PB&J: Picture Books and All That Jazz 2019

About This Event


Go beyond the basics to understand the “whys” behind current picture book bestsellers.

Everyone loves picture books! But writing stories that sell means going beyond a fun idea. In addition to structure, word choice, and plot, have you considered voice, style, rhythm, layout, rhyme, audience, tone, and sound? This workshop with award-winning picture book authors Darcy Pattison and Leslie Helakoski digs deep into the many layers that create strong creative stories.

What You’ll Learn

Study the picture book format:

Examine current picture book bestsellers.

Dissect books with that elusive read-again-and-again quality.

Hear an editor discuss why she chooses the books she chooses.

Picture book components: character, plot, getting the story down.

Word choice: rhythm & rhyme.

Format: what’s the best way to tell your story?

Work on your craft:

Learn how to entice readers with your writing.

Find new ways to understand story.

Investigate how art enhances writing and inspire yourself to make room for the art as you write.

Writing exercises and free writing time.

Working on the next picture book: generating ideas.

Focus and structure: focusing statement and three-act structure.

Network and be mentored:

Hear editor feedback from an acquiting editor.

Round table critiques.

Get reviews on your manuscript from our three faculty members.

Who Should Attend

This course is best for:

Anyone with a serious interest in writing picture books. Experienced writers as well as beginners will benefit from understanding what makes a book sell and how structure and voice help tell the story and satisfy the reader.

Those who have completed two or more drafts of a picture book manuscript.

Those who want professional feedback on their work.

Anyone who is not afraid to dig deep into revision and dissecting what makes books work.

If you like playing with words and story and want feedback on your work, this is the place for you.


Day 1


Arrival and check in


Appetizers & Dinner

After dinner:

Introductions and sharing: What’s your favorite picture book?

Picture Book Components–Character, Plot, Getting the Story Down

Focus and Structure: Focusing Statement and Three-Act Structure

Day 2


Breakfast with a story

Forms: What’s the Best Way to Tell this Story?

Word Choice/Rhythm and Rhyme


Lunch with a story

Q&A with designer

Roundtable critiques

Free writing time


Appetizers & Dinner

After dinner:

Faculty presentation

Brute thinking #2

Day 3


Breakfast with a story

Editor presentation

Scoring Successful PBs; Making Dummies


Lunch with a story

Roundtable critiques

Free writing time

First pages with an editor


Appetizers & Dinner

After dinner: Re-envisioning your Picture Book: Quantum Leap Revisions; Cutting

Day 4


Breakfast with a story

Brute Thinking #3: Working on the Next Picture Boo…Ideas

Final Round Table Critiques


Lunch and farewells


9 Picture Book Topics to Avoid

How Do You Know If You’ve Written a Picture Book?

Writing Picture Books That Soar

Short and Easy, Right? How Hard Can It Be to Write a Picture Book?

3 Tips for Writing Funny Picture Books

Pointers for Writing Powerful Picture Books

Nonfiction Picture Books: Get it Right with Research


“Leslie, you were actually one of the first people to really believe in this manuscript and it never would have come to be if it wasn’t for you and Darcy. It had a completely different setting and style until you and Darcy challenged us to rewrite the beginning of one of our manuscripts on the first night of PB&J. I tend to cling tightly to my first ideas so it was the perfect exercise (and your critique was the perfect reminder) to not settle for the first thing that comes to mind. I have already shared with my writer groups what an amazing experience that workshop was and gave it my highest recommendation.”

“The faculty was excellent – knowledgeable, focused, and generous with their time.”

“The PB&J workshop was delicious! Darcy and Leslie encouraged, enlightened, and energized in a most personable way.”

“This conference was great! A perfect mix of learning and practicing our craft.”

“Darcy and Leslie were extremely accessible for advice, critique and casual conversation.”

Cancellation Policy

100% deposit refund for cancellation 30+ days before event.
50% deposit refund for cancellation 15-29 days before event.
0% deposit refund for cancellation 0-14 days before event.
The remaining balance (total price minus deposit) is due upon arrival.
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