Friday, September 1, 2017

"Keys to Kidlit" with Dr. Mira Reisberg The Picture Book Whisperer and a PRIZE

The wonderful Dr. Mira Reisberg is back with us again for Smart Dummies. She's an illustrator, writer, teacher, editor, art director and former literary agent. Mira is the founder of The Children's Book Academy--a fabulous school that helps writers and illustrators hone their craft. If you haven't seen any of the absolutely wonderful webinars that Mira has given, then you have to check them out! I learn so much each and every time I attend one of these!

The Children's Book Academy has an illustration course that's open now for registration! Register now because classes fill fast!

Illustrating Children's Books:

Scholarships are available: You have until September 5th to apply!

Look for a PRIZE at the end of this post!

Dani: How important is lifetime learning to writers and illustrators?

Mira: I believe lifelong learning is a hallmark of anyone who wants to excel in their field. In the kidlit field, reading both educational books and reading and looking at lots of kids books is essential. In addition to reading, attending conferences, and taking courses will also help a great deal in developing your skills and becoming good at critiquing your own work. I do all of these things even though I have close to 30 years of experience in the field, and LOVE learning, even if it's something I already know that's a reminder of something helpful, or it's the same information presented in a new way, it thrills me. Really. In addition. learning not only promotes expertise in your craft but also creates new brain cells that can help stave off Alzheimers. Or at least I tell myself that when I'm trying to learn something new and challenging. You also get a sweet dopamine release that connects with your brain's pleasure center when you do or learn something new and exciting - hence the thrill.

Dani: What's the most important thing you've learned as a teacher?

Mira: I think the greatest things I've learned, and that I can thank my PhD work for, is learning how to break down complex information into smaller, more accessible and easy to understand concepts that connect with student's interests and humor. Another thing that I've found helpful is to have as much interaction as possible and to provide guidance in multiple formats - weekly webinar critiques that are also recorded, lessons with video demos and interviews with other experts, and providing lots of resources like worksheets, handouts, and great submission opportunities. Yet another thing that I've learned is that I love creating loving creative communities that help each other to create what's known as a "gestalt" where the sum of the students together is far greater than what the individual students could do on their own. We now have over 150 books published by former students, which I think is pretty phenomenal, and with my new new editor/art director job at Clear Fork/Spork Publishing, I'm excited that I'll be able to help even more people get published.

Dani: What is your favorite picture book and why?

Mira: I'm so sorry Dani but I can't do just one favorite book. Here's 3 (or maybe 4)
Voices in the Park by author/illustrator Anthony Browne is a long time favorite because of the way he references Magritte in his illustrations and how brilliant he is in showing gender and class from the 4 different character's points of view or "Voice". I think it's a perfect book. Another fave is Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley illustrated by the great G. Brian Karas because of its sly humor, kid and girl power and really delightful mixed media illustrations. The author uses absolutely delicious vernacular language that's a treat to read out loud. This was one of the first books to use mixed media and the illustrator did a brilliant job showing the crusty old sheriff and the little orphan girl Sweetness in the way out west. I also love pretty much anything by former students Yuyi Morales, Miranda Paul, and Deborah Underwood. I recently bought and loved Blobfish Throws a Party. Another favorite author is the brilliant Barbara Bottner. And finally here's another near perfect book - I See the Rhythm by Toyomi Igus and illustrated by Michelle Woods. It's a book about African American culture, history, and music illustrated with fine art type paintings. The book works on many levels for a wide range of ages and is another wonderful read aloud.

Dani: How do you know when a picture book dummy is done?

Mira: This question is really hard. I was going to say - when you are happy with it, or when it feels finished. But the thing is, there are things that you should look for - such as pacing and creating visual page turns, making sure you have PLENTY of room for the text, making sure that your art extends the text in some way, making sure you have something surprising, delightful, touching, or entertaining on each spread, making sure to focus on the emotions in the story, making sure there's nothing important in the gutter or too close to the edges of the page unless you are cropping it and so much more that would take way too much time and space to include here.

