Summer School: Revising and Re-Imagining Picture Book Manuscripts
June through August 2017

Summer is almost here, and it's a great time for revising and re-imagining your current stories and crafting new ones. Without the immediate pressure of getting manuscripts ready to submit to editors and agents, or to present at conferences and workshops, you can practice your craft and strengthen your skills as a picture book writer. We've set up our "summer school" to help you do just that -- and of course to get ready for those fall conferences and submissions!

As independent editors, and in-house children's book editors in New York before that, both of us have years of experience in working with writers on picture books. To teach the methods we use, we created our successful "Revising and Re-Imagining Your Picture Book" in-person workshop. We then developed it into an online presentation in spring 2015, presented an updated version earlier this year, and now have built this summer session around that course. Like the earlier workshops, this teaches you techniques to help you find problems with your manuscript, reshape it, and then polish it up before you send it out. And we've added an optional "speed critique" group session to give you feedback.

You can read about people's reactions to the earlier workshops on our Testimonials page. And we are holding a promotion giveaway.

The Basics

Time frame: All course materials will be available for you to work with at your convenience from June through August. Short live webinar sessions--also available as recordings--will introduce and wrap up the class and explain our critique setup. The optional speed critique sessions will be scheduled in July on evenings and on the weekend. As a bonus, as attendance grows, we will add extra live sessions to present specific techniques. See below for schedule details.

Price: The summer school fee is $165, and the critique option is $65, both more affordable than the fees for our recent structured course.

A free recording of a preview session, The Unwritten: What You Don't Say When Writing a Picture Book, is available.

For information about the speed critiques and a critique discount available after the class, please see our summer school critiques page.

Workshop registration: To register, please follow this simple two-part process.

First, register at Zoom, the platform we use for our live sessions.

Then return here to use this Paypal link to pay by credit card, debit card, or your Paypal account (the landing page will say "KBR/F1rstpages"). You will receive an acknowledgment within 24-48 hours. Please contact us if you need to pay for the course in another way.

More Details

This self-guided summer school is based on materials developed for our recent webinar class on the same subject. Students will have complete access to the materials, and a guide to using them. Students can work through the materials at their own pace, in a sequence of their choosing, with the help of the guide and their teachers.

Materials include:

  • Complete video recordings from the six sessions of our just-completed "Revising and Re-Imagining Your Picture Book Manuscript."
  • The text of the chat room discussion from that class.
  • A text transcription of the audio from that class.
  • Handouts for every sessions, with resources, templates, etc.
  • Optional "homework" for each session, for which your assigned teacher, Eileen or Harold, will provide feedback.
  • A separate recording of "Feedback from Others," on critique groups, beta readers, and working with children, with handouts, etc.
An option that students can choose is a "speed" critique group of 4-6 people that will meet online (an audio meeting with shared screens as needed) to give and get structured feedback on manuscripts (participants will have guide questions from us), with either Harold or Eileen as facilitator and commenter. Sessions will be available on evenings and weekends, and will run for about an hour, with each participant getting 15 minutes of feedback from the group plus a written report from the "faculty" summarizing the comments and providing additional feedback.

Brief summaries of the sessions:

Session 1 -- Using Reader Response Theory to Deepen Our Understanding of How Picture Books Work: After some introductory points about the unique challenges of writing picture books, in this session we will look at the two opposing approaches to understanding literature and explore how to use the least familiar of the two, reader response theory, to enrich your picture book.

Bonus Session -- Getting Feedback from Others, from an earlier webinar series, on critique groups, beta readers, and working with children.

Session 2 -- Revising at the Big Picture Level to Get Your Story Working: In this session we will explore ways of seeing your story in a new light--the true meaning of "re-vision." We will try out techniques from the one-line summary to the story grid.

Session 3 -- Re-Imagining Character and Setting to Find a Fresh Approach: Sometimes there's nothing much wrong with a story, but it needs a fresh approach. It, or part of it, needs to be re-imagined. In this session we will look into methods to learn more about your main character and how to use different settings to tell a different story.

Session 4 -- Re-Imagining POV and Voice to Find a Fresh Approach: In this session we will continue to re-imagine, this time looking at point of view and voice, and find ways to transform how we are approaching them.

Session 5 -- Revising at the Word Level to Polish Your Story: In this session, we will present and demonstrate self-editing methods that you can use to clean up your manuscript without hiring a copyeditor.

Session 6 -- Discussion, and the State of the Market: In this session we will review the course, answer all remaining questions, and take a look at the current picture book market and how it affects (and doesn't) what you have to do as writers.

In each session, we provide a clear framework, examples from current and classic picture books ("touchstone" books), hands-on exercises, handouts and tools, recommended resources, and a closing question/discussion time. Some sessions bring in homework examples as part of the live class. Course materials will be provided via DropBox, in organized folders.

Preliminary Schedule:

  • June 1: All registered participants receive course guide and access to materials. All participants assigned to either Eileen or Harold as their homework teacher.
  • June 7: First live session: How to use the course. A recording will be made and posted.
  • June 21: Second live session: How to use the speed critique groups. A recording will be made and posted.
  • July: Critique group sessions held, with weeknight and weekend options.
  • July: Added live sessions if goal numbers reached.
  • July 26: Final live session: Questions and discussion. A recording will be made and posted.
  • August 1-31: Materials remain available; Harold and Eileen no longer available for feedback.

Like the live class, this summer session will be a protected space in which you can feel free to make mistakes, ask questions you worry are stupid, and try out new directions; there will be no agents sitting in, no pitch sessions, no "opportunities to submit a manuscript" to win, because we want you to be able to focus on your writing and revising and on what you are learning in the class without feeling self-conscious and anxious to get it "ready." This will be two to three months of digging deep into your picture book writing, and we want you to enjoy it and be challenged by it in a good way.

Frequently asked questions from the original course: If you have questions, you may find them answered on this page. If you have questions not answered here or in the FAQ, please contact us.

Workshop registration: To register, please follow this simple two-part process.

First, register at Zoom, the platform we use for our live sessions.

Then return here to use this Paypal link to pay by credit card, debit card, or your Paypal account (the landing page will say "KBR/F1rstpages"). You will receive an acknowledgment within 24-48 hours. Please contact us if you need to pay for the course in another way.

Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson have worked together since 2008 to bring something different to aspiring authors. They have created online classes and tutorials and in-person workshops, presenting and working with writers at SCBWI conferences, recent workshops in western Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pittsburgh, and an annual 4-day retreat at the Highlights Foundation. More information on our backgrounds.


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