graphic novel beginners, including writers, illustrators, author/illustrators, and those curious about the form. Our goal is to take you from idea to writing your script and thinking in scenes of a book-length project.
  • Creatives looking for a new ways to tell their stories, whether fiction or nonfiction. Perhaps you’ve worked on novels, picture books, comics, or other storytelling forms. Learn how to get started in the graphic novel form with this short course.
  • Those who like the structure of a short course with time to work on your own ideas in between sessions. You’ll have time to implement some of your learning, and take ideas from your mind onto the page!
  • You like the flexibility of online programs, with recordings available for at least 30 days following the course.

Detailed Agenda

All Times are Eastern Standard Time.


You will receive a link to our virtual classroom where you can introduce yourself to fellow writers, engage in Highlights Foundation related resources (including our Community Standards), and ask program related questions before we dig in!

Part 1: Graphic Novel Overview & Scenes

Thursday, October 12 (7:30pm – 9:30pm Eastern) led by Jacqueline Barnes

  • Welcome with brief introductions in the chat
  • What is a graphic novel? (Examples! Examples! Examples!)
  • Structural Ambiguity and Paneling
  • Communicating with your Co-Author
  • Discussion: What is a “scene”? (Examples! Examples! Examples!)
  • Presentation #1: How do panels and page turns help build scenes in graphic novels?
  • Homework: Single page, 3 panels sample (writing and/or illustrating) + Idea Outline
  • What to expect during the week between sessions
Between Sessions with Optional Studio Session
  • Homework: Consider a scene and how this might break into panels. Create an idea outline. (This might include: your role in the project, initial ideas, comp titles – or graphic novels that you’d like to keep in mind, setting up your script (What is the voice of the narrator? How can we tell?))
  • Tuesday, October 17 at 7:30pm – 9:30pm Eastern: Join the OPTIONAL studio session with the group to work on your homework, ask questions of your peers, and/or drop into a private meeting with Jacqueline (illustrators) or Kayden (writers)
  • Review/add to the graphic novel recommended titles.
Part 2: Story, Scripts & Submissions

Thursday, October 19 (7:30pm – 9:30pm Eastern) led by Kayden Phoenix

  • Presentation #2: Graphic Novel Scripts: An Overview 
  • Presentation #3: Revising Your Homework: Revising Scripts in Panels 
  • Special Guest: What is missing from today’s graphic novel market? (with agent Janna Morishima)
  • Q & A and Farewell
Throughout the Workshop
  • Access to resources in the virtual classroom
  • Interaction with fellow storytellers and faculty
  • On-going list of resources including graphic novel recommendations

Commitment Required for the Best Experience

This intensive is best if you attend or watch recordings of all lectures.

We also recommend setting aside time to try the homework, which will serve as an outline to take your idea into the graphic novel form.

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 November 30, 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

Graphic novels speak to kids, young and older! The speed of scenes and engaging stories make this form one that will only grow in favor. This workshop will help you take your idea and shape it into the graphic novel form.

Special Guests


October 12, 2023 - October 19, 2023




When you register for this course, you’ll receive information via email to confirm.

For mini courses (one or two nights only), you’ll receive webinar links immediately to use on the evening of the course.

For longer courses, you’ll receive an invitation to your virtual classroom as the workshop approaches.

Learn more about the technology that we use for our online workshops.

Our Mission in Action

Share Your Story, Inspire a Child
Equity & Inclusion in Kidlit
Partners & Sponsors

The Highlights Foundation positively impacts children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about our impact.