Complete Picture Book Workshop with Hannah Barnaby, Ada Zhang, and Rachel Orr

Event Type:
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Sunday, October 29, 2017

Workshop with Onsite Lodging: $899, Workshop Only: $699

Hannah Barnaby, Ada Zhang and Rachel Orr

Class Size:
10 lodging / 15 off-site local

Agent at Prospect Agency Rachel Orr
Sterling Children’s Books, editor Ada Zhang
and esteemed author Hannah Barnaby
October 26-29, 2017


it was fantasticAll of our Complete Picture Book Workshops in the past have SOLD OUT! Plus, each intensive has resulted in a writer (or two) being signed by the visiting agent (See Writing Barn Success Stories) and/or selling to the visiting editor and many are now books on The Writing Barn shelves!

These weekends are intimate gatherings where deep work is done and deep bonds are formed.

Published authors and illustrators are also encouraged to apply as well as picture book novices and those-on-the-verge. The lecture/workshop and one-on-one critique format allows for deep instruction for all levels. 

(To apply, fill out the application form here.)

2017 Lectures and Workshops:

The Art of Subtlety and Suggestion: How to Avoid Clichés in Writing with editor Ada Zhang

“Clichés are the compost of art,” said Jerome Stern, author of Making Shapely Fiction—so how do we stop making compost and start creating art? First, we must believe that children’s literature demands the same attention and thoughtfulness given to art’s other forms. Knowing this—and more importantly, remembering it as you write—is the foundation to understanding how suggestion is more powerful than explanation, how subtlety conveys more than explicitness, and how it’s those little details about a character that bring the story to life more so than a plot point. The session will include a presentation, an exercise, and a Q&A.

Mine the Gaps: Leaving Space for the Illustrator (and Making Your Story Better in the Process) with author Hannah Barnaby

Reader-response theory says that meaning comes not from text or reader alone, but from the alchemy in the combination of the two. Likewise, the truly magical moments in picture books come not from text or illustration alone, but from both together. And so we must leave gaps for the illustrator to fill. Through mentor texts, writing exercises, and personal experiences as an author and editor, Hannah Barnaby will show you how by leaving just the right parts of the story open—like windows in a house—you can assist the magic and avoid predictable plot turns, off-key characters, and erroneous endings. The session will include a presentation, writing exercises, and a Q&A.

Voices Carry: Discovering and Developing Your Picture-Book Voice with agent Rachel Orr

Voice can be the hardest element to master, yet it’s probably the most important factor that agents and editors look for in new writers. By examining the work of our influences—and taking a critical look at our own work—Rachel Orr of Prospect Agency will discuss how to develop our own natural voices, as well as how to use voice to create likeable characters. She’ll also explore several different structural elements, including the importance of a strong opening line, the effective use of intentional repetition, and the benefits and drawbacks of various viewpoints. The session will include a presentation, writing exercises, and a Q&A.

At this picture book intensive weekend, you will join with the prestigious faculty in an intimate setting to investigate the form, practice the craft, and help give your manuscripts the edge they need to make it in today’s marketplace and reach an eager, young audience. You can look forward to:

  • The study of successful picture books: where behind the scenes publishing information is shared
  • Writing exercises and hands-on revision practice
  • Transform quiet texts into MUST HAVES
  • Pacing and page turns
  • Character development secrets
  • Read aloudability
  • In-depth critiques of your work from your one-on-one faculty instructor
  • Evening readings around the fire pit or on the party porch
  • Delicious breakfast and lunches
  • Dinners at local Austin eateries (*not included in price of the weekend)
  • A relaxing and inviting environment to create
  • Meeting writers from around the country
  • Bonding with faculty over board games, evenings around the fire pit, and chatting on the party porch.


