NAPIBOWRIWEE 2015 – DAY THREE: Timely Trends & Topics

napibowriweelogo3-300x284-200x200Welcome to DAY THREE of my seventh annual National Picture Book Writing Week (“NAPIBOWRIWEE”) 2015!

I hope you are now in the swing of things! How’s the writing going? How many of you have written two books so far? Ready to handle No. 3? And for those of you still writing Book #1 – do not fret! I’m PROUD of you for continuing to write! Don’t give up! Remember, we must conquer procrastination! 🙂 Please post your progress for Day 3 in today’s comments!

L-R: Charlotte, Beethoven and Oreo are NOT thrilled with their visit to the vet!
L-R: Charlotte, Beethoven and Oreo are NOT thrilled with their visit to the vet!

MY DAY TWO EXPERIENCE: The day began quite dramatically as I had to herd three cats (Oreo, Beethoven & Charlotte) to the vet for their annual shots and grooming. The good news? They’re all in good health, although Oreo struggles with the occasional feline asthma. The bad news? They are all fat cats! Oreo went from 17 to 18 pounds! Beethoven went from 14 to 14. 7 pounds! Even tiny Charlotte went from 8.4 to 8.5 pounds! I was given a stern lecture and some bags of kitty diet food. Needless to say, my cats were NOT happy. It was not a Happy Caturday, it was a Crappy Caturday. LOL! 🙂

Fortunately, I was able to work in a cat-free environment for most of the day and finished Book No. 2. I had already done a bunch of research and outlined it, so I just had to write it. For me, the biggest challenge of writing a non-fiction picture book biography is coming up with the opening scene. It has to be in media res (in the middle of the action) that immediately captures the main character’s personality and drive that helped him/her overcome obstacles in their childhood to become the important historical figure in the future. Once I figure out that opening scene, the rest of the draft tends to flow pretty smoothly because I have that engine that drives my character from scene to scene. The writing itself was not happy but crappy, LOL, but at least I got it down and can pretty it up later. 🙂

(I also admit I now want to write a picture book poem off the cuff for another book about cats at the vet. So maybe I will do that for Day 4! Take a break from non-fiction. That’s also another NAPIBOWRIWEE TIP – to avoid burn out, switch genres or challenge yourself in another genre of writing that is outside your comfort zone to make this week more fun and exciting!)

Also… one of our NAPIBOWRIWEE participants, Anna Forr, asked if there were picture books with multiple POVs or alternating POVs. I googled and found this interesting link: and I also heard TWO BAD ANTS is a good example for different POVs.

I gathered some answers from other writers plus our own Amy Cherrix. Here’s what they had to say:

– Cathy Ballou Mealey: “Not quite alternating POV’s – but SHARK VS TRAIN comes to mind.”

– Robyn Campbell: “The Summer Visitors,” by Karel Hayes.

– Amy Cherrix: “Hmm… GERALD AND PIGGIE books…THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT has MULTIPLE multi-colored voices! MR. WUFFLES (cat and aliens!)DUCK! RABBIT!
Maybe not all GERALD & PIGGIE books–hmm…WE ARE IN A BOOK is pretty meta, and I AM GOING plays with varying POVs in the space between art and text…picture book narratives are tricky because POV can shift in the interplay between words and pictures.”

Hope that helps!

Reminder: I am posting daily blogs from May 1-7, 2015 at 6 AM PST (9 AM EST) here at Our contest drawing results will be posted on May 8, 2015 featuring fun prizes from our NAPIBOWRIWEE STORE (link:, autographed copies of my books, other surprise prizes as well as ONE free picture book manuscript critique from professional editor/author AMY CHERRIX, who is also our guest-in-residence for this year’s event! (You can follow Amy on Twitter @acherrix and her website is here:

Meet Amy Cherrix of
Meet Amy Cherrix of
Visit Amy Cherrix's website:
Visit Amy Cherrix’s website:

The theme for this year is EDITORIAL NUTS & BOLTS as Amy answers our questions about writing and the publishing industry. For today’s blog on “Timely Trends & Topics,” I asked Amy what she thought were interesting trends and topics for picture books today. Here’s what she had to say:

QUESTION: What are interesting new timely trends and topics for picture books today?

