Ten things to do if you want to write picture books:

  1. Join SCBWI. And find out what’s happening with your local chapter.
  2. Read craft books. You might start with (ahem) The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books and Ann Paul’s Writing Picture Books.
  3. Read picture books—lots of them. You’ll find recommendations at our group blog, PictureBookBuilders, and many more in The Nuts and Bolts Guide.
  4. Read children’s poetry. Notice the sound, the rhythm, and the way a story can be told or a world created with very few well-chosen words.
  5. Write. Obvious, I know, but somehow it’s easy to let other things take precedence.
  6. Revise, revise, revise. Think you’re done? Revise some more.
  7. Make a dummy or storyboard. Nothing better demonstrates the unique structure of a picture book or shows more clearly if your text is working in this format.
  8. Think visually. Imagine your story as a movie, and leave out anything that doesn’t move the action forward.
  9. Cultivate patience—with your writing (don’t rush!) and with the publishing industry (nothing happens quickly).
  10. Hang in there. Rejection is part of the business. It’s good to have a supportive critique group and/or at least one sympathetic friend.

Coffee helps, too, I’ve found.  Especially when accompanied by, say, chocolate chip cookies.

Resources for Writers

Children’s Literature

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. If you’re serious about writing for kids, join. Then find your Regional Chapter and sign up for a workshop or conference. Only dipping your toes in at this point? Then read Just Getting Started.

Harold Underdown’s Purple Crayon — an excellent resource for beginners and long-timers alike. Keep track of publishing moves at Who’s Moving Where.

KidLit411 — a comprehensive compilation of resources for children’s book writers of all genres. Looking for something? Chances are you’ll find it here (and a lot more).

100 Scope Notes. This long-running blog by elementary school librarian Travis Jonker has all sorts of good stuff related to children’s books.

Cynthia Leitich Smith — this author and long-time blogger has loads of info for children’s book writers and enthusiasts of all stripes. Be sure to check out Goodies for Writers.

If, like me, you enjoy seeing writers’ work spaces and reading about how they work, check out author Jennifer Bertman’s Creative Spaces interviews.

Manuscript Consultations/Coaching

Although I’ve provided manuscript consultations in the past, I’m not offering them at the moment. Below are several highly experienced and knowledgeable writing coaches/consultants that I recommend. SCBWI members can also find a list of freelance editors in The Book.

Alli Brydon. Years of experience as both an editor and literary agent, and endorsed by my friend Jill Esbaum, who interviewed Alli over here.

Emma Dryden. A former editor, Emma offers a variety of critiquing, coaching and editing services. Experienced, smart and wise.

Susanna Leonard Hill. Picture book author and blogger (see above). Susanna offers an online picture book writing course as well as critiquing services.

Picture Book People. Former children’s book editor Simone Kaplan offers telephone coaching sessions, writing tips and more.

Susie Wilde–teacher, writer, reviewer and children’s lit expert–offers manuscript critiques, coaching, classes and more.

Denise Vega—accomplished writer (picture books, middle grade, YA), teacher, and all-around good person. Offers critiques and teaches at Lighthouse Writers Workshop (Denver).

Picture Books in Particular

Picture Book Builders. Twice-weekly posts about elements that make particular picture books sing from picture book authors and illustrators Jill Esbaum, Kevan Atteberry, Pat Zietlow Miller, Jennifer Black Reinhardt, Barb Rosenstock, Tammi Sauer, Eliza Wheeler and me.

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Julie Danielson’s witty and beautiful blog primarily focuses on established and up-and-coming illustrators.

Susanna Leonard Hill. Susanna, a picture book author, writes a lively, informative and engaging blog with many resources for writers.

Mem Fox. This author, reading advocate and all-around dynamo offers advice for writers, tips for reading aloud (with audio clips) and much more.

Kim Norman. Excellent advice for writers as well as tips for a great author visit from this author, poet, and school visit veteran.

Design of the Picture Book. This gorgeous blog, created by writer/librarian Carter Higgins, celebrates the artistry of picture books.

Children’s Illustration. Another great blog focused on picture book art. Written by author/illustrator Julie Fortenberry and Shelley Davies.

Julie Hedlund. Inspiration, interviews, and much more from this app creator, blogger, and founder of the 12 x 12 (12 Picture Books in 12 Months) writing challenge.

Tara Lazar. Lots of helpful posts and resources from this author and founder of PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month)

Jama’s Alphabet Soup. Jama Rattigan’s witty, informative and entertaining blog mixes picture books with tasty recipes, poetry, indie artist profiles and more.

Kathleen Pelley’s blog offers inspiration to fellow writers and storytellers and opportunities to hear her read a beloved children’s book through her monthly storytelling videos.

Picture Book Boot Camp. Really helpful explanation of picture book “anatomy” here, plus a great one-page storyboard, from author/illustrator Ashley Wolff.

An A-Z Glossary of Children’s Book Author & Illustrator Terms on author Anika Denise’s website.

The Little Crooked Cottage features book reviews, interviews, and other good stuff by a trio of talented authors: Anika Denise, Jamie Michalak, and Kara LaReau.

Online Writing Classes

UCLA Extension. Click on “Writers Program” and “Writing for the Youth Market” to find picture book classes taught by author and instructor Terry Pierce.

Susanna Leonard Hill. Picture book author and blogger (see above). Susanna offers an online picture book writing course as well as critiquing services.

KidLitCollege. Webinars, workshops and more offered by a variety of authors, editors and agents.

Poetry, Mostly

Poetry for Children. Sylvia Vardell’s excellent blog about all things related to poetry for kids.

The Miss Rumphius Effect. Educator and long-time blogger Patricia Stohr-Hunt offers extensive resources, interviews and writing prompts focused on poetry and non-fiction books for kids.

Laura Purdie Salas. Laura’s information-packed website is an excellent spot for budding and experienced poets as well as those who want to write picture books.

The Poem Farm. Poet Amy Ludwig VanDerwater offers wonderful resources and prompts for poets of all ages (and their teachers) .

No Water River. Writer, poet and editor Renee LaTulippe has created a wonderful resource for children’s poetry lovers, including videos of many children’s poets reading their own work.

Pomelo Books. Home of The Poetry Friday Anthology collections for the classroom as well as other poetry-related resources for teachers and writers.

RhymeWeaver. Lane Frederickson’s website offers a visual approach to learning all about rhyme, meter and related concepts.

Online Writing Challenges

These challenges offer lots of inspiration (and prizes!) to keep you motivated. Listed in order by month:

ReviMo (Revise More Picture Books). Join Meg Miller’s challenge to pull out your old manuscripts and get to work revising them. Starts in mid-January.

12×12. Julie Hedlund’s challenge to write 12 picture book manuscripts in 12 months. Registration ends in February.

ReFoReMo (Reading for Research Month). Reading excellent picture books is the best way to learn to write them. Carrie Charley Brown’s program includes a month of writing tips and book recommendations from a wide range of author/educators. Sign-up begins mid-February for a March start date.

RhyPiBoMo (Rhyming Picture Book Month). Want to write rhyming picture books? Angie Karcher leads a month-long challenge featuring daily lessons/exercises and lots of talented guest bloggers. Sign-up begins mid-March for an April start.

NaPiBoWriWee (National Picture Book Writing Week). Author and blogger Paula Yoo challenges writers to finish one picture book draft each day for a week in May.

PiBoIdMo. Sign up in late October for Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month, and spend November coming up with 30 picture book concepts in 30 days.