the secret–writing the perfect picture book

Technical difficulties, my little doves, kept me from posting on ye olde blogge yesterday. And today, for that matter. I will make this short and oh-so sweet.

I found Flip Footage from our last KSCBWI workshop, in March. Sandy Asher did a humdinger of a job speaking on picture books. Sandy is a jack-of-all trades, as you will find out in this brief clip. (Also, you will see she is soft-spoken. Press thine ear unto your speakers.)

First she tells us the secret of success in the publishing business:

Now, Sandy has chosen to eschew this advice. (Bless you. Handkerchief?) But I think I’m going to more or less employ it.

I went to this picture book workshop not because I write picture books–(A-HAHAHAHAHA!)–oh! my side–but because I want to be a better critiquer for my group. I took copious notes and really tried to wrap my head around what makes a great picture book. And then…


Sandy dropped the words that made the heavens open.

She shared the advice that Sue Alexander had shared with her, when Sandy was just starting out.

Picture books have to appeal to the littlest listeners,

older kids and the adults who have to read the damn

things over and over and over again.

There it is, in one sentence. The litmus test to know whether or not you have produced a great picture book.


About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on May 5, 2010, in writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. And that, I believe, is the most succinct and useful bit of advice about PB writing that I’ve yet seen.

  2. I agree! Universal appeal and the ability to be read on many levels is absolutely what gets me most excited about a really good picture book!

    But that’s also why some of the old “classics,” for all the nostalgia they stir up, ultimately fail to resonate later when we read them as adults.

    Nice post!

  3. Very nice post. Too bad it’s so hard to actually do all that. But I keep trying.

    Pat Zietlow Miller

  4. This is great! Lisha, you are the Queen! Looking so forward to my next critique!

  5. lishacauthen

    Isn’t that amazing? I kind of heard a gong go off in my head when Sandy said that. She’s a great speaker.

  6. ‘We don’t want to curl up with a shock to our systems’ – excellent! Thanks for the secret filming, now we know how to get rich and famous 🙂

    By the way – this is the word that attracted me to your blog: A-HAHAHAHAHA! I could hear you laughing, all the way from London.

  7. Hmm, my notes say something a bit different. But isn’t that the way it is when we listen? 😉

  8. lishacauthen

    Oh, Sue Eves, my obnoxious laugh finally pays off!

    And fine, Sue Ford, Sandy Asher did not say “damn”. She is much too refined for that. And I did ask her permission.

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