Thursday, August 11, 2016

Building Your Picture Book Community

As the saying goes, it takes a village. The same can be said when it comes to crafting the perfect picture book. Thus, it’s worth taking the time and care to build and nurture a personal picture book community.

A picture book community can be any shape or size. It can be an intimate gathering of close friends or an online forum of writers/illustrators from around the world. It can be a place where you gain feedback on your personal projects or a place where people discuss industry trends. 

Whatever the form, a community of like-minded picture books lovers will inspire, encourage, and push you towards artistic success!

Here are a few tips on how to start and nurture your own picture book community:


Many have asked, “How do I form a critique group or get more involved in my picture book community?” Try attending your regional SCBWI events. They have many intimate gatherings where you can connect with like-minded authors/illustrators. Your local college or bookstore may also offer writing or illustration classes, where you can collaborate with picture book lovers, too. If you want to branch out even further, try attending one of the larger children’s book conferences in your area. At first, the number of attendees may be intimidating, but it’s a good way to quickly broaden your connections!

Taking Initiative

When you attend events, be prepared! Bring plenty of business cards and exchange contact information with people you meet. After each event, take the time to follow up with your contacts and build your network from there! Once you have built a list of contacts, take initiative. Organize a casual gathering at your local bookstore or coffee shop. There, you can chat and learn about each other’s personal picture book goals. Are you starting out and learning about the picture book industry? Are you a seasoned author/illustrator who wants to hone your craft with career professionals? Do you want to self-publish or work on submitting your work to agents/publishers? If you find that your goals are similarly aligned, then perhaps you’ve just found members for your own picture book community!


The best way to build momentum is to stay consistent. Set up a consistent time and place where your group will meet. Perhaps it’s the first Saturday of every month at your local library. Perhaps it’s once a week at a group member’s house. By establishing a routine, your group can plan and make time for each meeting. It also helps foster commitment to your group and your craft.

Receiving Feedback

When asking for feedback from your group, be specific. Depending on where you are in your process, too much feedback may become confusing or intimidating. Let your group know what you’re working on and what kind of feedback you’d like. Are you stuck on a plot point and asking for a no holds barred brainstorm? Are you fine tuning your manuscript and asking them to recommend minor tweaks? The more you inform your group, the better they will be at providing the feedback that you need.

Giving Feedback

The sandwich method (positive -> constructive -> positive) is a great structure to use when giving feedback to your fellow group members. It will encourage and help them grow at the same time. Once again, be specific. If you don’t like a passage or design, explain why. It will inform how they revise and improve their work. Above all, be kind. Sharing your work is a very personal and intimate process. Think about how you would like to receive feedback, and provide feedback to others in a similar manner.

Field Trips

Sometimes, it’s inspiring and fun to go on field trips with your picture book community! Grab your notebooks/sketchbooks and visit a local museum. Check out the zoo, a hiking trail, or a play. Contact local publishers and ask for a tour. By going on field trips, your group will begin to share experiences and form stronger connections. You’ll start referring to your shared experiences when giving feedback to each other.  Furthermore, these experiences will bring inspiration and energy to your picture book process.

Establishing Goals

It’s important to establish goals and milestones with your critique group or community. Share your progress with them and identify what you hope to accomplish each week or month. Stay connected via a Facebook group or forum, where people can ask specific questions about their work or share informative articles. By sharing these goals and milestones, you become more accountable and thus, are more likely to achieve them!

As you can see, there are many strategies and methods you can use to help build and nurture a personal picture book community. It takes commitment and care, but the benefits are boundless!

If you're in the SF Bay Area and want to expand your personal picture book community, check out Picture Book Surgery. I host these events with my friend Diana Toledano. They're fun and a great way to meet fellow picture book lovers. Hope to see you there!

Note: All images were acquired from Pixabay, a great Public Domain resource!