Monday 15 July 2024

Can AI Write a Good Picture Book? Lynne Garner

In my role as a teacher, I’m being encouraged to embrace AI. As my boss say’s “it’s not going away.” So, I recently decided to explore AI and use it as a research tool for a small collection of how-to books I’m working on. The main issue I’ve had with the research the AI has produced is it makes up random URLs to support the information it’s found. This has meant I’ve had to find supporting information to ensure what it has created is correct. So, it’s not saved me any time. But I wondered how good or bad it would be at writing a picture book. So, I opened my usual AI platform and as July is ‘the’ month for being Wild About Wildlife (and I am wild about wildlife) I asked it to:


“Write a 1,000-word picture book story over 12 double page spreads based on the national celebration of wild about wildlife month.”

The results were not quite what I’d expected. This is what it generated.


Spread 1-2: Introduction

"Every July, a special celebration begins—Wild About Wildlife Month! All around the world, people come together to learn about, protect, and celebrate the amazing creatures that share our planet."

Illustration: A lush forest filled with animals, birds flying, deer grazing, and a river flowing through. 


Spread 3-4: The Forest

"In the forest, creatures big and small play important roles. Foxes dash through the trees, rabbits nibble on fresh green leaves, and birds sing beautiful songs from their treetop homes."

Illustration: A close-up of the forest, highlighting different animals like foxes, rabbits, and birds in their natural habitats.


Spread 5-6: The Ocean 

"Beneath the waves, the ocean teems with life. Fish of every colour swim gracefully, dolphins leap and play, and sea turtles glide through the deep blue sea. Each one is a treasure of the ocean."

Illustration: A vibrant underwater scene with colourful fish, a playful dolphin, and a majestic sea turtle. 


Spread 7-8: The Savanna 

"On the open savanna, mighty elephants roam, lions rest under the shade, zebras gallop across the plains, and giraffes stretch their necks to munch on tall trees. This is their wild kingdom."

Illustration: A vast savanna with elephants, lions, zebras, and giraffes under the bright sun.


Spread 9-10: The Mountains 

"High in the mountains, bears forage for berries, eagles soar high in the sky, and mountain goats leap from rock to rock. Life here is rugged and beautiful."

Illustration: Snow-capped mountains with a family of bears, a soaring eagle, and a shy mountain goat. 


Spread 11-12: The Desert

"In the desert, where the sun blazes hot, camels trek across sandy dunes, a fennec fox peeks out from its burrow, and cacti bloom with brilliant flowers, showing life thrives even in the driest places."

Illustration: A desert scene with camels, a fennec fox, and blooming cacti under a starry night sky.


Spread 13-14: The Rainforest 

"Deep in the rainforest, vibrant parrots chatter, monkeys swing from tree to tree, and sloths move slowly along the branches. This green world is full of wonder."

Illustration: A dense rainforest with colourful parrots, curious monkeys, and a slow-moving sloth. 


Spread 15-16: Protecting Wildlife 

"Wild About Wildlife Month reminds us that we can all help protect our wild friends. Planting trees, keeping rivers clean, and respecting animal homes make a big difference."

Illustration: Children planting trees, picking up trash, and observing animals respectfully. 


Spread 17-18: Learning and Exploring 

"Learning about wildlife is fun! Reading books, watching videos, and exploring nature helps us understand how important these creatures are to our world."

Illustration: A classroom with children looking at books, a computer showing wildlife videos, and a teacher holding a globe. 


Spread 19-20: Families Celebrating 

"Families celebrate together by having picnics in the park, watching birds through binoculars, and even joining wildlife parades. It's a month full of joy and discovery."

Illustration: Families having a picnic in a park, watching birds, and participating in a wildlife-themed parade. 


Spread 21-22: Our Wild Planet 

"Our planet is home to so many amazing animals. From the tiniest insects to the largest whales, every creature plays a part in the web of life. Let's celebrate and protect them all!"