AMY CHERRIX SAYS: “I think we’re in a Golden Age of Non-fiction for young readers of every age. From picture books, to longer narrative forms, the genre is providing kids with a wealth of engaging and informative options. Edge-of-your-seat writing combined with clear elegant prose, and impeccable research are making household names out of authors like Steve Sheinkin, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Phillip Hoose, and Sy Montgomery. And the reluctant reader has never been better served than in today’s market. Illustrated middle grade novels are still booming, thanks to a WIMPY KID and a LIGHTNING THIEF. I edited a wonderful high-concept easy-to-read middle grade trilogy called ROBOTS RULE for HMH. All of these books enjoy broad appeal to parents and kids at storytime while helping to build confident independent readers.”

I am excited to hear from Amy that non-fiction picture books are timely in today’s market. It also makes sense with the new Common Core educational standards that focus on narrative non-fiction – that will create a need for more non-fiction picture books in the market.  For more information on this, here’s a helpful article about this topic here:

I know many writers prefer writing fiction, but I highly recommend everyone try their hand at least once in the world of non-fiction. What’s so challenging yet rewarding about non-fiction is how you can seamlessly and organically weave in historical facts with a fictional-type story narrative to create an emotional story about a fascinating and engaging non-fiction subject or person. I used to be a journalist, so I thought writing non-fiction children’s picture books would be “easy.” Boy was I wrong! I had no idea that writing about the facts was NOT enough – you have to create a compelling character that readers care about when writing biographies. For non-fiction subjects that are not biographies, you have to infuse that subject with creativity and passion and a well-structured exciting storyline.

You can find out more about my three non-fiction picture book biographies from LEE & LOW BOOKS here:

For more information on my latest picture book biography, TWENTY-TWO CENTS: MUHAMMAD YUNUS AND THE VILLAGE BANK (illustrated by Jamel Akib, Lee & Low 2014), go here:

If you’re curious to try your hand at non-fiction, why not go for it today on Day Three? Think of a famous historical figure who inspired you… and write a children’s picture book biography about him or her! Or think about a non-fiction subject that fascinates you… from hobbies to actual historical events or nature/animals etc. and write a non-fiction picture book about that subject! I’m curious to hear from those of you who attempt non-fiction today!

Finally, for those of you who live in Los Angeles, today is the first day you can register for the annual CRITIQUENIC sponsored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (AKA SCBWI). If you are newbie and don’t know about SCBWI, please just join NOW. You can find out more about this amazing organization here: They have an annual national writing conference in Los Angeles every August and one in New York in January/February, plus a ton of other helpful resources. They also have local branches across the country as well as international branches in countries all over the world, from Egypt to Japan to Paris to Australia!

Their annual Critiquenic is a lot of fun. You bring five pages of a manuscript and get grouped with several members and a professional author who helps run a mini writing critique group. They also provide a fun picnic lunch. I did this the first year I joined back in 1999 and not only got great feedback but also made two lifelong friends from the event. In fact, the critique leader was famous veteran published picture book author Ann Whitford Paul who has participated in my NAPIBOWRIWEE event in years past as a guest blogger and participant herself!

To find out more about the Critiquenic and how to register (starting May 3rd for the June 7th event), go here:

Well, time to leave the Blogging Batcave and head back into the Writing Batcave. Remember to follow me on Twitter @paulayoo for updates. I will post tomorrow’s Day 4 Blog on May 4, 2015 at 6 AM PST/9 AM EST here with thoughts from our guest AMY CHERRIX about character and plot advice for picture books.

Until then, remember… HAPPY WRITING! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! 🙂



  1. I recently fell in love with writing nonfiction, so today’s post is perfect for me! I’ve begun my draft for today, and with multiple stops to wash children’s hair, go to the grocery store, celebrate my parents’ 57th anniversary, and be interrupted every 8 minutes or so by my kids – I will finish it before supper! 🙂

    • Congrats Beth for your parents’ 57th anniversary! I admire your determination to get writing done (maybe every 8 minutes? LOL). I now think your day sounds like a chapter in Cheaper By The Dozen, a sweet family story. 🙂

      • Cheaper by the 1/2 dozen. 🙂 Love that movie! I figure at this rate, I’ll publish a pb of my own by the time I’m 85!

