Anastasia Suen

Developmental Editor

Category: workshops (Page 1 of 3)

Nonfiction Picture Book Workshop

The Nonfiction Picture Book Workshop is back!


I’ve updated all of the Nonfiction Picture Book Workshop lessons
and added them to the Intensive Picture Book Workshop.

Work with a developmental editor for 8 weeks to write the first draft of
your nonfiction picture book and revise it twice.

You will free write the first draft (panster), select a story arc (plotter), and then rewrite (panster) and revise (plotter) your picture book manuscript twice.

All of the writing lessons, goal worksheets, and critique worksheets are on a private site. After you sign up, I will send you a password.

There are 70+ lessons on the site.

  • There are lessons for preschool concept books.
  • There are lessons for picture book biographies.
  • There are lessons for information books.

Choose the lessons that match your manuscript.

Intensive Picture Book Workshop Syllabus:

  1. Story Goals: What are your 5 goals for this story? (Ideas) Due first day
  2. Story Topic: What topics does the story cover? (Ideas) Free write.
  3. Story Theme: What is the story’s emotional message? (Ideas) Free write.
  4. Story Pitch: What happens in Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3? (Organization) Free write.
  5. Story Arc: How do the main character’s emotions change? OR Which idea patterns do you use?* (Organization) Finish the first draft and select a story arc.
  6. Storyboard: How is the story paced page by page in a picture book? (Organization) Send in the first revised draft and a storyboard.
  7. Point-of-View: Does the story have a single narrator? (Voice)
    = Send in the second revised manuscript.
  8. Wrapping Up: Final Manuscript Questions + Goals Review Due last day

Please note: This is a STORY CRITIQUE. If you are writing in rhyme, I will help you with the meter in a Rhyming Picture Book WIP Scanning Critique.

Q. What is a free write?
A. A free write draft is the draft you write to figure out your story. You simply let the words pour out onto the page day after day until you reach “the end” of your book.

Be a Panster: Sit your pants in the chair and get those words on the page. Write whatever comes to mind without letting the editor in your head say, “This won’t work!” Just let the words come.

Be a Plotter and answer the guiding question for each critique step worksheet. Let your planning (and the new ideas you learn in the lessons in the modules) feed your muse so you can write.

Q. Do I have to write the first draft from beginning to end?
A. NO. Write the scenes in the order that they come to you — every day — so you can finish the book before you select a story arc for module 5.

Q. Is it okay if I have already started writing my book?
A. YES. Just keep writing until you reach the end.

Q. Do I have to write ALL of my first draft?
A. YES. After the story is out of your head and on the page, you will know what the book needs to say on the very first page to “set up” the story. (You can’t set up the book if you don’t know what is going to happen yet.)

Be a Panster: Write ALL of the first draft in modules 1-5.
Be a Plotter: After you select a story arc for module 5, decide what you need to “set up” your picture book. Then write 2 NEW drafts.

Q. Why do you want me to write two NEW drafts of my picture book?
A. For module 6, write a new draft of your picture book and send it in with a storyboard (a page by page “outline” of the action in your story) so I can critique the Big Picture in your storyboard.

After the storyboard critique, write another draft of your picture book for module 7 and send it in for a manuscript critique.

Q. Why do I need to find 3 book comps?
A. Editors compare your book to other books like yours as a standard part of the acquisitions process at many publishing houses. So we start with your 3 book comps to make sure your is unique. (If your book is not unique in some way, why will anyone buy it?)

Q. How long can the manuscript be? Is there a page limit?
A. There is a 1,000 word limit for picture books as that is the industry standard.

Q. How long will it take you to critique my picture book?
A. I will critique your picture book within two business days. (I write my own books first thing in the morning and work one-on-one with individual writers in the afternoon Monday through Friday.)

Q. Can I ask questions about the suggestions you made on the manuscript?
A. Yes. In the final session of the workshop, we can discuss any questions you have about the manuscript suggestions I made. We will also review the goals you set for this manuscript.

May 3 – June 21, 2017
Intensive Picture Book Workshop
$299 USD

If you’re ready to keep working on the manuscript AFTER the workshop:

Still have questions? See the Workshop FAQ or email me.

Copyright © 2017 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

May 4-June 22, 2016 Intensive Picture Book Workshop

Work with a developmental editor as you write and revise your picture book.


Q. How will you critique my children’s book manuscript?
A. I will work with you for 8 weeks via email to help you “find the story inside the story” of your children’s book manuscript. Weeks 1 and 8 are “goals” weeks. Weeks 2-7 are critique steps. Your work will be due each Wednesday.