Illustration: A globe showing different habitats with animals from each habitat around it. 


Spread 23-24: Conclusion 

"As Wild About Wildlife Month comes to an end, remember to carry its spirit in your heart all year long. Let's be kind to animals and the earth, and always stay wild about wildlife!"

Illustration: A beautiful sunset over a landscape filled with diverse wildlife, a rainbow in the sky. 


Back Cover:

"Join the adventure! Celebrate the beauty and importance of wildlife with this colourful journey through different habitats. Let's protect and cherish our wild friends every day!"

Illustration: A montage of various animals from the book with the words "Wild About Wildlife" prominently displayed. 


As you can see it’s not a story. There’s no character having to resolve a problem. No story arc. No use of the magic number three. No nice surprise plot twist or resolution and some of the text feels a bit preachy.


But what it has produced is the possibility of a non-fiction picture book. Perhaps the text from the first page could become part of my book blub:


Every July, a special celebration begins—Wild About Wildlife Month!

All around the world, people come together to learn about, protect,

and celebrate the amazing creatures that share our planet."


Perhaps I’d use this or something based on this from pages 21/22 as my opening double page spread:


Illustration: A globe showing different habitats with animals from each habitat around it.


“Our planet is home to so many amazing animals. From the tiniest insects to the largest whales, every creature plays a part in the web of life.”


I’d then explore some of the habitats already highlighted. But I’d expand it and explore all of the habitat’s found on this wondrous planet. Perhaps I’d work on the idea of the web of life for each of the habitats, which is mentioned in spread 21/22.




Perhaps I could create a character who is wild about wildlife and travels the world and explores each habitat in a stand-alone book. Oh, I’ve just created a series. Perhaps they solve a wildlife issue. Maybe like this wonderful man who provides new homes for hermit crabs who have been forced to make homes from our rubbish. Check him out below: 

So although what was generated wasn’t what I wanted or expected it has generated something I could work with.


My conclusion from this experiment is I’m not too worried about AI at the moment. But as it progresses, I may change my mind and worry writers will become the endangered species.


However, I wonder if will it ever be able to make the leaps I’ve made whilst writing this post? I wanted a stand-alone picture book story but I've ended up with an entire non-fiction series. 


If there’s an editor out there looking for a new non-fiction series, please feel free to contact me. 😁

Last but not least how do you feel about AI and picture books?

Monday 1 July 2024

Did you know that UK authors get together? Moira Butterfield

 IMPORTANT TIP! There’s a very useful thing you can do to help you feel happier as an author, and that’s talk to other authors! 

 I can recommend this from experience. A few years ago a fellow author introduced me to the Scattered Authors Society, a UK-wide group of traditionally published children’s authors of all sorts (with some living in other parts of Europe). It was set up by authors for authors. Authors do the admin and run the online chats and events for each other. 


There’s a retreat or two held every year for those who'd like to spend a few days in person with fellow authors. The attendees run creative workshops for each other and spend precious time writing as well as socialising. I went to my first one filled with trepidation and imposter syndrome, but I didn’t have to worry. I soon made connections and found the creative author-run workshops a revelation. They have really helped me to free-up and vary my writing. The workshops are varied and inclusive, from creative art to problem-solving sessions and writing games that push creative buttons! 


Meanwhile there’s a Facebook group for us to chat privately between ourselves. Anyone can post a question or observation – does someone have advice on school visit fees, a new keyboard, a book title dilemma, a difficult edit, getting a new agent or chasing payment, for example? There are sensible rules to the group – nothing defamatory – to make it work the best it can. Twitter/X it most definitely is not. It’s friendly and supportive. 


We are planning on having more local meetings in the future, where authors in the same area get together to have some fun creative time with minimal cost. We had our first local meet-up of 'sassies' in the southwest last week, and we were so excited to be together we talked and talked, as well as having a writing game or two and eating the delicious treats brought by everybody. 