Mira's Bio

Dr Mira Reisberg is an Editor and Art Director at Clear Fork Publishing’s children’s imprint Spork. Besides being an editor and art director, she is a multi-published, award-winning children’s book illustrator and author whose books have sold over 600,000 copies. She also runs and continues to help children’s book writers and illustrators get published at the Children’s Book Academy. In a former life not too long ago, Mira was a literary agent and a children’s literature professor. She has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on kid lit. Right now, Mira is ridiculously excited about helping new and returning students learn contemporary illustration skills and helping them get published whether they are very beginning to award winning artists in her new highly interactive 5 week course that she will be co-teaching with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Clarion Books art director Sharismar Rodriguez (with help from their expert friends), This course has helped launch many careers and comes with many submission opportunities and start now bonuses. If you'd like to find out more about the course, please click on this link. And if you need or qualify for a scholarship, please take a minute to apply here. We are truly looking for folks to help. Scholarship applications end September 5th and the first live training for this time-flexible course starts in just a few weeks on September 25th!

Dear Dani and Smart Dummies creatives, I hope something in this interview has been helpful for you. Sending much creative love and hopes that I will get a chance to make magic with you in person at some point ~ Mira


Two lucky winners will win prizes from The Picture Book Academy/ One winner will win a free Photoshop course and another will A Hero's Art Journey course!  

To win these prizes:

1. Complete your dummy this month.
2. Let Mira know how much you liked her post by commenting below!


  1. Hi Dr Mira, It's me - Lynette Oxley from Australia. I was in your comprehensive illustration class last year and found it jam-packed with valuable information. This year's class sounds just as exciting. Good luck with the launch!

  2. Thank you Dani and Dr. Mira for sharing. I'm excited to start Smart Dummies today and this post was insightfult. As someone starting out, the idea of being in a supportive creative community is very encouraging. I look forward to a great month! Thanks too, for the insensitive to complete the dummy book!

  3. Oooh, some of those books Mira listed are new to me, so off to the library I go! Thank you!

  4. Thank you Dr Mira for your guidance in this PD Dummy challenge. I Look forward to one day taking one of your classes at the Picture Book Academy. For today I will be looking up the books you mentioned as mentor texts for my own illustration inspiration. :)

  5. Thanks so much for such an informative article! I couldn't agree with you more about the need to read and explore both educational and kids publications. But the best part was your breakdown on knowing when our dummy books are done. I've printed it out as a check list and can't wait to put it to use.

  6. Fantastic, Mira. I find myself devouring your every word. This is definitely a set of skills where the learning never ends.

  7. Thank you for sharing Dr. Mira. I agree that lifelong learning is essential to developing skill and excelling. I am looking forward to reading the books you mentioned as some of your favorites.

  8. I have participated in several of Mira's free webinars and they are always amazing. Her passion is evident in her body of work and her continuing generosity :) Thanks to wonderful people like Dani and Mira, along with great challenges like this one, even those of us who can't afford a lot of courses/conferences can still gain valuable knowledge from industry professionals :)

  9. Hi Mira, I'm really looking forward to the illustration course! Thanks for this great article. I already ordered some of the books you mentioned from the library.

  10. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Mira you are amazing! You critiqued one of my manuscripts and brought it to the next level. The kidlit world is so lucky to have your creative and generous soul as one of its mentors.

  12. Thank you, Mira - especially for the reminder about breaking complex things into smaller, more accessible ones. This also applies to our dummies: one drawing (even one character) at a time!

  13. Being in creative communities and talking about your work is the most helpful thing to any individual artist. Glad you love creating them. ♥️

  14. Maybe what's harder is to break down things to its simplest form without leaving out the magical aspect of the story. Thanks for sharing you abridged list of what to look for, Mira.

  15. Thank you, Mira. It's hard to marry simplicity and magicality.

  16. Ooooh- I love the comment that "lifelong learning is a hallmark of anyone who wants to excel in their field"
    I couldn't agree more!��

  17. Thank you for the post Mira! You give great advice, specifically the breaking down of complex concepts into smaller, simpler ideas. That would help with any big project. 😊