Friday, December 17, 2010

The Westside Writers Schmooze "MAKE YOUR OWN PICTURE BOOK DUMMY" Workshop led by Special Guest Speaker Laura Lacámara!!

On Wednesday, December 8th, 2010, more than thirty Westside Schmoozers gathered for a truly festive holiday treat, as special guest speaker Laura Lacamara led us through the process of making picture book dummies.

Laura with her two published picture books,
"Floating on Mama's Song," which she wrote,
and "Runaway Piggy" which she illustrated!

Laura is the author of Floating on Mama’s Song / Flotando en la Canción de Mamá, a bilingual picture book inspired by her mother, who was an opera singer in Havana. Floating on Mama’s Song, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, was released by HarperCollins September 1, 2010 and has already received its first starred review--from Publishers Weekly! Laura also recently illustrated The Runaway Piggy / El Cochinito Fugitivo, a bilingual picture book for Piñata Books, an imprint of the University of Houston’s Arte Público Press. The Runaway Piggy, written by James Luna, debuted November 30, 2010. You can learn more about her at

Laura regularly attends the Westside Schmooze, and we were thrilled to have her lead this workshop! As both a picture book author and illustrator, Laura is uniquely positioned to look at picture book manuscripts with an eye for both text and illustrations, and was the perfect expert to guide us in creating our own picture book dummies.

Lee introducing Laura - and setting the serious tone for the evening

Laura prepared fantastically for this schmooze. Before everyone arrived, she had already set each "place" with its own large Book Map to creating a picture book dummy, a WONDERFUL handout on "Tips for Determining Page-Turns in your Manuscript"--full of concrete, very clear tips!--and individual, precounted stacks of 16 sheets of paper. Each table had communal scissors and staplers. In addition, schmoozers were asked to bring in two copies of their own picture book manuscripts (or any favorite text) to work with. For attendees who did not bring in texts, Rita typed up "manuscripts" from existing, already published picture books, so everyone could join in the fun.

Spirits were high, and baked goods and snacks kept arriving. THANK YOU, everyone, for not only bringing in your manuscripts, but also contributing such a wonderful holiday FEAST! WE LOVE YOU ALL!!

As soon as we were settled in, we were ready to go!

To start, Laura had us each decide whether our picture books would have "portrait" or "landscape" orientations, and we stapled our papers accordingly. Regarding orientation, Rita recalled Mo Willems once suggesting at a conference that character-based stories were better suited to portrait, and stories about location were better suited to landscape--and, furthermore, that concept, or "arty," books could go square. :) Something to think about!

Laura then guided us through the process of determining where the page turns would fall in our manuscripts.

She talked us through her handout, holding up and reading from published picture books to give examples of each tip.

She even showed us a few pages from the dummy she had made for her own picture book manuscript prior to it being illustrated by Yuyi to make her points!

We then paired up and read each other's manuscripts, to give feedback on the flow of each other's stories, and on page turns. It was wonderful seeing everyone engaging in each other's stories on this level!

The happy sounds of scissors, staplers, chatting, and enjoying good food all filled the room as everyone got busy assembling their stories into picture book dummies.

As the night came to a close all too soon, we also took a few minutes to share insights with the room at large about what we had discovered--about our stories and about pictures books--through this process. One Schmoozer brought up the idea that the tips for determining page turns might also be applied to longer format stories (MG, YA), regarding chapter breaks.

THANK YOU again, Laura, for guiding us through such a joyful, fun, and truly informative workshop! We all learned so much--and are better story creators for it!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Rita and Lee

P.S. Please join us in the new year on Wednesday, January 12th, when the Westside Schmooze will meet to discuss,

"Hope is not a plan": Outlining your story and your career.

"Hope is not a plan." --CNN Host Anderson Cooper. It's a new year. Where do you want your writing to take you, both within your story and in life? Come share in advice for outlining our manuscripts, setting goals, and plotting out the trajectory of our writing careers! For Picture Book through Young Adult, fiction and non-fiction.

Hope to see you there!

p.p.s. all photos by Rita Crayon Huang


  1. Hmmm....chocolate chip cookies.

    Cookie Cutter

  2. IT was fab, and not just the plethora of fine eats but Laura's wisdom was awe inspiring swell.