Creating Picture Books with Humor and Heart: A Working Retreat 2020

  • Highlights Foundation Highlights Foundation
  • Pocono Mountains Municipal, Coolbaugh Township, PA, USA
  • Jul 26 - 29, 2020 (4 days)

About This Event

Please note: this course is full. Please click here to be placed on our waiting list.

If you're looking for a picture book workshop, check out:

PB&J: Picture Books & All That Jazz, June 20-23

The Ins and Outs of a Picture Book and Its Many Forms, August 13-16

Join Us To:

Learn the process of creating funny and/or emotionally satisfying picture books. Get feedback on two manuscripts: a one-to-one with a faculty member for the first and a group critique for the second. Hear presentations and do hands-on activities to prepare for submission. Learn craft tips: establishing your voice, accessing your inner comedian, creating relatable characters, connecting your readers with powerful emotions, and more.

What You'll Learn:

Two award-winning, bestselling authors, Emily Jenkins and Elise Broach, and writer, editor and publisher Sunita Apte (Reycraft Books/Benchmark) will guide you through the process of creating funny and/or emotionally satisfying picture books that connect with young readers. In this writing intensive course, you will learn:

Techniques for powerful beginnings and endings.

Ways to create a compelling story arc.

How to establish a distinctive style/voice.

Tools for creating unique but relatable characters.

How to identify your hook.

Tips for accessing your inner comedian.

Ways to use rhythm and repetition.

How to focus on the emotional lives of children.

Revision techniques for humor and heart.

Mornings will be structured around lectures, workshops and group hands-on activities; afternoons will be for writing and revising.

Attend If:

Your inner comedian wants to break free. Kids love humor, and this workshop will show you how to use it to create emotionally satisfying stories for kids.

You have multiple finished picture book drafts. Craft lectures and free time for writing means you'll need to have some drafts to revise.

You love picture books and want yours to stand out. We'll be taking a look at some good picture books and analyzing what makes them work. You'll hear from faculty about developing your voice, your style, relatable characters and more.

You're ready to share you work and get feedback for revision. Attendees are asked to bring two complete picture book manuscripts of 1000 words or fewer, one for individual critique with a faculty mentor and one for workshopping with fellow students.


Day 1


Arrival and check in


Appetizers & dinner

After dinner: Opening session with Elise, Emily and Sunita. Introductions; preview of weekend; workshop goals and schedule of manuscript reviews (individual and group); picture book read-aloud for inspiration (we’ll provide the books).

Day 2



Beginnings, Endings, and Everything in Between, Elise Broach

One-to-one critiques, free writing time



Writing with the Pictures in Mind, Sunita Apte

Free writing time (optional writing prompt)

How to be Funny, Emily Jenkins

What’s the hook?” pitch session to panel of Emily, Elise, and Sunita


Appetizers & dinner

After dinner: MSS group workshop (3 students)

Day 3


Rhythm, Repetition, and the Emotional Life of the Child, Emily Jenkins

MSS group workshops (4 students)



Ask us Anything: Writing, Editing, and Publishing Q&A with Elise, Emily, and Sunita

Free writing time (optional writing prompt)


Appetizers & dinner

After dinner: MSS group workshop (3 students)

Day 4



Revising for Humor and Heart, Elise Broach

MSS group workshop (3 students)

Final Q&A, next steps


Lunch and farewells

A Note About Highlights Workshop Agendas


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


"Elise and Emily were smart, knowledgeable, and brilliant teachers. They brought their real-world experience to each class and workshop session. I was also impressed by the way they gave us shared mentor texts on the first night, which they then referred back to as examples in the classes and workshop sessions. We had a common reference point through this teaching style."

"My favorite part was the one-on-one critique. Elise's insight into my story is going to move it to the next level."

Scholarships Available

Scholarships are available for this workshop:

Application deadline is January 5, 2020. Scholarships will be announced February 4, 2020.

Click here to apply!

For more information about scholarships, click here.

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.
Get full details...

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