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.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's here!

Welcome to the Kidlitart Picture Book Dummy Challenge!

Part I: Fine Print

What is the Dummy Challenge?
A 25-week online group challenge to create and submit a picture book dummy.
Start date: January 6
End date: June 30

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, as will the transcripts of each chat, as usual--but we encourage you to take advantage of all avenues for joining in the discussion: leave comments here; drop by #kidlitart on Thursday nights; and check in with your Twitter colleagues any time via the challenge hashtag: #PBdummy.

Note: Don’t forget to pick up your official #PBdummy twibbon, designed by Diandra Mae.

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 work in comments here: please be mindful of the nature of the internet and use caution when posting original work ANYWHERE.

What if I don’t want to create a picture book dummy? Will I be left out of #kidlitart until June?
Topics for the Thursday chats will follow the challenge schedule, but should be of interest to all children’s book illustrators and friends. We intend to cover the entire range of issues involved: from what makes an engaging picture book manuscript, through structuring a picture book, craft techniques, tips for scanning and presentation, all the way to researching submissions. We hope you will feel welcome to join in the chats as usual, whether or not you are participating in the challenge.

Are there any rules for the challenge?
Nope. The idea is to have a great time while accomplishing a goal. There are no formal sign-ups or check-ins required—but if you’ve ever participated 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.

Any prizes or rewards for participating?
This is a new venture for your trusty kidlitart organizers, so please bear with us when we say we’re not quite sure how this will evolve. For now, the dummy will be its own reward. We’re accumulating lots of information to help you navigate the process, and we’ve lined up some terrific chat guests to inspire you along the way. We promise to take note of any questions or suggestions you might have for future challenges and to let you know of any opportunities that arise from this current challenge.

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.

How do we break this down?
Here is the schedule as it will be presented during the challenge. Blog posts will introduce each step by providing key points to consider, resources, and chat topics for that phase.

Jan. 6-Jan. 13 (1 week): Pick your project

Jan. 13-Feb. 10 (4 weeks): Draft the story

Feb. 10-Feb. 24 (2 weeks): Develop the characters

Feb. 24-Mar. 10 (2 weeks): Storyboard text and art

Mar. 10-May 5 (8 weeks): Produce tight, full-size sketches

May 5-Jun. 2 (4 weeks): Produce final art of two spreads

Jun. 2-Jun. 16 (2 weeks): Comp the cover and assemble the dummy

Jun. 16-Jun. 23 (1 week): Research submissions; prepare dummy package

Jun. 23-Jun. 30 (1 week): Submit

Jun. 30: Wrap party!

That’s it! Nine easy steps to dummy success!

Ready to get started? Stay tuned: Step 1 posts on Wednesday, January 5—followed by the first chat of the new year on Thursday, January 6, at 9 pm EST.

See you there!


  1. I am excited about this! Good luck everyone!

  2. Hurray! So excited about this new adventure. I've been wanting to do a pb dummy for a while now. Thank you! I hope to make a few chats too, although college is giving me less time on my hands. Good luck everyone!

  3. Everybody, please thank Bonnie for being so thorough and working up our schedule. And thank Diandra for our wonderful twibbon!

  4. Full disclosure: the schedule is adapted from the one Wendy developed for our online critique group--and when we announce the stellar line-up of guest-chatters for the challenge, you can thank Wendy again!

    Diandra Mae not only designed the twibbon, she served as our unofficial one-man advisory board . . . and (shh!) she's agreed to provide a winner's badge for those of us who make it through the challenge!

    Sincere thanks to all who have weighed in with encouraging comments and helped to spread the word--so much to be excited about and grateful for!

  5. As has become my catch-phrase lately: "Let's do this thing!" I cannot wait to get to work!

  6. Wow, Bonnie, this is awesome! I would like to sign -up, so without further excuses—I will! See you on Thursday!

  7. I LOVE this!!! will definitely be participating!

  8. This sounds great! Sorry I missed the chat yesterday, but I'm definitely looking forward to participating.

  9. I'm late learning about this, but am excited to participate!

  10. I'm really late learning about this. But will do my best to catch up and participate!