One of the things I love about writing picture books is being a part of the fabulous community of writers that do it. Picture book writers rock my world, no lie. I find them to be tremendously supportive, painstakingly dedicated to their craft, and prolific in what they have to say to both their young audiences and their fellow writers.
So, it should come as no surprise that one of the major highlights of my fall season will be attending the 8th annual Picture Book Summit in October. This will be my first time…and I bought fuzzy slippers for it!
I’m not sure if you’ve read some of my previous posts, but I am in the “thick” of parenthood. I have three young children who want my attention, animals to take care of, and between that and maintaining my writing life, sometimes I get so busy I forget to shower or eat a proper lunch. Picture Book Summit is wonderfully virtual, so I can attend it from the home, munch carrot sticks on mute, and enjoy the whole thing effortlessly!
Headlining the event this year are some of my favorite award-winning picture book writers, The Fan Brothers (Terry and Eric Fan) and Kate DiCamillo. (Side note: if you have not yet read any of their books, goodness gracious, get your hands on some asap! They are amazing and will change your life.) That I can sit in my home and listen to them teach me the art and craft of picture book writing is something I can’t even wrap my head around at this moment. I am also looking forward to the instructional workshops with authors and illustrators, agent and editor panels, and submission opportunities!
I thought it would be fun to talk with the Picture Book Summit team, including Katie Davis, Julie Hedlund, and Emma Walton Hamilton, with their host and project manager Kelli Panique, so we can learn all we need to know about this event before this fall:
Hilary Margitich: Thank you so much for joining me today! So nice to have you all here.
KELLI PANIQUE: We’re excited to be joining you on Writers’ Rumpus!
HM: Could you tell me what first prompted you to start the Picture Book Summit, and what your vision for it was?
KATIE DAVIS: In 2013, I was lamenting the high cost of in-person conferences. Not only do you have the ticket price, but then there are exorbitant travel expenses: airfare, meals, hotel, childcare back home, even transportation to, and parking at, the airport. And in NYC, that adds up! Then there are writers who are unable to travel physically. I had attended webinars in other industries and wondered, what if we could bring the experience of a writers’ conference to people in the comfort of their own home?
I pitched the idea to my “authorpreneur” friends. Our goals were to give writers access to not only our own publishing experience, but also to the biggest names in the industry. We wanted to create a truly educational and fun experience that could be accessed from just about anywhere in the world. Now we’ve planned and put on eight conferences, and thousands of writers have benefitted. That is a dream come true!
HM: The fact that this kind of large-scale event is virtual is certainly a safe and wise thing now, though this was a virtual conference even before they became trendy.
JULIE HEDLUND: Yes! We were virtual before it was cool, but with very good reason. From the outset, our goal was to create the highest quality conference, solely for picture book creators, that was also affordable. Being online from the get-go was important to us because we know there’s a cost to in-person conferences beyond the registration fee.
What surprised us was not only were we able to make the conference affordable, but we’ve built a worldwide online community of picture book creators. To log in on Summit Day and see writers and illustrators from New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, England, the Middle East, Malaysia, Canada, and all countries in between is especially thrilling because we would miss many of those connections if we were an in-person conference!
Our Summiteers come back year after year and seeing their excitement in the chat and the private Facebook group makes it all worthwhile. While there are many virtual options today, we remain the only one that focuses exclusively on picture books, which allows us to dive deep into the craft and business of this unique format.
HM: There is a major philanthropic component to the Summit, which donates much-needed funds to literacy-based charities each year. Can you tell me more about that?
EMMA WALTON HAMILTON: Every year since our inception, Picture Book Summit has donated a generous portion of our proceeds to a different literacy-based charity. To date, we have donated over $37,000!
The charities we’ve partnered with so far include We Need Diverse Books (#WNDB); Reading Partners; Title I schools Harrison Elementary in Cottage Grove, OR, and Lincoln Elementary, New Britain, CT; Project Night Night; Binc – the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, and the Little Free Library in support of their Read in Color initiative.
