Picture Book Love

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I’ve spent the last few weeks preparing presentations for the SCBWI Wild Wild Midwest conference this past weekend (which was fantastic, thank you to everyone involved!). I’ve been focussing and dissecting my own work, learning and appreciating what Linda Sue Park went through to write the sparsely worded, but thoroughly well-conceived, YAKS YAK, ANIMAL WORD PAIRS, and feeling like the luckiest artist in the world to have such a dedicated, passionate, hardworking agent as Marietta Zacker. I kept thinking that I needed to get to the library, to look at some new picture books for inspiration to present to you today in my post.

But I didn’t go.

And yet I realized that I am feeling overwhelming love for picture books right now. I spent a whole weekend pouring over friends’ and colleagues’ beautiful publications, listened to such creative and dedicated talent pitch and talk about their new, brilliant ideas. Picture book building!!!!!! A whole weekend surrounded by people who care passionately about that. So I would like to share with you a tiny bit of what I talked about during one of my presentations.

Everyone’s road to publication is different. Some roads are bumpy, many are twist-y, others veer off cliffs, while some steeply ascend. But most often one’s road is long. And it usually isn’t straight or easy. So here is my list of ten things that a creative can do while they’re waiting… so that when the editor, or agent calls, they have their bags packed and can head down their path.


1.Build an impenetrable suit of self-confidence armor. Do whatever you need to do to have unshakeable belief in yourself and your talent. You won’t get this from any external source. In fact, your armor will get some big scratches and chinks. Take classes, join critique groups, make sure that you have the ability to mend and repair your self-confidence yourself.

2. Follow and participate in groups on social media, educate yourself to industry names, trends, and news. Be supportive and help promote the successes of your friends and colleagues. Commenting (especially thoughtfully) on social media gains name recognition.

3. Read Read Read

4. Stay active in SCBWI and support and join local writers’ and illustrators’ groups.

5. Get to know your local librarians and booksellers.

6. Be brave and courageous by sending writing/art samples out consistently to a honed group of editors and art directors.

7. “Create” work for yourself and build your own body of work by giving yourself assignments, goals, and deadlines.

8. Commit to calling yourself a “writer”, “illustrator”, or “writer/illustrator” and treat is as a serious profession (because it is).

9.”Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”~ Oscar Wilde

10. View “passes” as growth and opportunity for learning. This is an undeniable part of the process and means you are gaining insight and wisdom (and a callus or two?).


Here’s a shout out to all of you who have chosen a profession that celebrates children’s literature!

Thank you!


Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. Love your Top Ten List!! Words of wisdom to help us all keep focused and not be discouraged. Thank you for sharing!

  2. 9.”Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”~ Oscar Wilde
    Yes, Jennifer. So true and maybe the hardest thing of all to do. Thanks so much for sharing your love of PBs with us!

    • You’re right, Andria! It’s hard to not try to ‘draw’ or ‘write’ like people whose work we like and admire. It’s very difficult to always like and admire our own— Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  3. Boy did this post come at the right time! I could use a little encouragement. So thank you for sharing your insight. I’m posting your top 10 list at my writing desk!!

  4. Paring down my words to two: Love it!

  5. This is perfect. It took a long time for me to learn that I could call myself a writer! But that is exactly what I was, long before I was published. Great list!

  6. Thanks for sharing your picture book wonder and love with us, Jennifer. I especially like your #1 suggestion about building an impenetrable suit of self-confidence armor. Love these suggestions. I think many people will be glad you didn’t make it to the library last week!

  7. Great reminders, thanks!

  8. Wonderful list and I am sharing. I am packing my bags and have been “on the journey for 3 years now.” Yes, the path is different and unique for all. TY for this insightful post.

  9. Thanks for the excellent advice, Jennifer. Would have loved to have heard you! Love your illustrations here too. I want my own big bear to read with!

  10. Lisa Riddiough

    Thank you for the top ten! So glad I found your blog!!

  11. Lisa Riddiough

    Waiting! And glad I found your blog!!

  12. Encouraging words to keep writing and submitting!! Thanks, Jennifer!

  13. Yep, I’ll admit . . . your list works! And the Wild Wild Midwest Conference was fabulous! Thank you.

  14. Great list. Thank you. (Four words)

  15. I’m obsessed with list-making, Jennifer, and this is a great one–thank you!!

  16. Great list. I loved #10 about growth. Never stop growing. Growth can be difficult but is so rewarding. Look at where you started and look at how you grew to get yourself to where you are now. Wow!

  17. Thank you for sharing your love and wisdom, Jennifer. I especially like Oscar Wilde’s advice. It’s easy to get sidetracked by trying to be what we are not.

    • Hi Anne, thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. That’s one of my favorite quotes. It is really hard to trust your own vision when you like and admire so many other styles and approaches.

  18. Lindsay Hanson Metcalf

    Wasn’t that a great conference? I am still processing. Thanks for sharing your wisdom here.

  19. Thank you for sharing your insights. I am saving this and will reread it often to keep myself on track.

  20. Thanks, Jennifer, for your ten things to do! Thank you too for signing my RABBI BENJAMIN’S BUTTONS picture book at the Wild, Wild Midwest Conference. I enjoyed meeting you.

  21. It was wonderful to meet you this weekend. Your session with Marietta Zacker was one of my favorites, and I really appreciated your willingness to share your journey with us! I’ll always think of you when someone “passes” on my work, but in the best possible way. And I still can’t wait to meet that cat yours. 😉

    • Jess, thank you so much for your kind words! It was wonderful getting to be a part of such an exciting and uplifting weekend. I’m grateful that you took the time to visit our blog and comment. Yes, watch for Blue Ethel in the spring. I am guessing that she won’t arrive quietly 🙂

  22. Thanks for sharing this. I think I’ll print it out and post it by my writing.

  23. Thanks for this post, Jennifer. I love #7 – “create” work . . . build your own body of work.” Your advice and encouragement means so much!

  24. Love this list, Jennifer – and your artwork! You are spot on with your top ten.

  25. I am an avid reader of Picture Book Builders, but your post I printed out and have at my desk to read and remind myself – every day can be full of growth and possibilities. Thank you, Jennifer!

    • Liz, that was so kind of you to take the time to type and tell me that. I do believe that we have a choice re: how we view the ‘waiting’ period. Optimism keeps the possibilities open 🙂 Again, thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment!

  26. I’ve printed out your list and put it on my desk. So hard to build that impenetrable armor!

  27. Great list!
    Now I’m off to shine my armor.

  28. Cassie Bentley

    I love the list and your inspiration picture of the bear.

  29. Shelley Smithson

    Thank you for your words of wisdom and this list! Very helpful. I was also at the WWMW conference-it was amazing. My head is still spinning from it and your list is a reminder of how supportive and tenacious picture book writers are!

  30. Thanks for the encouragement! I like this: “Create” work for yourself and build your own body of work by giving yourself assignments, goals, and deadlines.”

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