We also have regular zoom get-togethers for members who want to drop by online. Some of these are social ‘hellos’ and we’ve decided that some in the future are going to focus on specific topics of interest to authors - school visits or applying for grants, for example. By pooling our knowledge we benefit each other. 


There are regular blogs, too, on books that people have read and would like to discuss. 


The whole thing is a £15 fee for life – just a one-off payment and you’re in for good! 


Do check out the website at  (where you’ll be greeted with a picture of our fab winter woodland retreat location).  


It would be great to welcome you! 

Moira Butterfield has published many books for children. She is looking forward to August, when Nosy Crow publishes Welcome to Our Playground, the follow-up to her bestselling Welcome to Our World. Nosy Crow will also be publishing Look What I Found by the River, a follow-up in Moira's National Trust Look What I Found series. 

instagram @moirabutterfieldauthor


Monday 17 June 2024

Picture Books To Celebrate Fatherhood All Year Round - Garry Parsons

One of my favourite depictions of fatherhood is the moment Geppetto lifts Pinocchio off the floor and joyfully whirls him around the room at the end of the Disney movie. This is the very last scene in the movie where distraught Geppetto is sobbing on the bed and all looks lost. But when he lifts his head to see who’s talking he realises that Pinocchio is not only alive after the ordeal with the whale but has magically been transformed into a real boy. 


Pinocchio - Disney 1940

I’m sure we’d all agree that Geppetto’s parenting skills in the movie require some attention but what I love about that final scene is the overwhelming sense of joy Geppetto has at being a father and the relief he has to be reunited with his son.  You can watch the scene on youtube here.

Like Geppetto, no one is perfect at being a parent and nor would we want to be, but Dads in picture books often seem to get a raw deal. Dads are often depicted as caricatures of dads, preoccupied with tasks in the shed, washing the car or tinkering under the bonnet. Sometimes unkempt or dishevelled, they can appear absent minded, aloof or uncaring, preferring to fix things than parent directly. 

Dads generally appear less in picture books than mums too and are more likely to play background roles. There are certainly more mums in picture books than dads but that is probably a fair representation of who is taking on most of the full time parenting today, particularly with books for younger children. Dads in picture books can be on the periphery of family life or simply absent from the story altogether, but that might also be a reflection on the world we live in too. 

From Lawrence in the Fall by Matthew Farina & Doug Salati

So it’s heart-warming to see Dad characters coming to the fore in picture books. Dads who care and parent from a place of nurture (“Lawrence in the Fall”) and dads who are gentle and willing to listen (“Jabari Jumps”) And dads who are keen to impart wisdom and help their children grow. 

What We’ll Build by Oliver Jeffers 

As it is Father’s Day this weekend we have good reason to delve back into the book shelf and pull out some old favourites too. 

Don’t Let Go! By Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross.


I’ve picked out a few picture books with strong father figure characters who, I feel, have a lot to give and that you might enjoy too.

 Lawrence and his Papa go searching in the woods to collect things to show in school. Papa gently departs his knowledge of the forest and his wisdom of how the world works. In a moment when they become separated, Lawrence discovers a forest secret of his own. A tender story of the bond between father and son where the characters express clear emotion, beautifully illustrated scenes and characters that capture the tenderness and wild elements of the landscape.

What We’ll Build by Oliver Jeffers is a story of a father and daughter setting out plans for their life together, building memories and a home to keep them safe. A moving story of love and protection.


A story about courage and gentle parental encouragement. Jabari has made his mind up that he is going to take a leap from the diving board but it's high and a little scary but he has his dad with him for support.


Pete’s A Pizza by William Steig is a firm favourite in our house and never ceases to bring a smile. It's raining outside and Pete can't go outside to play. Pete's attentive dad decides to make him into a pizza instead and bake him on the sofa. A funny and warm story around the kindness of a tuned-in dad with paired-down but spot-on illustrations.

