THE DRAGON REACTION: A child who overreacts to setbacks figures out how to manage their inner dragon (fight/flight reaction) in an SEL action story that subtly models anxiety-calming skills.
SCAT, CAT! A STORY OF MITZVAHS: On a rundown Brooklyn street, a timid (non-speaking) cat learns to trust a Jewish boy who does mitzvahs (good deeds) for her. She ultimately performs one for him and earns a special name. SMALL IN THE CITY x THIS STORY IS NOT ABOUT A KITTEN x THE INVISIBLE.
I’M LION!: A warthog's flawed behaviors get him what he wants, so he escalates...until he giddily propels himself straight into danger. THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF x THE LION KING, for children with difficulty sharing and grasping the consequences of lying and of disobeying safety rules.
KEEP UP, KIDDO: Brooklyn, 1939: Three boys break rules and nearly get busted when they sneak off to Coney Island. The little one's loose shoelace nearly trips them all up but becomes their salvation.
ZEV AND DUNCAN'S CHRISTMAS-CHANUKAH KERFUFFLE: When best friends share their holiday cookie and latke traditions, Zev’s precision clashes with Duncan’s anything-goes approach in a kerfuffle that threatens to mess up Christmas, Chanukah, and the boys’ friendship.
BIG APPLE BUCKAROO: Reese, a wannabe cowboy, overhears his parents discuss a move to the Manhattan. Word-confusions lead him to believe he's headed for bucking broncs (Brooklyn, Bronx) and burros (boroughs) that eat big apples. Reality disappoints, until Reese finds that even in NYC, he can ride the range and belly up to the chuckwagon.
TUMMY TROUBLE: Playing with Pippa, her purple hippo, Steffi accidentally pokes a hole in the plushie's mouth. Pulling out stuffing and putting in food, Steffi causes Pippa serious tummy trouble and must figure out what is best for Pippa.
"Hey-Diddle-Diddle stories: because children asked me, "WHY?"
OVER THE MOON: Luna the cow believes Farmer Ben's happiness is literally OVER THE MOON, and she's determined to get it for him. She leaps to a sweet, snowy surprise the delighted farmer declares, "Tastes like happiness!"
SKIP TO MY LOU: "Lost my partner, what'll I do?" A lost cat picks up a fiddle because it's instrumental to his welcome into a new home.
APPLES and HONEY, A Rosh Hashanah Story: Minimal text shows how apple trees and busy bees, over the course of a year, produce apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish celebration welcoming a new year.
FOR OLDER READERS
MILO'S FORTUNE: Milo struggles to accept that, to see himself and his mother through the winter, he must pawn the flute his missing father carved. It feels like parting with his heart, but it's the only thing he can do. Then Mr. Turner, the pawnbroker, offers Milo the Three Openings: an egg, a key, and a sack. “What will happen?” asks Milo. “Maybe something, maybe nothing,” Mr. Turner replies. “That’s the nature of chance.” Milo embarks on an adventure full of possibilities, with the results depending on whether his heart guides his irrevocable choices. A short story, this lyrical reinterpretation of the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk will appeal to fans of The Alchemist and The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse.
When I started writing picture book manuscripts in 2020, I was amazed and delighted by all the online communities, workshops, and resources. Despite the pandemic and lockdown, online I found abundant, real-time, opportunities to interact with people, from instructors to critique buddies.
My first on-site conference was the June 2023 FL SCBWI Conference in Ft. Lauderdale. Wow! I felt like Dorothy opening the door to exit her house that just landed on Oz. The kidlit world is warm and welcoming online. In person, that shining star becomes supernova bright!
All written communication presents challenges. For example, many of us have had a well-intentioned email message land wrong.
Printed words must stand alone, without body language, facial expression, tone of voice. Printed words presented to a stranger lack the context of personally shared history.
Picture books are written for children. Obviously, the audience lacks mature language development. There is limited leeway for elaboration. Attention spans have shortened, the demands on parents have increased. Modern picture books presenting fictional stories have only about 500 words.
Without illustrations, the manuscript must stand on its own.
Is it any wonder, then, that writing picture books requires ample patience and perseverance, plus a strong dose of kind, encouraging community input? "This is working well. This is unclear. What about trying it another way?"
Patience, perseverance, community, pulling together to produce strong, elegant, economical communication.
The purpose of the psychological reports I write is to help the student, teachers, and family understand and address a challenging situation. The issues are complex, but the report must be clear and practical. The report must be meaningful TO THEM, or it is worthless.
When writing picture books, similar considerations apply. What am I trying to give the future reader? How can I make it clear and meaningful?
To improve our report writing, school psychologists in my area meet to discuss the conditions we evaluate and practice skills for writing "user-friendly" reports. We learn from each other by helping each other. Everyone's skills improve!
When writing picture books, I meet with fellow writers in critique groups. We learn from each other by helping each other. Everyone's skills improve!
After joining SCBWI, I dove headlong into writing picture books. What a wonderful adventure! I dig in to the creativity, problem-solving, excitement of learning new things. The writers I meet, in-person and online, are intelligent, generous, extraordinary. Kidlit writing communities offer astounding camaraderie and support.
I've always spent time on creative pursuits in writing, music, and visual arts. With kidlit, for the first time I feel getting a work out into the public sphere could be an attainable goal.
What I learned in my first year studying picture-book writing.
Don’t overestimate yourself.
Don’t underestimate yourself.
Join at least one writers' community.
For learning, and for support.
Invest time and money in workshops, conferences and courses-
but realize that there are quite a lot, and one cannot do everything!
There's great deal learn about how to write a story well.
Beyond that, there's a great deal more to learn, including
Subscribing to newsletters, following blogs, joining Facebook groups and Twitter
There are so many! I've joined so many, I can't keep up with them all!
Read picture books. Read recent picture books. Read "the best picture books" on the "best of the year" lists.
My first Critique Group
The many learning trails can be all-consuming!
Make time to WRITE!
Evolving the story needs deep-writing and side-writing exercises. Deep work that generates words and ideas that do not end up in the manuscript. These supplements create the healthy inner workings that make the skin glow!
GIVE it Time
and express GRATITUDE to your learning community!
As a psychologist, I have contributed to the following publications:
I am in process of contributing to a chapter on the interdisciplinary management of autism spectrum disorder for a book on clinical practice that is being edited by Joseph A. Balogun, PT, Ph.D, FACSM, FNSP, FAS, FRSPH
I know exactly when I started writing picture books. Christmas Eve, 2019.
My husband and I were visiting our grandchildren (and their parents). My four-year-old granddaughter had a question about a painting hanging in her room. A painting I had made for her.
"WHY did the cow jump over the moon?"
In the middle of the night, I woke up. Perhaps reindeer hooves were pattering on the roof. There was a story in my head. A story about a cow who wanted to pull Santa's sleigh. I turned on my iPad and typed it.
Later, I illustrated it and made a book just for my grandkids. I showed that book to a dear friend who is a media specialist.
She said, "You should join SCBWI."
"What's that?" I asked.
And now I know.