Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 5, 2018

Interview with Mira Reisberg and Editor Kelly Delaney

I’m so happy to be here today with good friend Dr. Mira Reisberg Acquiring Editor and Art Director at Clear Fork/Spork and Director at the internationally renowned Children’s Book Academy and the fabulous Kelly Delaney, Acquiring Editor at Random House/ Knopf. They will be co-teaching a course called, the ‘Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books’ that launches January 7th.

Mira, as you know I was curious about your MG novel course and signed up for it the other year, so now I’m curious about what your PB course is all about. So, before we get started, Mira, could you tell me about the interactive courses that you have here at the Children’s Book Academy?

Mira: I’d love to, thank you Kathy. Here at the Children’s Book Academy, we’ve created an interactive environment that fits really well with working or adventure seeking adults looking to further their writing career. You can attend wherever you are, whenever you like, and complete the assignments as you choose. But, the big bonus are the live weekly webinars and the HIGHLY interactive Facebook group. My favorite is the weekly webinars – it’s like a workshop and tutorial session with live critiques from experts in the field. Each week different student’s stories are blindly chosen for a critique from one of our guest experts in a way that makes sure everyone gets at least one.

So, the course is actually interactive in a live setting?

Mira: Yes, there’s the private Facebook group for the students, which also feature a weekly success story and help from former students who have now published as well as optional small interactive critique groups where students schedule critiques amongst themselves and gather loads of priceless tips about shaping their story or stories.

Beautiful. Okay, I’d love to pass the mic over to Kelly for a bit. Kelly, is this your first time co-teaching at the Children’s Book Academy?

Kelly: Hi Kathy, thank you for having me! This is my fourth time teaching the Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books. It’s a really wonderful way to provide specific feedback that is broadly applicable so that the other students benefit from it as well. I love working with students in the Facebook group, in the weekly webinars, and also in optional individual critiques. It’s such a treat to get to know them and learn where their inspiration comes from, and to work together to figure out the best way to turn that idea into a picture book.

It’s so rewarding to provide feedback while the students are developing their work and to see the stories evolve. And these students are from all over the world, so we see not just what writers and readers are hungry for here in the US, but internationally. It’s a great learning experience and it’s as beneficial to me as an editor as it is to the students as writers.

That’s great! So, we’re talking about the Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Book course, Mira can you tell me a bit more about the benefits of a course like this?

Mira: One of the main benefits of taking this course, apart from everything that students learn and do, is that at the end, you have the opportunity to present your work to acquiring editors, publishers and agents through our Golden Ticket Talent Search contest. This opportunity provides our writers with a VIP pass past the slush pile that many people spend years drudging through before reaching someone to take a good look at their pitch.

But, the benefits on a whole are innumerable. I can’t even tell you the amount of friends I’ve made through the years – the KidLit world is my tribe, we bounce ideas off and assist each other in so many ways.

Aside from the opportunities that accompany the writing course, the content is out of this world. I’ve had many students tell me that in a fraction of the time, they’ve gained more knowledge than they did at a major university offering courses in Children’s Literature.
You won’t find a more comprehensive program. The amount of time and dedication that went into the content is impossible to calculate – it’s my life.

I love that you have found a way to share your knowledge. Can you give me a brief overview of the course?

Mira: Definitely Kathy. I call it a buffet of KidLit writing goodness. We start off with the real attention grabber for acquiring editors, agents and publishers – the hook. Once we craft the perfect hook, you start working on completing your first, what Annie Lamott calls, shitty first draft or SFD and then refine it as we go.

Throughout the course, we talk about character development and structure; plots, biographies, nonfiction, anthropomorphism and personification, how to revise for action and lowered word counts. Students learn about creating and using luscious language, voice, emotion and action for maximum effect, different genres of picture books, the developmental stages of kid readers, We teach students how to write great pitches and bios and how to get their story ready for publishers, editors and agents while providing concrete and provide resources for finding the perfect agent and or publisher. We also give insight into the business side of the industry and what to look for and ask for in a contract. In week five, we talk about the 5 Ps of Publication and what to do when you do or don’t receive feedback.

And then, in week six we have a super cool mini-conference with wonderful guests.

One of the main things setting this course apart from others is that we talk about things that are beyond the basics for the more advanced student. Critical race theory, postmodernism, how to uncover universal underlying themes and also how to tap into what editors are looking for in the current market.

That sounds great! Wow, so why co-teach? What is it about the dynamic between the two of you that works so well?

Mira: Awe, well Kelly and I have been working together for a while now. Other than the fact that it’s an absolute pleasure to work with Kelly, together we can offer the students a more comprehensive education. Kelly and I are both in the field and have different experiences to share and teach from. I think keeping the energy fresh and effective is really important.

