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Advance Your Writing & Illustrations with Children’s Book Academy

These past few weeks I participated in a workshop from the Children’s Book Academy,  taught by Dr. Mira Reisberg and  Knopf/Random House Editor Julia Maguire.

I was quite impressed by the track record of previous participants and faculty members  listed on the web site. On top of this, Mira’s class was also highly recommended by a fellow SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) member. This gave me the push to try out the class.

While I can’t write every detail of the course in this post, I can say without a doubt that it went above and beyond my expectations. Although I only joined the course for Illustrating Children’s Books, Mira also offers many classes around the entire business of publication including:

Some of these classes are FREE to join, so you should sign-up and get a feel for how it works.


 

Before signing up, ask yourself “is an online class right for you?”

The online touch.
An online class has its advantages and disadvantages.  I, for one, missed the physical interaction that I got from a classroom setting. Through the Children’s Book Academy, communications were done via Skype & Facebook. But since everything revolves around social-media these days, online interactions proved to be of great benefit. I was able to make new friends and grow my online connections.

And whenever someone posted a new image/homework/comment, all those in our group would get notified… and the comments and likes rolled in. I was essentially making friends with like-minded individuals. The other students were very friendly, supportive and encouraging. I also noticed that many of them were previous CBA students, and they spoke highly of their previous classes at the CBA.

Time & commitment.
I think that when it comes to online classes, you have to be extra committed to take full advantage. If you’re busy, or distracted, it’s so easy to fall off the wagon since no one is there to physically push you. That’s why Mira encourages her students to interact and make friends, so that the students support each other and work towards their goals.

Do you have any other options?
In my situation, there were no workshops nearby when it came to Children’s Book writing and illustrating, so having the convenience of an online class proved to be of great benefit. The closest workshops were in a city 300 miles away.


Workshop content

Daily articles
I was expecting Mira to post a few articles per week but was pleasantly surprised at how much information she  managed to pack into the class. Every day, she  posted a new topic in detail. Each topic was geared towards progressing the students in attaining their goal of completing a portfolio piece or a book spread.

Videos Interviews & Picture Book Breakdowns
Along with the written article, Mira also shared video interviews from industry experts who are working/published writers & illustrators. Some of these videos were over an hour-long and some were shorter. If that wasn’t enough, she also read and analyzed some of today’s most popular picture books. You’ll learn about why and how certain choices were made in the creation of the books and how you can use the same techniques in your own projects.

Weekly Student Critiques
Every week, students are assigned a homework focusing on a particular topic (for example, working on a thumbnail etc). The submitted homework are then reviewed in a weekly Skype session led by Mira & Julia.

The art was analyzed and suggestions are given on how to improve them. Mira would also do live demonstrations and revisions on the art so you can see the before and after results of a revised image.

Being able to critique your own work (or others) is a great and very useful skill to have and I’m still learning this.

Bonus Critiques
For a small fee, students can also participate on a one-on-one critique session with Mira or Julia. If you’re looking for a more detailed critique or thorough exploration of your project, this is a great opportunity to jump on.

Valuable hand-outs & worksheets
Be prepared to download lots and lots of hand-outs and worksheets. Even if you don’t use them right now, they will surely come in handy. Some of the worksheets are exercises to encourage you to try something new and some are guides that’ll help improve your existing project.

Community of passionate creators
Being part of an active and passionate group of creatives will fuel your pursuit to publication. There’s a certain synergy that kept pushing me to work better. Another interesting fact was that the students were a mix of beginners all the way up to experts (published authors & illustrators). This shows that no matter who you are, it’s always a positive thing to keep learning. Mira also makes herself available to all her students and when you join the class, you will have made a friend for life.

Who is Dr. Mira Reisberg?
The Director of the Academy, Dr. Mira Reisberg, brings a wealth of knowledge and teaching expertise from 27 years of prior experience in the industry as an independent editor, art director, book designer, literary agent, children’s literature professor, and an award winning illustrator and writer.  Her PhD in Education and Cultural Studies (with a focus on Children’s Literature) informs the Academy’s teaching practices.


Don’t let these bullet points fool you, there are TONS of information in this class. By the third week I had a hard time keeping up with all the articles and videos. But I was there for every Skype session which I thought was very educational and enjoyable.  Even if you lag behind, Mira keeps the contents online so the students can study at their own pace. The amount of information in this class cannot be condensed in a weekend workshop and is worth the cost. Many of the past students have gone on to publish their books and that’s a wonderful testament to the effectiveness of teaching and the materials provided (see below or click here to see more)

Just some of the many wonderful books published by former students.
Just some of the many wonderful books published by former students.

So if you’re thinking about joining, don’t hesitate, go register now. It’ll be worth it!