A Brave Bear is a contemplative story of gentle parenting and attentive awareness. Dad has to navigate encouragement and some sulking when his son has ambitions of jumping big and grazes his knee in the wilds of the forest. Beautiful, textured illustrations from Emily Hughes.

Another enduring favourite in our house is Don’t Let Go! By Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross. A little girl wants to visit her daddy but to do that she needs his help to learn to ride her bike. "Daddy, I'm here, I won't let go. Not until you say. Hold on tight. I love you, so - We'll do this together...OK?"  Prepare to be moved by this affectionate father and daughter relationship.


Great for younger readers, My Daddy is a Giant is a simple celebration of a father with Indrid Godon's uniquely wonderful illustrations.

Dad is competently in charge, doing some chores and caring for his daughter Trixie at the same time and doing a fine job of it until it all goes wrong at the laundromat. When you're attention is focused on your toddler be prepared to make mistakes!

Stereotypically manly men are shown in emotional or scary moments in Tough Guys (Have Feeling Too) by Keith Negly. Evertone has feelings, unless you are a robot!


And to return to Geppetto and his son, Pinocchio by Pinocchio, retold by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark

As ever, please use the comments section to recommend your favourites and let’s celebrate the fully formed Dad in picture books all year round.  Happy Fathers Day!


Garry Parsons is an award winning illustrator of children’s books and father to two boys. 

Garry is the illustrator of My Daddies! By Gareth Peter. 



Monday 3 June 2024


Since you’ve found yourself here, at Picture Book Den, I suspect you'll agree with me that picture books are incredible. The best ones, even magical.

Listening to the rhythm, joining in with the words, trying out voices, pointing to the pictures... the pace, the pauses, the ups and the downs... all work together as the story unfolds, delivering an ending that make little hands want to read it all over again. Sharing a picture book creates time to talk, to learn, to feel and explore giving children space to see and hear and respond.

Yes. I am a huge advocate of picture books and the magic they hold.

But what about a book with little or no words? Can they support children’s development? Can they be magical too?

Harry Woodgate, me and Emma Reynolds outside Bologna Book Fair

I recently visited the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna where I spent quite some time in the Silent Stories Exhibit. The walls were literally lined with wordless wonders – several internal spreads from wordless projects enlarged and framed, and the full books below. I've written a little about my favourite titles below. In my view, wordless spreads absolutely CAN be as magical as books with words, maybe even more so. 

Here's why...


Cercas Gambas by Irene Frigo

There is a chair in the middle of nowhere. How it ended up there is unknown, but in the end it doesn't even matter. What is known is that that chair is missing a leg. Not that this makes it any less of a chair, but those who pass by are led to think that additional support could be useful. 

So, the most disparate things, from baguettes to umbrellas, from footballs to trumpets, are placed like prosthetics where the front right leg is not there. But baguettes are easy prey for hungry mice, umbrellas attract customers caught in the rain, balloons fly away and trumpets are made to be blown. 

This book made me smile. It made me think deeply about the wider world and that the chair was perhaps a metaphor for something else... and all through the exploration of a chair with a missing a leg.

Picture books make us think deeply, and without any words!


WINDOWS by Lana Alma

This book explores our perception of others through the metaphor of viewing fragments of people's lives through ‘windows.' It shows us how our beliefs shape our understanding, revealing that behind the curtains of perception, wondrous things might await, and our own monsters may not be monstrous at all.

This was another thought-provoking story - a simple but memorable wordless book poised to challenge readers and the judgements they make. 

Picture books can challenge stereotypes - and they can do it without words.  

PIANTALA by Alessia Roselli

This book featured a woodcutter who cuts down trees in the forest, disturbing the peace and balance in nature. But the woodcutter has a change of heart when they have a close encounter with a wolf who forces them to take refuge in a tree - nature bites back! 

 This wordless story tells us the importance of respecting the environment in which we live, which gives so much to us every day, without asking for anything in return. 

Wordless picture books have the power to inspire their readers to care and respect nature... and yet they have no words.  


