Ann Whitford Paul, author of Writing Picture Books, Launches her Blog Tour!

Monday, June 22, 2009
& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

When an elementary school classmate read Ann's journal--including all the mean things she'd written--it put an end to Ann's first foray into writing. She went back to being a voracious reader, first on her own and then with her children. In a family of four children often the only quiet time was just before bed when Ann and her children snuggled together reading. It was those moments that inspired Ann to write books to help other children and adults recreate those cozy times. Encouraged by her family's love of books Ann has written 17 children's books, had her poetry published in several anthology and taught many classes on children's writing.

After years mothering her noisy brood Ann enjoys her quiet time. When not reading or writing she revels in quiet while quilting, knitting, doing puzzles or listening to the quiet rumbling purr of her cat, Mr. Darcy. Jane Austen is Ann's and Mr. Darcy's favorite author.

Find out more about Ann by visiting her website:

About her book:

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication

by Ann Whitford Paul

Have you ever thought you'd like to write a picture book, but don't know where to begin? Have you been submitting stories, but getting only form rejections?

Writing picture books is not easy. Picture books are a unique form of writing with a large audience of 2- to 8-year-olds, and they must appeal to both the adult purchaser and the child listener/reader. They are generally 32 pages long and must be tightly focused and told partly through illustrations. And novice picture book writers make a lot of mistakes--and get a lot of rejections from publishers flooded with inappropriate manuscripts. From this book these writers will learn the writing and revision process that will lead them to creating more salable picture book manuscripts. Ann Whitford Paul covers researching the picture books market, creating characters, point of view, plotting, tips on writing rhyme, and more-all the lessons writers need to write great picture books that will appeal to both editors/agents and young readers/parents. She uses a mix of instruction and hand-on exercises, often asking readers to cut, color and paste their way through revision.

This book covers picture book form, structure, language and the business side too. Learn how to revise your manuscript into a polished and publishable story from the award winning author of 17 children's books.

Genre: Writing/How-to
Paperback: 256 pages
ISBN: 1582975566
Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (June, 2009)

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are
holding a contest to win a copy of Ann's book, Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Ann. We're delighted to launch your blog tour for your book, Writing Picture Books. You've been a children's author and writing teacher for years. What made you finally decide to write Writing Picture Books?

Ann: I was, and continue to be, most grateful to the fabulous teachers, Sue Alexander, Myra Cohn Livingston and Sonia Levitin, who helped me along the road to publication. After I'd had several books published, I wanted to thank them by helping others who were just starting out in their careers. I've taught through UCLA Extension ( for over ten years and done lots of speaking and workshops throughout the country and the world. The idea of tackling a book about writing picture books never entered my mind until a student Molli Nickell ( encouraged me to do it. I put it off for several years, afraid of the work involved, but with support from many friends and students finally sat down to write it. As with almost all things, it turned out to be easier than I imagined. I loved the process and am thrilled with the results.

WOW: Did your experience with Writing Picture Books influence you to write Word Builder, a book about writing with a different audience—children?

Ann: It was purely a coincidence that these books came out at the same time. Obviously Word Builder directed to children is much simpler. It compares building a book to building and construction work. I hope it will take out some of the mystery and fear away from those elementary school students when they have an assignment to write their own books.

WOW: In Kindergarten this year my son did quite a bit of story writing—with his teachers' help. Each week a different student was "Publisher of the Week." What do you think we can learn from children that will make us better writers?

Ann: Children are fantastic observers. They squat down and watch a snail creep across the walk, or pick up a pebble and study its bumpy texture. All writers need to be observers. They need to spend time seeing what others miss and then writing about that in their books. Telling details are what make the reader feel as though they are in the scene unfolding on the book’s page. Also children have a wonder of the world. We adults tend to gloss over things we’ve become familiar with. Capture that wonder by exposing yourself to new places, new experiences and new people. It will only enrich your writing.

WOW: When was children’s book publishing a new experience for you? How has it changed since then?

