Saturday, July 31, 2010

Premium Workshop - An Editor Over Your Shoulder: Polishing Your Picture Book with Diane Muldrow

photo from
Sat in on the first session of Diane Muldrow's Premium Workshop yesterday, and I am really excited for those 20+ attendees. They are going to get some ultra-polished picture book manuscripts out of these hours with Diane. And not just traditional, 32-page hardcover trade manuscripts. Diane is teaching the group about board books, Golden Books, novelty books, all sorts of formats.

Diane starts with a history of her career as a children's book editor and an author. She invites the class to reformat their manuscripts the way she lays them out, which is, at times, a radical departure from what most of us have learned is industry standard formatting. The caveat, however, is you do this only on your personal copy of the manuscript to see how it informs your self-editing. And all authors must self-edit, says Diane, so who better to teach us how than an editor!  Her ideas are superb, making authors who don't draw think visually, mapping out every single page turn and writing up all possible illustrations ideas.

The class looks at the evolution of Diane's book, WE PLANTED A TREE. A gorgeous hardcover illustrated by Bob Staake. She hands out a copy of her original manuscript. A story she thought about for ten years before actually putting pen to paper. Diane credits the powerful ideas and images in Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai's book about the Green Belt Movement in Kenya as being the inspiration behind WE PLANTED A TREE.

The next few sessions, attendees will be doing in-class exercises using existing picture book texts as well as their own manuscripts to learn about format, pagination, and art notes. Diane says all stories start out as lumps of clay and she's going to provide tools (like how to have good flow, suspense and mood in your story) to help attendees edit themselves and build stronger books.

This is going to rock! It sold out on the first day of conference registration, so here's hoping they do this again.

One attendee I recognized from my local SCBWI WWA was John Deininger. Check out his artwork in the portfolio show tonight, or on his site.


  1. Diane Muldrow is not the best at what she does, she is the only one who does what she does!

    An incredible 4 hours of PB instruction. I wish it could have been 90 min. sessions instead.

    Sunday we wrote jacket flaps and read each other's manuscripts.
    Kudos to Diane.

  2. I heard it through the grapevine that Diane Muldrow’s “Creating the Picture Book: Master Class” filled up within 15 minutes after registration opened and I know why. It was the best, most relevant workshop I have ever attended.
    We learned:
    - Write the whole picture book, and not just text to be handed over to the illustrator.
    - Clarity of vision and meticulous attention to every aspect of the picture book art form is essential.
    - NEVER hand in a manuscript unless it is completely professional.
    - Map out your manuscript visually. Include details like correct placement of text for maximum impact and whether or not to have a spread or single page illustration. And this is EVEN IF YOU ARE THE WRITER.
    - The picture book format is specific. Know it.
    I feel very lucky to have been in this class. It was an experience I will never forget. Only complaint – not enough time. Maybe next time the workshop could be extended to an hour and a half a day. Thank you to Diane Muldrow, as well as to all of my talented classmates.