Two picture book writing workshops offered next month!

Any picture book writers feeling isolated out there? I’m offering back to back one-day picture book manuscript workshops next month. We’ll talk about the fascinating/fiendish (take your pick) specific challenges of writing these fabulous little books, including the essential elements of picture book writing: characters, story arc, language, beginnings and endings, voice and tension.

If you wish, you can bring in copies of a manuscript of your own (no more than 700 words) and we’ll read it aloud and discuss it. Or, just come and absorb whatever’s useful to you and your current or future work. Workshop is limited to a maximum of ten.

Dates: Saturday, February 11,  and Sunday, February 12,12:30-4:30 p.m.

Place: my house in Uptown Minneapolis.
Cost: $50, including hand-outs and some kind of tasty homemade treat. Please email me at if you have questions or would like to sign up (specify which day you prefer). And please feel free to share this info with any interested friends.

Two one-day creative writing workshops, Northfield, MN, 24 January 2010

typewriter-have-a-wonderful-dayI’m pleased to announce two one-day creative writing workshops, Writing from Photographs and The Art of Writing Picture Books, to be held in Northfield, MN on Sunday, January 24. Fellow writer Brad Zellar and I will be teaching the workshops concurrently. See below for details, and please forward this email to any friends and writers who may be interested. Thanks!

Workshop #1: Writing from Photographs: Inside and Outside the Frame
Date and Time: Sunday, January 24, 1-5 p.m.
Location: Northfield Arts Guild, 304 Division Street South, Northfield, MN
Cost: $50 (includes all materials)

It’s said that every picture tells a story, but that’s only true if we apply our memories and imaginations to reconstructing or re-imagining the constellation of circumstances and details that literally frame all photos. In a sense, then, a photo is actually a mere scene from a story –a beginning or an end, perhaps, or a mysterious, poignant, or telling incident that unlocks the story’s secrets.

What would the complete picture have shown that the photo does not? What happened just before the shutter was snapped, and just after? Time is forever frozen in the image, but life went on before and after that particular moment, and that life, and those details, are the proper story of the most evocative photos.

Bring in three photos of your own, ones whose largely untold stories fascinate or resonate on some imaginative level, and we’ll provide others. Through a series of guided writing exercises, discussion, and analysis of both published and peer writing, you’ll come away with insights and techniques for character development, scene setting and storytelling, both real and imagined. All experience levels welcome.

Brad Zellar is a writer, editor, photographer, and former bookstore owner. His journalism, fiction, and photography have been published in a variety of newspapers, magazines, journals, and anthologies. He is the recipient of awards from The Society of Professional Journalists, The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, and the Minnesota Magazine Association. For as long as he can remember he has used found photographs as inspiration for fiction, poetry, and essays. Zellar is the author of “Suburban World: The Norling Photos” (Borealis Press, 2008), which the Coen brothers used as their primary reference for their most recent movie, A Serious Man.

Workshop #2: The Art of Writing Picture Books
Date and Time: Sunday, January 24, 1-5 p.m.
Location: Northfield Arts Guild, 304 Division Street South, Northfield, MN
Cost: $50 (includes all materials)

Anyone who has ever read a book to a child over and over (and over and over) knows the power of the best picture books, those astonishing collaborations in which illustrations and text both reflect and deepen each other. Text and art are inseparable; two halves make up a greater whole. “Goodnight, Moon,” anyone? “Where the Wild Things Are?”

How does a writer approach the telling of a book in which the illustrations are half the equation? What sorts of subject matter are possible, and how best can you present them? What are the central questions and tension of your story? What’s the best pacing for such a compact (thirty-two pages) book? Through a variety of in-class writing exercises, discussion of published materials, and lecture, you will gain an understanding of the questions, challenges and delights of picture book writing. Instructor will also explain the submission and publishing process of picture book writing. All experience levels welcome.

Alison McGhee is a Pulitzer prize nominee who writes novels, picture books and poems for all ages. She is the recipient of many awards, including four Minnesota Book Awards, a Best Books for Young Adults award, and three Booksense 76 picks. She is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of several picture books, including “Someday” and “Only a Witch Can Fly,” which the New York Times recently named one of the Best Ten Illustrated Books of 2009.

Each class is limited to 20 students. Please email to register. Looking forward to seeing you in January!