Ann: My first book Owl at Night was published in 1986 at a time when the poor illustrator had to do color separation art. It must have taken her ages. Back then I submitted everything via snail mail. Now e-mail and fax have saved time and money submitting.

Obviously in these tough financial times, it's much harder to sell a book. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe only higher quality books will make it to the bookstores. Unfortunately, the time editors can spend on editing has also been drastically cut and many editors have been laid off. This is not a good turn of events as their expertise is critical to producing strong and compelling books. A lot of these laid off editors are now working as agents and I notice a trend toward agents doing the editing work that publishing houses no longer support.

WOW: Any secrets to getting a children's manuscript accepted by a publisher?

Ann: To get a children's manuscript accepted by a publisher today, it must be unique and have a strong voice and character. Picture Book texts must lend themselves to interesting and varied illustrations. Quiet books and mood pieces are harder to sell now, but fear not. Especially in these hectic times, books that encourage contemplation and peace will eventually be back in demand.

While times are tough, it would behoove writers to focus on their craft. Read as many books in your genre and about your genre. Enjoy the process and when things turn around, submit nothing but your very best work.

WOW: As a children's author you've participated in your share of public appearances. Any advice for those of us who get performance anxiety? What makes an appearance go smoothly? What makes it more enjoyable for the children in your audience?

Ann: I am no stranger to performance anxiety. But that's not a bad thing. It usually inspires you to work hard making sure your talks are good. Personally, I don't think you can ever over prepare. Remember that your audience is giving up their precious time to listen to you. Make sure you give them something new to take home with them.

For those of you who (like I used to do) start to tremble when speaking or feel sick to your stomach, the good news is that it passes. Pausing for a deep breath helps a lot and the more you speak in front of children and adults, the more comfortable you will feel.

One thing that helped me was to remind myself that whenever I spoke, I wouldn't do it perfectly. Wanting perfection will only increase the pressure you put on yourself and also it's impossible to achieve. It's easier and more helpful to consider each presentation, not as you being showcased, but as a learning experience. That way you always do well, because you always learn something about what to do in the future. Every time I present, I ask the audience for feedback.

When speaking to children, try to involve them in the presentation. Children like to act out books and they also love to sing songs related to your book. This morning I stayed for story time at my granddaughter's preschool. The teacher stopped frequently to ask the children what they thought, or to get opinions, or to listen to their stories. She was wonderful.

Visual aids are also helpful. I’ve made a quilt about my writing process that you can see on my web site at You can download a picture and the explanation of each square. For the much younger children, I often bring stuffed animals.

WOW: That's fantastic advice! So, what's coming up next for you?

Ann: I was surprised how much I enjoyed working on Writing for Picture Books and am in the middle of another writing book that has less to do with technique but more about the life of being a writer. I write every day and am currently revising a collection of poetry and several picture book manuscripts. Hopefully you'll see one, or some of them, in a bookstore in the near future.

WOW: Thank you, Ann, for taking time to chat with us today! We wish you the best of luck on your tour for Writing Picture Books.

Want to join Ann on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

JUNE 22, 2009 Monday
Ann chats with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. One lucky commenter will win copy of Ann's book!

JUNE 23, 2009 Tuesday
Ann stops by Zook Book Nook for an author interview and book giveaway contest! She's giving away 2 books! Be sure to stop by and comment for a chance to win.

JUNE 24, 2009 Wednesday
Authors have no time (or words) to lose. Ann stops by Donna's Book Pub to teach us how to "Grab Your Reader from Word One." Not to miss!

JUNE 25, 2009 Thursday
Walking the tightrope, eating cotton candy for dinner, dealing with clowns--we've all been there! Ann stops by Ann-Marie Nichols' blog, A Mama's Rant, and gives her take on the writing life with the post: Welcome to the Circus: Juggling Family and Writing.

JUNE 29, 2009 Monday
Stop by Margo L. Dill's blog, Read These Books and Use Them, to hear Ann's advice for writers of all ages. For adults, she wrote Writing Picture Books, and for children, the picture book Word Builder.