Susy is a smart, curious little girl. She is happy in the house she grows up, and in her village, but with her fears also grow like a big black shadow that follows her everywhere. Her fear becomes bigger every day. When Susy notices the ugly monster behind her she is not afraid, she goes to the mirror to look at it better, even though it is really scary up close. 

This was an empowering - and at times, terrifying - story of courage and self-belief. 

Wordless picture books have the power to portray children's struggles and suggest coping strategies for difficult times. 

EVERY KINDNESS by Marta Bartolj

I also came across this book by Marta Bartolj. It's again, completely wordless, and depicts random acts of kindness across a community in a distinctive and deceptively simple way. There's plenty happening in the foreground and background of the illustrations and what goes around comes around for the main character.

Wordless picture books can encourage their readers to think about how their actions affect others. Wordless picture books can inspire empathy. 

SENZA FINE by Zongxi Deng

Probably the book that made the most impact on me, was this one by Zongxi Deng called Senza Fine. As with the other wordless picture books, it was powerful and deceptively simple, about a man who chooses which animal he wants to be reincarnated as after he passes away. Perhaps not everything disappears. Perhaps something remains... albeit in a different form. 

The Silent Stories exhibition was incredibly popular and at times there were several people crowded around the same book. When I read Senza Fine, I did so with another lady. We didn't communicate in words - I don't think we spoke the same language - but we made eye contact, we smiled and communicated through body language as we turned the pages and connected over our love for this book and its impactful end... and all without saying a word. 

Wordless picture books create connection, even without words. 

So, can you read a wordless picture?

Absolutely! You can!

Pictures books tell stories with or without the addition of words. And they do this through pictures. 

Visual literacy is the skill of inferring meaning from images - analysing them, interrogating them, making sense of them. Wordless pictures books still have characters, plots, crisis points, resolutions, themes... you can ask yourself them same who, what, where, when, why questions as you would with any other picture book... because they have pictures doing the work and telling the story. 

Picture books are praised for the high quality talk they provide. A wordless picture book can be even more powerful, with even more opportunities to grow discussion and to ask questions. And this is all thanks to the enchanting, terryfying, inspiring, beautiful, thoughtful, magical world of the illustrations.

OK, so you can't listen to the rhythm of the words or join in with the refrain and voices... 

But you can make up your own and that might be better! 

You can still feel the pace, the pauses, the ups and the downs... absorbing the story visually as it story unfolds. Sharing a wordless picture book still creates time to talk, to learn, to feel and explore through giving children space to see and hear and respond.

In fact, given that there’s no right or wrong way to tell a wordless story, it can lead to more talk time for co-creating the story together. There’s more opportunity to explore the detail, notice the nuance and challenging readers to look beneath the surface and bring their own experiences, attitudes, emotions and ideas to the characters and plot. 

In my opinion, wordless picture books are a challenge, a joy, a wonder. The ones I read at the Silent Stories exhibit, empowered me, inspired me, made me smile, made me think and brought me connection. When a story is shared, be it through listening, speaking, writing, we are all richer for it - be it through words, pictures or a combination.

These ideas are exactly what I was channelling when I wrote Moon Bear – an almost wordless, enchantingly illustrated picture book about a child called Ettie who is afraid of the dark. Ettie meets a bear is who afraid of the light, and together they learn about the magic of the night. Here I am holding a physical copy at the Quarto stand in Bologna! It's a sensational production and has been created with my co-collaborators - illustrator Carolina T. Godina, editor Claire Grace, designer Karissa Santos, and publisher Frances Lincoln.

This leads me nicely into the pitch for my next Picture Book Den article, coming in October. 

Can you write a wordless picture book?

Absolutely! You can!

Clare Helen Welsh is a children's writer from Devon. She writes fiction and non-fiction picture book texts - sometimes funny, sometimes lyrical and everything in between! Her latest picture book is called 'Moon Bear,' illustrated by Carolina T. Godina and published by Frances LincolmYou can find out more about her at her website or on Twitter @ClareHelenWelsh . Clare is represented by Alice Williams at Alice Williams Literary and is the founder of #BooksThatHelp. 

