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by Laura Zarrin

When I started participating in Storystorm in 2012, I was completely convinced that I was not a writer. I was an illustrator and storytelling was not in my wheelhouse. Color me surprised when I managed to come up with 30 ideas that year and every year since. Where had they come from?

Deciding that maybe I was a writer after all, I started writing. Just a bit here and there. I went on to write a few stories that went out on submission. One that made it to an acquisition meeting, but no sales so far. That’s OK. (It’s not really OK, it’s annoying, TBH, but I digress.) I wish I could say that I look forward to sitting down with a pad and pencil and some tea to happily write, but that would be a bald-faced lie! I have to be dragged kicking and screaming into it. Just ask my critique group. Currently looking for a better ritual, ahem.

When I started writing, I noticed that my art began telling more of a story than it had previously! What a wonderful surprise! A critique partner recently told me that my illustration ideas should come with a Powerpoint presentation to get through all the story I’m packing into my descriptions.

I have found that the only way I can get a story out of my head is to take a blank piece of very non-precious copy paper, start playing the story out in my mind like I’m watching a movie, and draw it out in scribbles. It’s been surprisingly helpful to do it this way. Words almost always come last for me. My drawings are doing all the heavy lifting. I seem to draw everything out like it’s a graphic novel without any boxes or lines. Any type of formatting or layout stops me in my tracks. I completely freeze up. Even though I don’t really read graphic novels (except for the early reader ones), and that I swore I would never make one, it turns out that that format is very conducive to my way of working. Even my picture book dummies have a bit of comic formatting. (Sadly, I still can’t binge while doing this.)

Next I cut up the scribbles and arrange them in order, adding or subtracting where needed. As I work on the story, I refine the sketches and start to add words and formatting. After a lot of trial and error, I have a completed dummy.

I’m becoming more and more of a storyteller every year and I owe it all to Storystorm and a very patient critique group who listens to my whining. I am currently working on three early reader graphic novels that started as Storystorm ideas!


Laura Zarrin is the illustrator of the WALLACE AND GRACE series by Heather Alexander and the KATIE WOO’S NEIGHBORHOOD series by Fran Manushkin.She’s now writing her own sweetly subversive stories. Laura has illustrated over 30 books for children including board books, picture books, and chapter books. She’s happiest illustrating characters with subtle and not-so-subtle humor.

Visiit her at, follow on Twitter and Instagram @LauraZarrin. You can find her art in her Etsy shop here.

Laura is giving away a hardcover copy of WALLACE AND GRACE TAKE THE CASE by Heather Alexander, Bloomsbury.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm 2023 participant and you have commented only once on today’s blog post. ↓

Prizes will be distributed at the conclusion of Storystorm.

I asked the kidlit agents participating in PiBoIdMo as your “grand prizes” to tell us why they love picture books. Their answers are sure to inspire!

Heather Alexander, Pippin Properties
Picture books are easy to love because they are tiny little windows that offer beautiful glimpses out into the whole, wide, wonderful world, and into hearts like and unlike our own.





Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
I do love picture books! There is nothing more satisfying than to find a picture book manuscript which has been carefully crafted to share a story with the youngest readers.  The Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste Renoir said that painting is “making love visible” and I can’t help thinking that is why some picture books are so endearing and everlasting. They make the love we feel for our children, our grandchildren, and the children within us very visible. It is a true craft which needs to be learned and practiced. And I honor those who learn this craft and honor children.


Kirsten Hall, Catbird Agency
Kirsten Hall
Picture books pretty much have me wrapped around their finger. I’m obsessed by the story-telling opportunities offered by this highly-visual genre! Picture books (as a format) seem simple at first blush, but they are often in fact quite layered and even poetic, displaying an elegant interplay between text and art. Best of all, picture books are accessible to everyone. You don’t have to be able to read in order to love them. They can be savored for what they offer visually, and when read aloud, until a reader has command over the written word. Simply, what format is better than the first one that takes children by the hand and turns them into book-lovers?


Susan Hawk, The Bent Agency
The best part of picture books, for me, is way words and illustration marry together to create a sum greater than its parts.  I love the way art builds meaning in the story, and how the simplest of texts can be full of emotion and heart.  I remember so well the picture books that I poured over as a child — mystified and delighted to be invited into the world of reading and books.  For me, it’s an honor to represent picture books!



Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary Agency

trishagentI love picture books because they celebrate a time in our life we all look back on so fondly. I love being a part of helping to create them because we’re creating books for kids who will look back on them for the rest of their lives.




Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
I became a reader because of picture books, and I became an agent because of picture books. They are one of the richest and most influential forms of literature. So much feeling, so many laughs, in so few pages, meant to be read over and over again!





Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
I love picture books because they speak to the quintessential child in each of us. They reach across the gaps of age and culture and language and bring us under their spell. A perfectly-crafted picture book is a full-senses experience that can last a lifetime.




Rachel Orr, Prospect Agency
I love the breadth of story and emotion—from clever and comical, to poetic and pondering—that can be found within the framework of a 32-page picture book.  I love the right prose, the visual subplots, the rhythm and rhyme and repetition (and repetition, and repetition).  But, most of all, I love them because they’re short.




Kathleen Rushall, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

kathleenrushallI love working with picture books because they remind me that the earliest literature we read in life can be some of the most memorable (and the most fun!).





Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.
I love picture books because they’re fun to read aloud, and they’re meant to be read with someone else.They can’t not be shared! Even now, I don’t have kids, but when I read a good picturebook, my husband gets to be the audience. He’s very understanding. 🙂





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