  2. Our family revolves around our 5yo “puppy” Calvin – a west highland terrier. He’s telling me it’s time for his morning walk. Then I need to prepare our garden for veggie plants and dig up a new strawberry patch.
    After lunch, I have 2 critiques that I owe fellow writers. THEN I write.
    For PB1 & 2, I developed two of my 8 line poems into rhyming PB drafts. They still need tons of work!
    But right now, it’s walk the puppy time.

    • Calvin sounds so cute! I already see a picture book about Calvin helping digging up the strawberry patch… 🙂 Happy Writing!

  3. Phew! I managed to finish Day Two’s draft– a mess, but finished.
    And I took your great advice, Paula, and wrote a NF draft of a subject I’ve been meaning to get to for a while now. I didn’t have any research done so it took some time and will need filling in, verification but I picked out the theme that will run through the story and wrote it right to THE END. Kind of excited to get back to this one. Going to the library next week! First NF for me! Thanks for the timely advice!!
    So I’m all caught up here but I’m a little bit behind on some day job work. Oh well!

    • LOL I just responded to your Day 2 comment. I’m glad to hear Day 2 DID get done. I’m so excited re: you wrote an NF book. WOW!!!! Yeah now you can flesh it out with more research but you have the theme and storyline set. That’s actually the harder part. The research is the easier part. 🙂 Good luck with work and keep us posted on Day 3! xo P.

  4. I wrote my second picture book yesterday. I can’t wait to start the third manuscript right now! 🙂
    Zainab Khan

  5. Draft three finished. Started #4. YEAH. I am very excited to hear about the opportunities in NF picture books. I have some great ideas for that. I love your NF books, Paula. Thank you again, Amy. *whistles*

    • Hugs and thank you Robyn for the kind comments. I’m glad you are dipping your toes into the non-fiction waters! 🙂

  6. Crappy Caturday would be a funny story title… though I am guessing that Happy Caturday would be a more appropriate title for a picturebook! 😉 Insomnia got the best of me, so I’m working on very little sleep today. 🙁 It’s likely that I’ll have to catch up and do two drafts tomorrow. We’ll see. I did, however, manage to fill in enough of PB2 last night to call that an officially “done for now” draft. Thanks for all the pep talks! And, I’m loving’ all of Amy’s insights!

    • LOL Crappy Caturday! I totally want to write that title now instead. 🙂 I’m glad you at least got some words down on paper. You can always catch up tomorrow! 🙂

  7. Done with number 3 – worked most of the morning and then had early Mother’s Day dinner – when your son cooks, you don’t pass it up! So I had the idea pretty worked out and it is done. Called “Before” it works backwards through a well known story.

  8. OMG, Paula! I started off today with a fiction idea that had been scribbled on the back of a receipt. But, your nonfiction encouragement fought it’s way to my computer today and transformed! In reality, it is historical fiction, but I believe this still falls under the NF umbrella, correct? I have lots of research ahead of me, and I am hoping no one has beat me to this idea, but I have my third rough draft compete. Either way, it was a learning experience. As a fiction writer, I am wandering into unknown territory, with only a little bit of experience testing the nonfiction waters. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Carrie that’s awesome. And historical fiction counts because you can always have the history part in the author’s note. Yay!

  9. Happy Day! I am so pleased that I have my 3rd manuscript draft written! I have jotted notes for my 4th…

    I am also thrilled to hear of the interest in nonfiction picture books. I have a few that I have been working on! Thank you!

    • Cool! So glad so many people are hopping on the Non Fiction train! Great you have notes jotted down for tomorrow! 🙂

  10. The first 2 drafts went fairly well – still need lots of work but I actually like them. The third is not going as well. Ugh. May put it aside and try an NF idea that has been percolating.