Wednesday 22 May 2024

The One-Hour Picture Book -Be More Quantity by Juliet Clare Bell

There’s an anecdotal story told about surrealist photographer Jerry Uelsmann and how he tried to motivate his Beginning Photography students at the University of Florida:

(c) Giuliano De Portu

He gave half the class a quantity assignment, where they were to take photos and their grade would be based solely on quantity: 100 photos at the end of the semester would get an A; 90 would get a B, and so on. And he gave the other half a quality assignment. They only had to submit one photo and it would be graded according to its quality. At the end of the semester, Uelsmann found that the best quality photos were actually from the quantity half, where the students had experimented and learned along the way through the practice of actually taking multiple photographs.

This has been described in Atomic Habits by James Clear, and less accurately in Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

(by their own admission) but however accurate, I know that if I’d been in the quality group, I’d have taken that one photograph so seriously and the thought of it not being amazing would have weighed so heavily on my mind that it would have massively stifled my creativity. My take home message from the story is clear:

·         * Stop feeling pressured about an individual project you’re working on

·         * Don’t think of yourself being a picture book author as being someone who produces one book every so often (or not so often) after months of hard graft

·         * Don’t take yourself too seriously

·         * Sit down and get on with it

·         * Practise the form again and again and again

·         * Don’t worry if lots of your manuscripts are terrible and wholly unworthy of being sent to publishers/your agent

·         * That’s kind of the point.

·         * Just do it.

·         * And then just do it again.

·         * And then just do it some more…

·         * so you’re so used to the practise of sitting down and turning up to write that you’re going to come up with far more really good manuscripts/germs of an idea than you would by treating the production of ideas as wholly organic and the turning of the idea into a book as super complex

·         If you treat each idea like it needs to be executed perfectly from the start then you’re not going to get nearly as far as you would -even with the same idea- as if you’re freer and prepared to play and experiment rather than treat it with kid gloves

·         And there will be some gems, or at least gems of an idea, that you would never have if you were treating each idea as if it were ethereal and fragile.


I said the take home message for me was clear -not concise. And that’s part of the issue. If I don’t set constraints, then I over-write, over-think and procrastinate wildly. I make it way more complicated than it needs to be. In fact, it can be concise:

·         Be more quantity.


A few years ago, a small group of us picture book writers and illustrators, high on the excitement of a weekend spent together at a picture book retreat

                           SCBWI British Isles Picture Book Retreat 2023 (c) Tita Berredo
               (wrong year for the story but everyone from the 'Two a Month' group is in the picture)

decided that we should try and mimic Jerry Uelsmann’s practice. And for a while, we committed to focusing on quantity over quality in picture book creation (as an exercise) and agreed to show up once a month online with two completed picture book drafts, however rough (the point wasn’t to get critique on the manuscripts but to keep each other accountable for creating more, and really regularly). Whilst it lasted, it was really helpful and we were all more productive -and without actively trying to come up with even more ideas, I was coming up with way more ideas than the two drafts a month. But as is so often the case, life got in the way and we were all busy with other commitments and deadlines and we stopped.

It was a good attempt at channelling Jerry Uelsmann, and the constraint of writing two a month and knowing that we were celebrating consistent quantity over quality was helpful, but perhaps the constraints weren’t quite enough for me and I needed to constrain my parameters even more…


I’ve always loved the constraints when writing a picture book (every word matters, twelve to fourteen spreads, making use of the form with page turns and reveals etc.). Constraints can be extremely helpful, especially for those of us who are prone to distraction (you’ve caught me mid-sentence, scratching away at my tab key as I try and type, but seriously, how did it get that grubby…?)

