I am by no means the most knowledgeable person on this topic as I have yet to get published in this genre. However, since joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) it appears that I know a wee bit more than I thought I did about the wonderful world of picture books.

I was asked to host a picture book teach-in for the members of South East Scotland. Eek, I cried!

I worked my way through weetabix-splodged notebooks and mounds of scribbles scattered across my writing cave. I began to wonder (a dangerous pass-time for me as my mind usually goes elsewhere and I end up drafting another picture book instead of getting on with the task in hand).

What do I tell them? What do they want to know? Will I bore them to death then spend the rest of the meeting cleaning up their bodies with a ‘nothing to see here’ look on my face?

I started with the basics: format, spreads, end pages and worked on from there. Before I knew it, I had 11 pages of notes ready. Critique groups, research, upcoming events, submissions, illustrators, favourite picture books – it seemed I had quite a lot say after all.

As a member of the SCBWI PB on-line critique group, I felt it was only fair to tap into my fellow members’ psyche and asked what they thought about it all. A flurry of ‘you must join a crit group’, ‘my writing is so much better because of the fantastic feedback’ and so on. And they are right. I recently looked back at a story I wrote in 2006. Why, oh why did I think it was ready to submit! You learn from your mistakes.

I also pondered, who do I know in the picture book world that has been published and would like to give me some inspirational thoughts on the journey to the book shelf that I can pass onto our fledgling brigade? …none other than PB, MG and YA author Lari Don. Her magical mind is full of so much information but she managed to keep it down to two pages. Thank you!

I accepted this mission so therefore I must go ahead with it. It’s a task I took on with great enthusiasm as I love everything about the PB world.  I will freely admit there were serious moments of self-doubt as I made my way through ‘how to’ guides and internet searches – I think I channelled my inner Rapunzel when she fought against her demons about whether to leave her tower or not.

You will be pleased to hear I left my tower. And it was great fun. No-one fell asleep (that I know of) and no potatoes or bad oranges were thrown at me to get me to shut up. All in all a good day was had. I was particularly impressed with their studious attempts at creating their very own dummy picture books. I’ve never seen them all so quiet!

Dummy picture books are a fantastic way for any picture book writer to see their story in book-form. It gives you an idea of page turns and let’s you move the words around the page, giving an insight into how the finished product will look. Each A3 page makes three spreads. You just make as many you need for the 12/14 spreads you need and tape them together to form your very own book. 2015-06-07 12.03.52Here’s Bob – I made him at the PB retreat last year!

For those who don’t write picture books, you can also use it to create a notebook for your plot/structure for any other genre too.



  1. Hi Candy, we use teach-ins to gain knowledge from all the members in the room not just the person running the event. It’s like a pow-wow of literary minds meeting together to share what they know. It’s really useful and seems to go down well with the lovely members of South East Scotland 🙂

  2. Wow, Sarah! It takes courage to feel the fear and do it anyway! 🙂 Well done and great post.

    1. Thanks David, once I started writing down everything I have learned so far, it seems I had managed to fill quite a few pages!