    • Hang in there. Good idea to try NF for now and let the other idea simmer. Hope you can pursue that other idea tomorrow!

  11. I’ve been racking my brain to come upwith PB with multiple POVs and I humbly suggest Chloe and the Lion, The Best Bookworm Book Ever!, Shortcut (tells the story in sequences, then retells from a second POV), Cocoa Ice might work, too.

    In other news, just starting on today’s draft and popped in for some inspiration. Thanks, all!

    • Just a friendly brainstorming idea, how about Chloe’s point of view as you read the book normally and the lion’s if you flip it upside down…

      • That is so thoughtful. Thanks. You should definitely try writing a book like this for today’s draft, Seth! But, sorry. What I meant was, these books have already been written. Maybe these suggestions will help Anna Farr write her book. Check the links to my reviews on if you’re interested in these titles, or watch this must-see book trailer for Chloe and the Lion (Mac Barnett and Adam Rex) on YouTube . It is hysterical!!!

  12. Got my 2nd manuscript down (only 1 day behind!) I have never written a non-fiction picture book, so this is a lot more challenging because of the facts and all. It’s a lot easier to just make stuff up, but I want to challenge myself to do new things so I’m brainstorming a list of topics to get into it . . .

    • Laurie, don’t worry about being a bit behind. I may join you soon since work starts Monday. LOL. So glad you are challenging yourself! 🙂

  13. Two more PB’s are in the bag! I had planned on working on the first draft for my new nonfiction series, but like so many times in my writing life I followed my Muse, hung a left, and ended up back in the natural world. They definitely needs tweaking here and there, but for the most part I’m very happy with them

    • I love that you followed your Muse down an unexpected alley. That’s the fun part of writing – we get to do unexpected twists and turns in our brainstorming. Good job! 🙂

  14. I can only say thank goodness for having done PiBoIdMo in November so I can go through the ideas and find something in a hurry. 😀 So, I got Day 3’s draft done…phew! x

  15. Poor kitties having to go to the vet AND having to eat diet food! Great idea to write a cat at the vet poem!

    Today was all about the art for me because my illustrators group had a meeting, and I ended up with a critique from the AD who was speaking too 🙂 Going to try to do a bit of writing yet tonight, and tomorrow needs to be an all day PB writing marathon!

    • My cats meow their thanks! I’m excited for your PB marathon tomorrow. Let us know how that goes! 🙂

  16. Day 3: was going to finish day two’s book but inspired by the non fiction book I branched out. Today’s book has fun with simple math concepts.
    Still need to finish day 2 but no ground lost!

    • MATH? That’s FANTASTIC. Another area that needs more attention. I’m loving everyone’s progress reports! Good job!

  17. This was NOT a great writing day now I need to do #3 and #4 tomorrow. My schedule is clear and I’m starting early

    • Hugs Claire. Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes we have bad writing days. But what’s important is that you TRIED and even though it wasn’t the best day, you are determined to start writing tomorrow right away early in the morning. THAT is what a REAL writer does – they keep going. So proud of you! Good luck and keep me posted on how you do!

  18. Draft 3 complete on Day 3 (just didn’t get to post yesterday). But it is the roughest of rough drafts. But who knows, maybe it’s a diamond in the rough?

  19. Checking in today – as I finished Draft for # 3 at 11:30 last night and needed to crash. busy morning looming. Rough, but a draft nonetheless.

  20. Checking in today – as I finished Draft for # 3 at 11:30 last night and needed to crash. Rough, but a draft nonetheless.

  21. Way behind, but moving forward! I wrote a pb bio that I adore, but sent it a few places and was told that the person is too obscure. And so I move on.

    • Congrats on getting the bio done and moving forward. As for the reaction that the bio person was too obscure – I’m sorry but hold onto it because you never know. Today’s obscure historical figure may become tomorrow’s market trend. History is cyclical and trends change. I LOVE your positive attitude about “And so I move on.” BRAVO. Also, sometimes the book that doesn’t sell can lead to the book that DOES sell. I had the EXACT same “obscure” problem and then that led to my Anna May Wong book which was published in 2009. So you never know! Happy Writing!