Art,  Writing

The Children’s Book Academy!

I’m going to talk to you a bit today about The Children’s Book Academy! I took “The Craft and Business of Illustrating Picture Books” last September and loved it. I’m going to go into a bit more detail about my experience here plus give you a list of things you might want to have or do to make the most of this class! Mira Reisberg is the director of The Children’s Book academy and works hard to help all writers and illustrators to achieve their goals! 

I can’t tell you all the things I learned. It’s not because there are closely kept secrets in this class, but because I would basically have to teach a class to tell you everything. Also the class is different for each person, so my experience will not be the same as yours! This focuses on the Illustration course, but a lot of what I’m going to include information that’s good to know for anyone thinking about taking courses!

Middle Grade Mastery is now available from The Children’s Book Academy. Classes start May 13th! You can read more about this course and sign up here:

For all other courses sign up for their newsletter and browse the courses here: and scroll down to the yellow “Click Here” There are often discounts and scholarships for courses so sign up now to see these!


  1. My Picture Book Layout Diagram is Accurate
Okay I’m starting out by tooting my own horn. Honestly though this chart was created before taking the Children’s Book Academy course, but after taking courses and spending many years making illustrations myself. I think it’s good for writers to have this knowledge if they are self publishing and hiring an illustrator. It’s also good to be able to visualize your story in book format to inform your writing!
One thing that came up a lot was the gutter (green on the chart). There shouldn’t be anything important in this area! Open any picture book and you’ll see that binding a book causes some of the paper to be hidden in the center crack or gutter.  I believe it was Andrea Miller who said said that she even prefers to expand the gutter to 1″ just to be extra careful nothing good ends up lost!
Book Layout

2. Knowledgeable People

Of course Mira Reisberg knows what’s she’s doing as do all the Art Directors, Agents, Editors, etc. And they all do know a LOT. The people that Mira has in the forums to help students out are fantastic. I don’t think I ever waited more than a day to get an initial answer on any question I asked (sometimes it was hours or minutes). They were informed and on the ball about everything!

3. Personalized Webinar Critiques

This is one of the reasons I can’t tell you everything I learned, because some of of what I learned was very “Dani Duck” specific!  I learned a lot about what I was doing wrong! I loved how I was guaranteed to get one personalized critique. It was also helpful to see problems other people had, because some of those applied to my own work as well!


4. Getting Out of The Slush Pile

The amount of students in Mira’s classes are actually quite low for the amount of people looking at work in the end of class. There are Agents, Editors and ADs that look at the work from each class put on by The Children’s Book Academy. Maybe this is some enormous pressure, but it’s also a great way to know that your work will be seen! There are a lot of people who sign Agents, get illustration/book deals right after this class. If you do the work, this could be you!

5. Learning Like There is a Tomorrow

If you do all the things I’ve listed below then you will do well at The Children’s Book Academy! The hardest thing I had to do was changing everything when I thought I was done. Each and every time was worth it. Ideally I would have gotten some things right to begin with. I would have planned out my pages better, but I made a ton of mistakes and I actually learned more because of it.  One of my biggest problems? The design of the layout. It’s very important to learns much about design as possible. The rule of thirds, perspective (or forced perspective) and using white space correctly. Even though I was getting a lot of things right there was still lots of room for improvement.  I feel like I learned exactly what I need to do to further my career!

Making the Most of Your Course

1. Get a 1 on 1. No seriously, do it! If you’ve ever gone to a conference and gotten a 1 on 1 you know that there is value in getting a critique of your work. Usually you only get about 20 minutes. Here for $100 you get to show your work and get detailed advice on what to do with your work. 

2. Set aside lots of TIME for your course. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career. It will not be worth it to take this course if you don’t give yourself time to work on it. I have a toddler, so I had my husband take time off so I could focus on the course. I needed this time to work! Make and freeze dinners ahead of time. Put a lot of time into this course and you will get a lot out of it. I can’t even tell you how many hours I spent on the course. Think of it as a job that you have to do. 

3. DO THE WORK! Of course doing the course work should be obvious. Spend lots of time on doing each task. If you’ve never created a dummy or portfolio now is the perfect chance to get into some good habits. If Mira, any of the course leaders or any of the guests ask you to change something then change it! You will learn so much in the process.

4. Always have something to show. Remember how I said everyone got a personalized critique on the webinar? Well as the weeks went on finishing work got harder. I turned something in each week even if I wasn’t quite done with my piece. I got more than one critique, because there weren’t enough people to critique every week.  

5. Go all in. Talk in the Facebook group, take on a critique group, get to know as many people as possible! Take advantage of any critiques, share your work with everyone, don’t say no! The easiest way is to just greet everyone and find something beautiful about their work, or something interesting about the person. Being a part of a critique group will give you awesome ways to look at your own work, and make you a better critique partner in the future. But why do all these things? Because you are making contacts and finding friends that will support you in your career in kidlit.

Info for The Children’s Book Academy so you don’t have to scroll up:

Middle Grade Mastery is now available from The Children’s Book Academy. Classes start May 13th! You can read more about this course and sign up here:

For all other courses sign up for their newsletter here: and scroll down to the yellow “Click Here”


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