Fall Craft Intensives: Reston, VA

Sep 30, 2023

Reston Conference Center

Join us for a day of craft and comraderie! Choose one or two intensives and make sure to join us for lunch too. Interested in feedback? Make sure to sign up with a consultation from one of our faculty.

Date and Time:

Sept 30th

Morning Session: 9am-12pm

Lunch Social for all attendees: 12-1pm

Afternoon Session: 1-4pm


Each intensive session: $75, members / $85, non-members

Lunch included (menu to come)


Written-only feedback: $55

Written feedback + 20-minute zoom call: $75


Reston Conference Center

12001 Sunrise Valley Drive

Reston, VA 20191

Morning Sessions

Rhyme Time Strategies for Writing Rhyming Picture Books that Sing with Debra Shumaker and Tracey Kyle (2).png

For picture book writers:

Kids love rhyme. Yet many agents and editors say they don’t want to see rhyming picture books. What they really mean is that they don’t want to see bad rhyme as many writers have not mastered the techniques to write in rhyme. In this intensive, Tracey and Debra will cover the basics of meter and rhythm and how rhyme can help or hinder your picture book. They will also share the strategies and tools they used when writing their rhyming picture books. We will work collaboratively to dissect picture books in rhyme and create rhyming poems. Participants will also have time to evaluate and revise their own rhyming manuscripts. We will conclude with a Q & A session.

Rhyme Time Strategies for Writing Rhyming Picture Books that Sing with Debra Shumaker and Tracey Kyle (3).png

For nonfiction and historical fiction writers:

Do you have an idea for a nonfiction or historical fiction project and don’t know where to begin? Do you feel overwhelmed by how to research or how to organize it? This intensive will walk you through the research process, give you ideas for where and how to research, and allow you to delve into some of your own research. Participants will need to have an idea (or ideas) for a project, a laptop, and a willingness to dig into research. Open to picture book writers or novelists.

Afternoon Sessions


For illustrators, author/Illustrators, and authors:

This session is a hands-on 3-hour intensive. Learn how to make a book dummy for submission. Bring your own edited PB manuscript (aim for less than 500 words), or use a well-known story for practice. We will discuss pagination and how to hold the tension before a page-turn reveal. When to use spots, spreads, or single-page illustrations to move the story along and make it fit in the standard 32 or 40-page Picture book format.


For novelists:

We've all written ourselves into a corner at some point. But sitting down and writing an outline sounds tedious and confining. But what if there was a way to use outlining as a creative outlet? Learn how to get to the meat of your story and chunk it so each scene has fully fleshed characters, emotional and motivational goals and more so when you actually sit down to write- your story can almost write itself!

Learn more about your faculty:

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Debra Kempf Shumaker

Debra Kempf Shumaker started reading at the age of four and hasn’t stopped since. She grew up on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin but now writes picture books from her home in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. She is the author of several fiction and nonfiction picture books, including two that rhyme: FREAKY, FUNKY FISH and PECULIAR PRIMATES.


Tracey Kyle

Tracey Kyle is the author of six rhyming picture books and a former middle and high school Spanish teacher in Fairfax County. She is looking forward to practicing yoga, napping with her cats and writing more when she retires next month.


Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Marcie Flinchum Atkins is a teacher-librarian by day and a children’s book writer in the wee hours of the morning. She holds an M.A. and M.F.A. in Children’s Literature from Hollins University. She is the author of Ancient China (ABDO, 2015), “Rookie Get Ready to Code” series (Scholastic Children’s Press, 2019), and Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature (Millbrook Press, 2019) which was one of Kirkus’ Best Picture Books of the Year. Marcie’s poetry has been featured in Things We Feel and What is a Friend? edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong (Pomelo Books, 2022) and “The Dirigible Balloon.” She has a forthcoming historical fiction verse novel coming in 2024 (Versify) and a nonfiction picture book coming in 2025 (Chronicle).


Olga Herrera

Olga Herrera (she/her) is an Author and Illustrator of children's books. She earned her bachelor's of Fine Arts from the Ringling College of Art and Design with a major in Illustration. Her hilarious and endearing debut picture book, The Unwelcome Surprise, was published in April 2023 by Feiwel & Friends, Macmillan. One of her passion projects is the podcast she co-founded, Illo Chat, a podcast about the journey into professional Illustration and the world of children's book publishing. Olga is a long-time member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She has been a writing and illustration mentor for her regional chapter (MD/DE/WV) and has won several illustration competitions. Olga is multicultural, Cuban and Ecuadorian, and is bilingual in Spanish and English. She was born in Miami, Florida, and grew up in Ecuador, a beautifully diverse country that remains close to her heart. As a teenager, she returned to the United States, where she began her interest in the arts. She lives in the picturesque state of Maryland with her husband, two children, and too many pets who patiently listen to her ideas.


Joyana Peters

Joyana is the self-published author of the award-winning YA historical fiction books, The Girl in the Triangle and The Girl From Saint Petersburg. She loves exploring history and sharing stories about overlooked empowered women who fought for change. She got her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans and has also published non-fiction articles in publications nationwide. She is also a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association and currently serves as the Indie and Self-Published Coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Mid-Atlantic region. Joyana lives in Virginia with her family and her furry Yellow Lab muse, Gatsby.

Important Information



Submit material for a critique with one of our faculty. We're offering two different kinds of consultations: a written only critique for $55 and a written critique plus a 20-min zoom meeting for $75.