JULY 1, 2009 Wednesday
With over a dozen books to her name and years of teaching, Ann's learned a few things about children's writing. Today she stops by Cathy C. Hall's blog, Finders & Keepers, to share her top five writing tips.

JULY 2, 2009 Thursday
Stop by the WordHustler blog today and find out how Ann Whitford Paul became and award winning children's book author! WordHustler's interviews are fantastic--not to miss!

JULY 10, 2009 Friday
Kristi Holl, children's book author and teacher at The Institute for Children's Literature, reviews Writing Picture Books. If you're interested in children's book writing, be sure to check out this fabulous blog!

JULY 15, 2009 Wednesday
It's a day for firsts! As the first guest author on the Teaching Authors blog, Ann will be talking about her first book about writing. And don't forget to enter to win a copy of Writing Picture Books! Also, be sure to check back for a review of Writing Picture Books in the future. ;)

JULY 17, 2009 Friday
Ann stops by Samantha Clark's blog, Day By Day Writer, to share her expert writing advice.

We may have more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE to keep up with the latest.

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.

If you would like to host one of our authors, or are an author looking to schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at:

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Oh, be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a signed copy of Ann Whitford Paul's excellent book, Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication.


Donna Volkenannt said...

Hi Ann,
Great interview!
Thanks for sharing your helpful advice. I especially like your suggestion that writers can learn from children by being more observant. Another trait I've learned from raising my two grandchildren that has helped me as a writer is to be more patient.
I look forward to your visit on Donna's Book Pub on Wednesday--as well as your visits to the other sites during your WOW tour.
Donna Volkenannt

Jenni Ivins said...

I like your idea of trying to involve children in your presentation. I thought about the books I am working on and how I might incorporate some audience participation. Like children, I had to be observant to discover the details that were likely to interest children and could be extended as an activity. It was fun to expand the ideas that occurred.

Warm wishes for your blog tour.
Jenni L Ivins

Jean Wise said...

Great interview and reignites my desire to tackle a picture book someday. Thanks! Jean Wise

Unknown said...

Ann, I enjoyed the interview and poking around your website as well. Your down-to-earth-ness calms my nerves as I contemplate penning a children's book. I am a book reviewer who has recently begun reviewing some children's books. I've discovered that some authors don't seem to have a grasp on their audience; meaning, overly technical or "serious" for the 4-8 age range, for instance. Especially if it's a nonfiction children's book. I don't want to make that mistake.How does one determine the age range that fits the author best? I don't know whether to aim for the 4-8 yr or the 7-12 yr audience. I have some ideas but don't know how to target the writing. Help, please?

Jodi Webb said...

I know what you mena DB about fitting your book to the right age group. I worry when I write that it doesn't "match" the group I'm aiming for.

PeacheReader said...

Hi Ann,
Great job! I think you
re an inspiration to adults as well as children.

You are right! One of my favorite things is to cuddle with my children and read.
Thanks for a great interview,

RKS said...

Thank you for the wonderful ideas and for sharing your time. It's still a dream, but one day I'll get that picture book written. You are definitely inspiring.

Camille said...

Really good insight as I finish the last touches on a submission for Spoonful of Stories.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your warm and supportive comments. This is my first blog tour so I'm learning as I'm traveling. It's fun!
Regarding your questions about non-fiction audiences, I would suggest spending time around kids so you'll know how much information they can handle. Also study the curriculums of the schools to be aware of what each grade is studying.
Usually I write my non-fiction and afterwards determine by the length, focus and difficulty of the material whom it is most appropriate for and then revise accordingly.
Best of luck with all your writing projects

WOW! said...

Hi Ladies!

We held a random drawing, and the winner of the book giveaway comments contest is DB!

DB, I couldn't find your email address, so please send an email to with your mailing address (no P.O. boxes) and I will contact Ann.

Thanks again to all that commented! Happy writing :o)

Congratulations DB!

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