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
  • 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
  • Students will also participate in manuscript critique independent of their advisor
  • Picture Book Intensive culminates in a lecture, panel, or presentation about discoveries made during the semester’s critical and creative work

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

Contact [email protected] to apply. Applications are currently being accepted for the July 2024 semester.


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


  • Two picture book manuscripts (you may include suggested page breaks, but do not include illustrations)
  • Application essay (1 page) explaining why you want to participate in the PBI semester, your goals for the semester, and what experience you have in this form.
  • Critical essay (2-3 pages) exploring craft in a contemporary picture book.

Additional requirements for those who are not current students or alums:

  • (2) letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • $75 application fee

Faculty & Student Feedback

The Picture Book Intensive is the reason I came to VCFA. I wanted the opportunity to dive deeply into the craft of writing picture books and telling stories for a young audience. It did not disappoint. Not only was I challenged to write story drafts in a variety of formats, and to dig deeper into the stories I wanted to tell, I also learned how to be a better critique partner as I began to understand the mechanics of good picture books. To this day, my fellow PBI classmates and I meet regularly to share the picture books we’re working on. They are the first people I go to knowing they will always help me find the pathway to my stories. I started PBI having written only one or two picture book drafts in my life. I now have three picture books under publication contract. PBI not only made me a better picture book writer, it changed the way I approach all my writing and helped me understand how to better get at the heart of my stories. — Sidura Ludwig, VCFA alum, teaching assistant, and author

The picture book intensive is a craft-centered embrace of the unique challenge that is the picture book. It is a communal and loving immersion into that unique challenge. And it inevitably results in the most astonishing array of brave, inspired, surprising examples of that challenge – all in the course of a single semester. What magic! — Liz Garton Scanlon, faculty advisor and author

This unique semester opens the door to a lifetime of picture-book play. Delve into the sound of language, how to think in pictures, and the economy of words. Explore concept books, nonfiction, wordless picture books, and more. Focus on story structure and characterization, which can also apply to longer writing projects. Spark creative insights, deep revision, and nuanced polishing with one-on-one faculty feedback combined with group discussion. No matter your level of experience, this semester deepens your relationship with the picture-book form, genres, and techniques. A remarkable experience that fosters growth long after the semester ends. – Karen Krossing, teaching assistant and author

One of the things I appreciate the most about PBI is the absolute immersion, not only in picture books, but in an environment that takes picture books seriously.  A lot of people who want to write for kids start with the picture book because they believe the picture book’s size and scope make it easier to write. HA! Crafting a picture book worthy of child readers is hard! In PBI, that degree of difficulty is not only acknowledged, but embraced. We challenge each other to get better, to be brave, and to grow.  And we have a lot of fun while we’re at it. – Linda Urban, faculty advisor and author