Semester Format

  • Residency participation including a workshop focused solely on the picture book with a faculty member workshop leader who is an expert in the picture book genre.
  • This faculty member is also the semester advisor for the term’s Picture Book Intensive students.
  • Participation with an illustrator or an author/illustrator in the picture book workshop as well as full engagement in other residency events.
  • During the semester, students will work both on critical and creative work, exchange four packets of writing with their advisor, and participate in an online discussion board with the faculty advisor and one another.
  • Panel discussion participation at the residency following the term. Those not enrolling in a new semester may provide a pre-recorded presentation or participate via Skype or other digital means. Discussion will focus on the discoveries made during the semester through both critical and creative work on the picture book.

Who Is Eligible?

  • VCFA alumnx of the MFA in Writing and MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults programs
  • Current MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults students
  • Writers with a relevant advanced degree
  • Writers with a BA but not an advanced degree will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Tuition & Fees

Tuition and fees are subject to change. For current information, contact Ann Cardinal, Associate Director of Admissions, via email at [email protected].


Contact [email protected] to apply and complete your application no later than October 1.


  • (2-3) picture book manuscripts (please do not include illustrations)
  • Application essay explaining why you want to participate in the PB semester, your goals for the semester, and what experience you have in this genre
  • Critical essay
  • (2) letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • $75 application fee

Faculty & Student Feedback

“I think more people—even people writing YA—should take the Picture Book Semester. I have learned so much about different kinds of stories and reading experiences, compactness, sense of audience, voice, writing (or not writing) in verse. Every word counts and, because picture books are mostly read aloud, the sound of the language is important and the experience needs to keep both the listener and the reader engaged. The work is on a relatively small scale, but everything I’ve learned could also apply in some way to a longer piece. And the continuation of workshop through the online forum is invaluable. The class is like a mini-MFA program. In addition to learning about picture books, I’m going to learn how to give a VCFA talk—very helpful practice for my fourth semester lecture.” – Barbara Bishop, ’10 WCYA

“This is a semester for organized play! Stretch yourself by trying poetry, non-fiction, rhyme, concept books, biography, cumulative stories, and more. I had so much fun stepping out of my comfort zone and attempting to write a little something of everything. Exclusively reading, writing, and studying picture books forced me to say what I want to say in the most succinct and best way I could—a skill I’m happily applying to the novel I’m working on now.” – Skila Brown, winner of the Candlewick Award and author of the picture book Slickety Quick

“The picture book semester allows students to examine story on a micro-level which is beneficial for all authors. We had the most wonderful conversations about rhyme, beats, rhythm, story structure, audience and much more. Writing my paper and presenting for the picture book panel was an extremely valuable experience. The two tasks prepared me for my critical thesis and for the lecture I will have to give my graduate residency.” – Anna Jordan, ’11 WCYA

“The picture book genre requires a completely different mindset than writing just about everything else, since it’s based in a tradition of oral storytelling. As a novelist, I benefited in a number of ways: I learned how to think in pictures and how to consider the sounds of words and the sounds of the stories I wrote. I also learned some techniques in oral storytelling that I hope will be useful in school visits in the future. I recommend the Picture Book Semester for writers of all kinds—even people who, like me, don’t naturally gravitate towards the genre.” – Jessica Powers, author of three YA novels and the picture book Colors of the Wind

“In this intensive semester, the picture book is taken seriously for the particular art form that it truly is. Students and faculty alike are immersed in the twin elements that make a picture book work — the marriage of art and text and how the two combined make something even more powerful than their separate entities. The combination of the online workshop and one-on-one tutorials, students get the full range of group and individual interaction to make an experience that can only be described as powerful.” – Kathi Appelt, faculty advisor

“The Picture Book Semester has an energy all its own. The intense interactions on the class forum serve to inform and enrich the creative and critical work, so that the semester is remarkably more than the sum of its parts. Students not only produce far more work than they would otherwise, but they leapfrog ahead in terms of their own learning. I’d like to bottle the magic of this semester and sprinkle a little over all my instruction. I also think that all writers, regardless of whether they intend to write a picture book or not, can learn from the study of this compact (and often elusive) story container.” – Uma Krishnaswami, faculty advisor