This is the blog home of #kidlitart, a live Twitter chat Thursdays at 9:00 pm Eastern, for children's book illustrators, picture book authors, author/illustrators and friends. Check back weekly to read transcripts, comment on previous chats and suggest topics for upcoming chats.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


2016 Return of the Picture Book Dummy Challenge!


You can participate in the #Kidlitart 2016 Picture Book Dummy Challenge here on the blog or on Twitter via the #PBDummy hashtag, or on Facebook via this group.

What is it?
A six month-long online group challenge to create and submit a picture book dummy.

Start date: January 14, 2016

End date: July 21, 2016

Who can join?Anyone! Though geared primarily toward author/illustrators, writers who are not artists can benefit from portions of the dummy exercise, and illustrators without an original manuscript can use the process to create a dummy portfolio piece.

Can I participate without attending kidlitart Twitter chats?
Yes, the challenge steps will be posted here on the blog--but we encourage you to take advantage of all avenues for joining in the discussion: leave comments here; drop by #kidlitart at 9 pm Eastern on Thursday nights; and check in with your Twitter colleagues any time via the challenge hashtag: #PBDummy. (Starting in January, you can also download the twibbon created by Diandra Mae to show your participation.)

Do I have to post my work online?
No! We will be discussing the steps in general terms. If you wish to receive feedback or critiques on specific ideas or artwork, you are free to exchange messages or post images with trusted partners in protected venues. DO NOT post original artwork in comments here: please be mindful of the nature of the internet and use caution when posting art ANYWHERE.

What if I don’t want to create a picture book dummy? Will I be left out of #kidlitart until July? Not at all! Most of the challenge activity will take place here on the blog or via the #PBDummy hashtag. We will schedule a progress chat to correspond with each of the nine steps, but the remainder of the chats will cover the entire range of topics of interest to picture book illustrators and friends of the genre.

Are there any rules for the challenge?
No rules at all for participating, except to register your participation on the blog by January 31st. The idea is to have a great time while accomplishing something useful. If you’ve ever taken part in a similar challenge, you know the value of community: checking in regularly, encouraging others, allowing yourself to be held accountable to a schedule—all this will help you get the most from the experience.

Part II: Brass Tacks
What is a picture book dummy, anyway?
A picture book dummy is a facsimile of a printed book: text and images laid out on paper cut into pages which are then gathered and “bound” to approximate an actual book. A dummy can be extremely simple or very elaborately produced—but the defining characteristic is the page turn.

A physical dummy allows you to simulate the experience of reading a book. For the author/illustrator, a dummy aids in establishing and editing the visual context into a series of isolated page spreads viewed the way a reader will experience them. It can also be an important tool for exposing flaws in the pace of a manuscript or help to establish natural dramatic breaks in the story line.

Who should create a picture book dummy, and why?
There are three reasons to create a picture book dummy:

a) As mentioned above, a dummy is an important tool for structuring a picture book, and is a recommended exercise for polishing any manuscript. A writer who is not an illustrator can benefit from creating a simple dummy, but should NOT include it as part of the submission.

b) An illustrator who is not an author might consider creating a picture book dummy of a fairy tale or some other familiar text in the public domain, as a portfolio piece. A successful dummy will demonstrate that the illustrator understands how to structure a story within the constraints of the standard picture book format.

c) An author/illustrator should consider including a picture book dummy as part of the submission package for any original manuscript he or she wishes to illustrate. This will give the editor, art director or agent reviewing your submission the clearest idea of the viability of the project. For the purposes of this challenge, we will assume that this is the goal. If you are producing a dummy for any other reason, you may find that some of the challenge steps don’t apply to your project—but we hope they will be enlightening, nevertheless. 

Each step in the challenge will be introduced by a post here on the kidlitart blog.   You are invited to check in via the comments section or the Facebook group at any time to share your progress or ask questions and there will be a “How’s it going?” chat scheduled at the close of each step in the process, to keep us on course.


STEP 1: Pick your project (1 week) Jan 14-20

STEP 2: Draft the story (4 weeks) Jan 21-Feb 18 
(If you already have a story/are using a #writedummy story, take this chance to go over with a fresh eye. Maybe have it go through your critique group one more round. Create character interviews and answer any questions you may have in sketch form.)

STEP 3: Develop the character studies (2 weeks) Feb 19-Mar 3

STEP 4: Storyboard text and art (2 weeks) Mar 3-Mar 17

STEP 5: Render tight, full-size sketches (8 weeks) Mar 17-May 12

STEP 6: Produce final art of two spreads (4 weeks) May 12 - June 9

STEP 7: Assemble the dummy (2 weeks ) Jun 9-Jun 23

STEP 8: Research submissions; prepare dummy package (1 week) Jun 23-Jun 30 

STEP 9: Submissions (1 week) Jul 7-Jul 14 

STEP 10: Celebrate! #PBDC Wrap Party Jul 21 

There will be blog posts for most of the challenge's steps here and they will be posted on the Thursday the topic is discussed. Links will be shared during the #kidlitart chats. Keep an eye on the blog and get ready to work! 


  1. Hi, I'm not sure how to register, but I would like to. Thanks!

  2. Have I registered by leaving a comment?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I accept the 2016 PB Dummy challenge! Count me in.

  5. I too would like to participate in the PB Dummy Challenge. Thanks!

  6. I accept the PB Dummy challenge. Thanks!

  7. I would like to participate. Is it too late to register?