I’ve recently written a series of early readers for a publisher and the construction of the books is full of constraints -very low word count, restricted word choice, reduced spreads, specific characters, etc.. And because it’s for a series of educational books, the deadlines are close together, there’s a quick turnaround between handing the first draft in, getting feedback and editing before handing over the final draft, and it’s way harder to procrastinate… Research for the level and the individual books takes a lot of time but by the end of the series of books, I’d got into a half-decent habit of quickly mapping out and writing the actual first draft.

When we were talking at our local SCBWI at the weekend

                                       Our local SCBWI Central West group this weekend

another picture book creator talked about needing to stop taking her work so seriously and I mentioned the quantity vs quality story. I also said how we’d tried a two-a-month group, how we’d previously done speed-dating with picture book ideas generated in Storystorm month (if you want to know how, here’s a guest blogpost I wrote for Storystorm 2019, we remembered how we’d done a ‘picture book in a day’ session a year earlier in one of our local meet-ups and I mentioned how I’d been mapping out and writing my first draft  stories for the early readers really quickly. I said it was amazing what you could actually do in a hour if you really focused…

So she called me on it. Why didn’t we write a picture book there and then in an hour (without any preparation -and for me, at least, any idea of what I’d write about)?

I spent the first ten minutes brainstorming and identifying what I might write about (what issues have been on my mind lately that might resonate with young children) and then drew out twelve spreads and wrote the story.

Did we finish a scrappy first draft in an hour?

    Yes. We both did!

Were we surprised?

    Yes. Extremely!

In fact, by the end of that hour, we’d even both managed a light edit.

Was it our best manuscript to date?

    No. But that’s not the point. We both created a whole (scrappy) manuscript in an hour, a whole story that had not existed just sixty minutes earlier.

Was it helpful that the other person was there, body doubling, to keep up accountable?


Would it be replicable back home, alone?

    It turns out, yes… I tried again yesterday, specifically for this blogpost, and I managed it. It's not as interesting as the first one (which I'll definitely do more editing on and see how it goes) but that doesn't matter at all...



My memory is terrible. As someone who is perimenopausal on top of ADHD and aphantasia (where I can’t visualise, see I need all the help I can get to remind me that I’m a picture book author. I literally forget almost every day -like I literally forget we have a garden for most of the year because we can’t see it from the house as the windows don’t overlook it. And in the way that I actually have a picture of me looking happy in the garden, displayed prominently to remind myself that we have a garden and I love being in it, I need prompts to remember I’m a picture book writer. Making myself write picture book drafts really regularly is a very practical way of helping me remember that I am actually a picture book writer. 

Why not have a go? This could be for you if you

·         Take yourself too seriously

·         Take your writing too seriously (to the point where you stop taking risks because you don’t want to get it wrong)

·         Struggle to start writing

·         Struggle to finish writing

·         Forget that you’re a picture book writer (and want a really regular reminder)

·        Have ADHD and need the dopamine boost of a super-quick deadline

       Just want a fun challenge


I try loads of different strategies all the time to make me more productive and procrastinate less. I’m really keen to get this going and I’ll be doing another tomorrow at our local Society of Authors meet up where we’re writing together for one hour (perfect timing!) After that, I’ve got hundreds of tiny ideas from various Storystorms and in general. I’m going to write each one on a slip of paper, put the slips of paper in a jar and pull one out at random at least three times a week to create at least twelve picture book first scrappy drafts in the coming month. I write for an hour each morning at 6am anyway as it’s my best time of day so I will just be more organised in what I write during those times. I can certainly afford to spend three hours a week working on something new (three somethings new) and out of those twelve there might even be one that’s worth pursuing. And if there isn’t? Has it been a waste of time?

Absolutely not. I’ll be strengthening my picture book muscle, getting better at ignoring my inner critic and absolutely remembering that I am a picture book writer. My new motto:

Be More Quantity.

(The quality will follow.)

Are you up for trying it out? Do you have any tips for non-precious writing? If so, I'd love to hear in the comments. 

Juliet Clare Bell is a children's author of over 35 picture books and early readers.