Saturday, August 4, 2018

Workshop: Picture Book Revision: Tapping in to Your Inner Editor: Alexandra Penfold

Alexandra Penfold began her career in publishing as a children’s book publicist at Simon & Schuster. For eight years she served as an editor at Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster working on award-winning books for young readers of all ages. She is currently a literary agent with Upstart Crow Literary representing children’s book authors and illustrators as well as select adult projects. She’s especially drawn to projects that make her laugh, think, and feel. Alexandra is the author of several books for children: Eat, Sleep, Poop illustrated by Jane Massey; We Are Brothers, We Are Friends, illustrated by Eda Kaban; Food Truck Fest, illustrated by Mike Dutton; The Littlest Viking, illustrated by Isabel Roxas; and All Are Welcome, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman. Visit her at and follow her on Twitter @AgentPenfold.

Penfold advised beginning by begin separating writing and editing, your inner author and your inner editor. Don't listen to the editor while you draft; get it on the page so that then the editor can make it better.

Questions the editor asks about picture books
  •  Does this story lend itself well to an illustrated 32-page format?
  •  Does this story sustain repeat readings?
  •  Will people pay for it?
  • Is there enough story?
  • Does your book do more than one thing?
  • How does it compare to other books that you enjoy?
  • Are there multiple layers?
  • A picture book should do more than one thing. For example:
    • Funny 
    • Moving 
    • For an underserved community.
  • Is it ready?
  • Your book needs to be awesome. Is it, or just OK?
Editing protips
  • Read your work aloud.
  • Give your work to a disinterested reader. 
    • Someone who hates children's books is a good choice.

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