by Lisa Rogers
Following the runaway success of her picture book courses over the last year, Charlesbridge editor Karen Boss brings her amazing energy this fall to The Writers’ Loft with four workshops, a one-day class, and a four-week course.
The first two workshops focus on craft, the third on the publishing process from submission to publication, and the fourth on idea development. Then—fasten your seat belts—Karen offers a one-day Condensed Topical Thunder workshop, followed by Finding Your Thunder, a four-week deep study of picture books.
I was lucky enough to participate this past year in Karen’s two six-week courses. They were intense, packed with mentor texts that gave insight into my own work, and chock full of Karen’s real-world experience in choosing and editing manuscripts for the children’s picture book market.
I asked Karen about her offerings. I hope her answers will help you with the big question: how to choose which Karen Boss class to take? With so many choices, we couldn’t fit it all into one blog post. Come back later in the week for part two of Karen’s interview!
KB: Can I just open by saying that I love The Writers’ Loft? I love teaching here. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the folks who have taken my classes and workshops. We learn fast and furiously together, and we use every drop of our time to learn and grow. I’m very much looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new people this fall.
LR: What kind of preparation might be beneficial for someone taking one of your workshops or courses?
KB: I think folks should come to my workshops and/or courses (and any workshop or course, for that matter) with a notebook, a favorite pen, and an open mind. Those are the most important things! But if someone wants to get a bit more prepared, I’d say to visit your local library, sit in the picture-book section, and read 50 random books. (Remember they are shelved by author’s last name, so pull from different places!) Sort them into piles. Which do you love? Which do you think are terrible? Why? Get your brain ready to consider picture books from lots of standpoints, particularly the words and how they work. Finally, the last thing someone should do to prepare is to relax and get ready to have fun. Look in the mirror and say, “I’m a writer. I’m gonna go learn stuff. Then I’m going to use it to write more.”
LR: Which of your Writers’ Loft offerings would you recommend for a beginning writer? How about a writer who’s been at this for a while?
KB: I think the course I’ve taught twice so far called Topical Thunder is perfect for beginners. Pulling apart picture books and looking at different aspects in contrived vacuums is a really useful exercise. (But here’s the thing: that course is also pretty great for people who have been writing for a while and even for folks who have published books already. There’s always something new to learn!) And this fall, people who haven’t been able to commit to six weeks for that class can take it in intensive form on October 14. We’re going to have a ball that day.
The Quadrumvirate of Picture-Book Workshops offered this fall are perfect for those with more experience. The topics came from suggestions from folks who took both Topical Thunder and its follow-up, Rolling with the Thunder (which focuses on practically applying the lessons learned in Topical). So you Lofters created those!
LR: You had enthusiastic attendees at Topical Thunder and Rolling with the Thunder. Based on student feedback, what’s something you think attendees came away with?
KB: I did! I love Lofters. I think some participants really homed in on one specific item that they’d not understood before or looked at deeply enough. An example is tension. What does that mean? How can a writer figure out whether she has enough, too much, or how to strengthen it? (The workshop on September 13 will cover this topic.) Other participants really loved the practical tools that I use in class, such as bookmaps. Even though picture-book authors are told to leave their manuscripts unpaginated and to not provide too many illustration notes (if any!), there are lots of reasons why it’s useful to do all that as an exercise to figure out how a story is working. Switching POV enraptured some folks. To see what changing it up can do to your story can be magic—come on September 27 for more about that.
To learn more about the workshops and classes Karen Boss is offering or any other happenings, please go to The Writers’ Loft website.
Karen Boss is an associate editor at Charlesbridge, where she works on fiction and nonfiction picture books and middle-grade novels. She holds a MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons College and regularly acts as a mentor for their Writing for Children MFA program. Karen also has an MA in higher education administration and worked at colleges and in the nonprofit sector for 15 years. She’s currently working with Lee Bennett Hopkins, Jane Yolen, Nancy Bo Flood, Rich Michelson, and debut author Tami Charles. Her favorite children’s book is “The Trumpet of the Swan” by E.B. White, and she thinks that “Holes” by Louis Sachar is quite possibly the best thing ever written. In her free time, Karen saves her pennies so she can travel to a new country each year (recent trips include Ecuador, Portugal, and Colombia), and she often plans “Auntie Karen adventures” for her three nieces (Sonia, 9; Sage, 6; and Olive, 2.5).