The Secret Seven Picture Book essentials

katrina-portrait-1-regularfilesize4Last month, I was lucky enough to attend a picture book master-class with author Katrina Germein at the CYA conference. Katrina is one of those beautiful people who makes an instant connection and makes you secretly hope she’ll be your new best friend 😉

Seriously, she was so generous with her tips and so humble about her success that I came away feeling inspired and refreshed on my PB journey.

And because, as I’m revising my own PBs in progress, I keep trying to remember her pearls of wisdom, I thought I’d record them here.

Katrina’s top seven tips for picture books are:

  1. A swift orientation – the who, where and why. Drop the reader straight into the story. Set the scene and create intrigue. We looked at some great examples, including:

He was red                                                                               red

But he wasn’t very good at it.

Red by Michael Hall.





My uncle’s donkeyDonkey

is allowed in the house!

My Uncle’s Donkey by Tohby Riddle





The girl had lost her way.Lost

The Lost Girl by Ambelin Kwaymullina




2. Use evocative language which is concise and poetic

3. Create an engaging rhythm – check this by reading aloud.

4. Leave room for the illustrator. You can do this by taking out descriptions of how things look – remember the other senses to evoke feelings.

5. Make sure there is some kind of tension/action/problem.

6. Check for a clear emotional impact that engages the reader.

7. Go for a satisfying resolution, possibly with a twist.

Other pointers:

  • Make sure someone other than you likes the story 🙂
  • Don’t use more words than you need
  • Make sure it’s entertaining, move the reader with your tone, language, atmosphere or action.
  • Try employing various literary techniques (rhythm, etc) that will improve your work and possibly increase your chances of publication.

Good luck with your own picture book works everyone.

It’s amazing how many hours you can put into so few words 😉


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