“…Fresh and effective” – nice. Kelly, same question to you. What do you see as some of the biggest benefits of the two of you co-teaching the course?

Kelly: Well, Mira is as great at bringing out the best in her co-teachers as she is in her students! She’s worn so many different hats in this industry, and that perspective encourages me to bring new insight to my own perspective on the craft and business of picture books. The interactive format of the critiques and the webinars offer insight into what I’m looking for at a traditional publisher like Random House, but students also benefit from Mira’s experience at Clear Fork and as an agent, not to mention her deep knowledge of the history of children’s writing and publishing. So together we really provide a 360-degree of the publishing industry. I think having us tune in from opposite sides of the country also highlights how accessible the class and its resources are. You never know how inspiration will strike, and you have those tools available to you no matter where you are when it does!

That’s likely why the course has helped create so many successful picture book creators. 240 books have been published or contracted by Academy students (so far!)! It’s really rewarding to be a part of that and to see that process from the very earliest stages.

 

240? That is impressive. Mira, is that number correct – 240? I hear your students are like family? I remember you mentioning scholarships when I spoke with you before, a diversity scholarship I think you said… Do you still offer scholarships at the Children’s Book Academy? And, if so, how does that work? What kind of scholarships are they?

Mira: Yes! Yes! 240 and counting! And yes, we’re still so pleased to offer the Yuyi Morales Diversity and More Scholarships to a group of students each session – the number varies based on applicant and how much we can afford to give. They were created to help bring more diversity into the field and to honor one of my first students, the phenomenally exquisite Yuyi Morales. We have a broad definition of diversity to include writers and illustrators who identify as being of color, or LBGQTI, as having a disability, or low income who are currently underrepresented in the children’s publishing industry as well as some other groups that help our community.

It’s our mission to help the world by promoting social justice and/or just bringing more joy and happiness into it.

So, if a prospective student feels that they meet our applicant criteria, they have the opportunity (for a specific period of time) to apply for our scholarships. Here’s the link – http://bit.ly/YuyiMScholarships I’d love it if your readers would share about this.

Thank you so much Mira, what a beautiful mission. So, before we go, can you tell us a bit about where to register? What kind of students usually register for your courses? What do you recommend students prepare for or have prepared before the course starts?

Mira: Thank you, Kathy. Yes if your readers would like to register, they can visit: http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/writing-childrens-picture-books.html . Or visit the childrensbookacademy.com to check out all of our course offerings. You can find the Children’s Picture Book Writing course at the top of the Writing section.

Our students are a beautiful mix of demographics, from beginner writers and notebook note takers to major award-winning published authors looking to hone their skills and get in front of professionals looking for fresh talent.

Since the experience levels vary drastically throughout there are varied levels of assignments and content. After registering,the student might want to start with some of the many free bonuses or start getting their ideas together. And if they aren’t sure which story to work with, they can run a bunch of ideas by us in the Facebook group and everyone including Kelly and I will help them choose which one to work on first in the course. We also include some story starters for folks who don’t already have an idea but are ready to learn the craft and business. In addition, some students have submitted their entire story to publishers already but are still looking to get a foot in the door in the industry, and we can help there as well. We do everything in our power to help our students succeed.

Perfect. That’s wonderful, thank you. Kelly I just wanted to check back in with you, is there anything that you might add to Mira’s response?

Kelly: Yes, to Mira’s mention of skill level, I love the variety of experience you get within the program. I’ve done critiques with students who were just working on preliminary ideas that I’ve seen come to life in only 5 weeks. I’ve also seen completely developed ideas change beautifully into more marketable text – it’s really a completely different experience for everyone and I love watching these stories and writers grow! And the sense of community you feel from the writers really is a special part of it—writing can be such a solitary pursuit, but in our group you’re never really doing anything alone. Getting stuck is easier when you can talk to other writers who can share their own experiences with writer’s block (and how they overcame it!), and sharing good news is even sweeter when you have a whole family of writers rooting for you and celebrating with you!

I can just feel your excitement and can just imagine what fun this course is. Is there anything else you want to add?

Mira: Oh yes I nearly forgot. We have a fabulous $100 discount that ends December 15th with this code: YesPB19 This includes all the bonuses, the full course, the half off the humor course and the interactive Facebook group and webinars. It’s a wonderful deal and we also offer a money back guarantee that if you do the work and after a year feel like you didn’t learn A LOT, we will give you your money back. Here’s the link to register again or just find out more: http://bit.ly/CBWPB

Wonderful. Ladies, thank you again.

Mira and Kelly: Thank you, Kathy.

My Pleasure!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Eleanor Ann Peterson and commented:
    I attended many of Dr. Mira Reisberg’s classes, and now I’m a published author thanks to The Children’s Book Academy.

    Like


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