A new module will open 6 weeks in row. You have 7 days to read the 7 lessons and complete the critique step worksheet.

Intensive Picture Book Workshop Critique Steps:

  1. Story Goals: What are your 5 goals for this story? (Ideas)
  2. Story Topic: What topics does the story cover? (Ideas)
  3. Story Theme: What is the story’s underlying social message? (Ideas)
  4. Story Pitch: What happens in Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3? (Organization)
  5. Story Arc: How do the main character’s emotions change? OR Which idea patterns do you use? (Organization)*
  6. Storyboard: How is the story paced page by page in a picture book? (Organization)
  7. Point-of-View: Does the story have a single narrator? (Voice)
  8. Wrapping Up: Final Manuscript Questions + Goals Review

*Yes, I critique nonfiction picture books!

Intensive Picture Book Workshop Syllabus:

A story has three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end. Each part, each act, has a different job to do.

In the Intensive Picture Book Workshop you will learn how to:
1. show and tell your picture book story (without writing art notes).
2. answer the guiding questions for each act in your picture book story.

Act 1: Picture Book Beginnings

The 3 P’s: A Person in a Place with a Problem

Module 1: Who is the narrator?
Module 2: Uh-oh! What’s wrong? (A story starts when something changes.)

Act 2: Picture Book Middles

The 3 C’s: Conflict, Complications, CRISIS!

Module 3: What conflict does the main character encounter?
Module 4: Are things getting more complicated for the main character? Does it lead to a CRISIS?

Act 3: Picture Book Endings

The 3 E’s: Enlightenment, Energy, Emotion

Module 5: What does the main character finally realize?
Module 6: What does the main character finally do to solve the story problem?

Each module has a mentor text example lesson in each genre: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

My writing students come from all levels of the continuum, from beginner to advanced. Some students sold the books they wrote in the workshops while others continued to master their craft and sold their first book later.

Are you ready to work with a writing mentor? Are you looking for a writing class to help you start your book or take your work to the next level? Sign up for a workshop critique so we can start working together!

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine


Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine
by Laurie Wallmark (Author) and April Chu (Illustrator)

I’ve been saving this interview with one of my former students, Laurie Wallmark, for International Women’s Day.


Q. When did you start writing?
A. My earliest writing memory is from first grade. The older kids were complaining that they had to write a hundred-word composition. This didn’t seem like a big deal to me, so I picked up my pencil and wrote: The. Cat. Dog. Mom. Dad. Me. Go. Stop. And. But.

You get the idea. Ninety words later, I had my first piece of writing that hadn’t been a school assignment.

As far as writing for children, that came much later. Back in 2001, I had an idea for a middle-grade novel. When it didn’t sell, I figured I wasn’t a writer, and moved on to other interests. After all, I had degrees in biochemistry and information systems, not creative writing or literature.

Then in about 2008, I had an idea for another middle-grade novel. This is when I became serious about writing for children. In addition to writing, I set about studying my craft. I went to writing conferences and took workshops. In January 2016, I graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Q. Describe your writing process.
A. There are several steps in my writing process. First, of course, I need to come up with a general idea for the story. This might be a character, a scene, or sometimes even just a title. I let this idea roll around in my mind for quite a while. Before long, related ideas glom onto the original one, while others fall by the wayside. Lying in bed at night is the perfect location for doing this step.

I’m ready to move on. I take all these characters and scenes and settings and plots in my head and try to make them fit together into a story. I’m definitely an outliner, not a pantser. I even outline my picture books.

Now it’s time to write. And revise. And revise. And re-outline. And revise. I have the work critiqued, and I revise. This step repeats over and over again.

When I think the manuscript is as good as I can make it, I put it away for a bit and work on something else. This allows me to return to it with fresh eyes and, you guessed it, revise.

Q. Tell us about your latest book.
A. Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics.

See the book trailer.

A century before the first digital computer was invented, Ada Lovelace wrote the world’s first computer program!

Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world’s first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities.

Thanks for visiting the blog, Laurie! Congratulations on your new book!

  • Booklist Top Ten Books in Science and Health
  • Booklist Editor’s Choice: Books for Youth 2015
  • National Science Teachers Association Outstanding Science Trade Book
  • California Reading Association Eureka Gold Medal Winner
  • Cook Prize Finalist
  • 2016 Amelia Bloomer List
  • Assoc.of Children’s Librarians of Northern California Outstanding Book
  • Junior Library Guild Selection

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

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