In 2018, we sought to help those affected by Hurricane Maria by donating to the San Juan Community Library to help them restock their library shelves. We are proud to announce the San Juan Community Library is our charity partner again this year. They are the only lending library open to the public in the capital city of Puerto Rico and they serve a diverse population of children, young adults, and adults. A portion of every 2022 PBSummit ticket will go to helping this under-served institution provide updated books and services to their community.
For more information on Picture Book Summit’s charity efforts and how they’ve impacted these groups please visit our Charity Page.
HM: This will be my first Picture Book Summit ever, and I’m sure there are others who are in the same boat as me. We don’t exactly know what to expect. I’ve heard rumors there will be dance parties with goats and I am all about that, but in all seriousness, what advice would you give newcomers on how to get the most out of this event?
KELLI PANIQUE: Welcome aboard! We’re delighted you’re joining us this year! It’s always thrilling to welcome new writers to our community and hear how excited they are about the event. We love that infectious energy!
Before the Summit, we suggest reading books written by, and suggested by, our speakers. It will help you get to know our Superstar Speakers and allow their presentations to resonate even more, plus reading picture books is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your picture book writing. (Our Recommended Reading List comes out in September.)
On Summit Day, I always suggest attendees be in the moment. Rather than taking pages of notes, enjoy listening live. Let what our Superstar Speakers—like Kate DiCamillo and The Fan Brothers—teach sink in and inspire you.
After the Summit, all attendees have access to the session replays through the end of January. That’s the time to take notes, when you can watch and pause the replays. Each presentation is full of so much valuable content you’ll want to watch them multiple times. You won’t believe how many tips and techniques you’ll add to your picture book writing toolbox.
Also, snacks! It’s a FULL day of presentations and chats, so we recommend having your favorite beverage and snacks nearby to nibble on throughout the day. And, go ahead and make reservations for dinner, because you won’t feel like cooking afterward. You’ll feel like writing!
HM: Where can people go online to find out more about the Picture Book Summit and register for it?
KELLI PANIQUE: People can register at https://picturebooksummit.com/rumpus. Register before October 3rd and join us live for our attendee-only PJ Party! (That’s when you’ll get to dance with goats!)
HM: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I can’t wait for Picture Book Summit 2022!
And that’s a wrap, folks! Will you don some fuzzy slippers and join me and the rest of the picture book writing community online Saturday, October 8th?
Katie Davis is an award-winning writer/illustrator whose published work includes kidlit genres from picture books to middle grade to young adult. Her first picture book, WHO HOPS? turns 24 this year, and KINDERGARTEN ROCKS! has been a perennial favorite since 2005. Katie critiques manuscripts twice a month through her Writers’ Block membership, and is the former Director of the Institute of Children’s Literature and Institute for Writers. Her books have sold over a million copies and her two guides for writers, HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR CHILDREN’S BOOK and HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S BOOK both debuted at #1 on Amazon.
Julie Hedlund is an award-winning picture book author and founder of the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. Since 2012, 12 x 12 has encouraged thousands of picture book writers to get their stories out of their heads and onto the page. Julie is a frequent speaker at writing retreats and conferences. Her picture book credits include OVER, BEAR! UNDER WHERE?, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN and A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS. Her next book, SONG AFTER SONG: THE MUSICAL LIFE OF JULIE ANDREWS debuts in 2023.
Emma Walton Hamilton is a best-selling author, award-winning editor, stage and television producer, and writing coach. With her mother, actress/author Julie Andrews, Emma has co-authored over thirty children’s books, nine of which have been on the NY TIMES Bestseller list, including THE VERY FAIRY PRINCESS series. She teaches Children’s Literature for Stony Brook University’s Creative Writing MFA and is the co-host of the JULIE’S LIBRARY Podcast. Emma’s first poetry collection, DOOR TO DOOR, will be published in fall 2022, along with a new picture book co-authored with her mother, THE FIRST NOTES: THE STORY OF DO RE MI.
Kelli Panique is the backbone to everything going on behind the scenes at Picture Book Summit. She is involved with everything from the nuts and bolts of the website to responding to each email that we receive. You’ll also find her supporting other literary entities including 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge and Institute for Writers. When she’s not helping writers or managing a Facebook group, you’ll probably find her looking up movies on IMDB, playing word games, or reading a book.