All participants will be asked to:

  • possibly pre-read a selection of picture books
  • submit a manuscript for a one-on-one critique
  • prepare and bring a draft for in-class exercises.
 Faculty Bios:

Hannah Barnaby worked as a children’s book editor, independent bookseller, and book reviewer before becoming the first children’s writer-in-residence at the Boston Public Library. Her first young adult novel, Wonder Show, was a William C. Morris Award Finalist and her second, Some of the Parts, received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. She made her double picture book debut in 2017 with Bad Guy (S&S), illustrated by Mike Yamada, and Garcia & Colette Go Exploring(Putnam), illustrated by Andrew Joyner. Hannah has an MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons College and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. She teaches creative writing to writers of all ages in Charlottesville, VA, where she lives with her family.


Ada Zhang joined Sterling in July 2015, and before that she worked at an academic press. Her interests in children’s literature are far-ranging, but she particularly enjoys stories that are clever, with characters that develop in surprising ways. She is the editor of Cap’n Rex & His Clever CrewDough Knights and Dragons, and others picture books, and she has a growing nonfiction list that includes Wolf Pups Join the Pack, Baby Dolphin’s First Swim, and others.


Rachel Orr is celebrating her tenth year at Prospect Agency, where she represents both authors and illustrators in projects ranging from picture books through YA. She previously worked for eight rewarding years at HarperCollins Children’s Books, and uses those editorial skills to help prepare her clients’ work for submission. Her clients include Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (Caveboy is Bored), Cori Doerrfeld (Maggie & Wendel: Imagine Everything!), Katharine Kenah (Flood Warning), Jason Kirschner (Mr. Particular), Todd Tarpley (Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep!)—as well as SCBWI Austin’s own Samantha M. Clark (The Boy, the Beach and the Beast). Rachel lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her husband and two young children. She has no spare time—but, if she did, she would spend it dancing, running and reading, of course.




Who Should Apply for The Complete Picture Book Workshop?

  • picture book writers and illustrators who are getting personal rejections from agents and editors
  • published/agented picture book writers and illustrators looking to deepen their work
  • novelists who are wanting to learn more about the picture book genre
  • poets who want to try their hand at the picture book format
  • SCBWI members  and WLT members, and others who have attended classes, workshops, and conferences routinely
  • lovers of the picture book form, including artist and illustrators (though the focus of the weekend is on writing a picture book, not illustrating.)
  • those who have taken Picture Book I & II at The Writing Barn.
  • Authors/Illustrators wanting a book dummy review
  • Illustrators wanting a portfolio review


Fees and Pricing: 

This event is limited to 25 participants. There are two pricing options. One with onsite lodging and another for locals, or out-of-town attendees once the onsite lodging at The Writing Barn is full.

photo27WORKSHOP with ONSITE LODGING: $899, 10 of these registrations available. Includes:

  • Lodging on The Writing Barn grounds.
  • 1 dinner, 3 breakfasts, and 2 lunches. All vegetarian. (2 additional dinners will be held off-site at local Austin area eateries and not included in the price of the workshop.)
  • Unlimited snacks and beverages, wine and beer included.
  • Airport shuttle to and from The Writing Barn for those traveling to Austin, at pre-arranged times.


WORKSHOP ONLY:  $699, 15 of these registrations available. Includes:

  • Locals not staying on The Writing Barn grounds.
  • Out-of-town attendees, once the on-site lodging is full.
  • DOES NOT include airport shuttle, but will include transportation to off-site dinners.




Once you are notified of your acceptance to the workshop, a 50% deposit is due. If there is a waiting list for this event, and you have to cancel, all but a $30 application fee will be returned to you if you cancel 6 weeks before the event. If there is no waiting list, and the spot is unable to be filled, the 50% deposit is non-refundable.

Payments may be made via check or credit card. Credit card payments have an additional 3% service charge added.

The remaining 50% is due 6 weeks before the event.


If you care to extend your stay at The Writing Barn or Book House to retreat/write after the event, please inquire about discounted stays.

If you wish to have a Writer Massage in your room, during an evening, with one of Austin’s top massage therapists, the cost for an hour, full body massage is $100.

If you wish to schedule a headshot session with Author Headshot Photographer, Sam Bond of Sam Bond Photography on the arrival day, please contact her at

APPLICATIONS:  To apply, fill out the application form here.