Quick-Read Crafty Tip: Character Situation Challenge Plus Where are Rosie and Charlie?

I hired my daughters as interns this summer. Although the positions are unpaid, the perks are enormous. Hugs. Gratitude. Time together. Video making. Exercising their creative brains. And as you’ll see when you watch the video they made, dairy-free dark-chocolate-chip brownies. I mean, what an amazing opportunity, right!? My daughter’s boyfriend is even going to help this summer as well!

My interns’ primary tasks center around marketing since they both have creative souls. My youngest even made this fabulous painting for me:

Yesterday, my daughters filmed the first in a series of “Where are Rosie and Charlie?” videos.

The video is AMAZING!

I’m so proud of them!

As I watched it, I realized my girls know my characters inside and out. The funny little tidbits they added about Rosie were SO … Rosie! It reinforced just how important it is to truly know your characters.

In that spirit, I thought I’d offer a few tools to help you get to know your characters as well as possible. After all, the better we know our characters, the more they will POP off the page and into our reader’s hearts.

Write notes, brainstorm, create a word bank and answer the following questions about your character(s):

—What will they do in different situations?
—How will they react (physically, emotionally, verbally)?
—What are their favorite expressions?
—What scares them?
—What is their home environment?
—Who are their friends and family?
—What is their culture, identity, background, religion?
—What is their history and/or past experiences?
—What quirks and qualms do they have?
—What are their hopes and wishes?
—What is their temperament?
—What are their traditions?
—What are their likes and dislikes?
—What are their favorite colors?
—What are their favorite foods?

Once you know all of these characteristics, you can put your character through a Character Situation Challenge. Let’s start with Rosie and Charlie:

As you can see, I knew exactly how Rosie and Charlie would react, and what they’d want. I can also imagine the mischief Rosie might cause.

Now it’s your turn to try the Character Situation Challenge:

How’d you do? Did you know exactly how your characters might react/act in the situations? Do you have more character development work to do?

As you develop your characters, and get to know them as well as possible, they will spring to life and exude the heart, resonance, and appeal your reader’s will love. In the words of Charlie, “You’ve got this!”

Now, without further ado, here’s the first in a series of “Where are Rosie and Charlie?” videos and pictures that will lead us to the launch of Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Say Good Night (Two Lions/Illustrated by Nate Wragg) on September 1, 2020. Good Night is the sequel to Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves. I can’t wait to share their next adventure with you!

(Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel, follow my blog, and/or follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@LaurenKerstein) to see all of the “Where are Rosie and Charlie?” videos and pictures this summer.)

Feel. Write. Risk.


Quick-Read Crafty Tips: Humor Chart AND the #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day #3 Winners

Hi everyone! I hope you’re having a wonderful hump day, Wacky Writing Wednesday, and generally feeling as centered as possible.

I created a Humor Chart to supplement Laura’s outstanding post. This chart describes some of the types of humor we can use as we write and revise. I hope it is helpful as you craft, pull apart, and polish your manuscripts.


And now for the prize winners:

Teresa Traver: A PB critique with Laura.

Susan Orton: A 30-minute Zoom chat with Lynne.

SpeechVine (Kim): A non-rhyming Big Picture picture book critique with Joana.

Sarah Meade: A 15-minute Zoom chat about a picture book manuscript with Katie.

Leslie Leibhardt Goodman: A picture book critique with Michal.

Maria (“ToPangamaria”): A picture book critique with Lauren.


Please contact me in order to claim your prize. https://laurenkerstein.net/contact.

We look forward to seeing you for our second annual #ReVISIONweek extravaganza, which is taking place September 9-16, 2020!

Until then…

Feel. Write. Risk.
Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

(P.S. Lauren will honor her 20% off critique discount until May 31st for #ReVISIONweek participants. https://laurenkerstein.net/critiques%2Ftemplates)





The world sure feels wildly unpredictable and unsettling right now. So how can we write? How can we find the funny? As Laurent Linn said in a wonderful SCBWI webinar with Cecilia Yung, these are just the times that the world needs us the most! Writing, drawing, and reading offer a soothing balm to sorrow and fear.

Therefore, as we grapple with creativity and motivation, we thought we’d carve out a morsel of time to focus on revision. To nurture our creative souls. To amplify the funny.

After all, laughter is healing.

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Let’s kick off the laughter with Laura Lavoie. As you will see when her debut fiction picture book, VAMPIRE VACATION (Viking/Penguin Random House) hits shelves in 2022, Laura is a master at crafting manuscripts that are funny, punny, and incredibly satisfying. We are thrilled she was able to join us today!

So, without further ado, I bring you, Laura Lavoie.



By Laura Lavoie

When I’m revising, I look to add the extra layers and little details that will transform my manuscript from pretty good to publishable. I write humorous picture books, so my revision process always involves adding lots of jokes and ample word play. Here are a few of my top tips and tricks to up the funny—and punny—in your manuscripts. 

#1- Use Word Banks to Inspire Word Play- I like to use side-by-side word banks to come up with ideas for fun puns. Allow me to explain…

Let’s say I’ve drafted a manuscript about the Three Little Pigs, and at some point in the story, the pigs star in a musical. Giving the show a punny name is one of those little details that will help put the manuscript over the top. 

In this scenario, I would write lists of 1) words associated with pigs, and 2) names of well-known musicals. Let’s see what we should call this piggy production… 

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Miss Stygon?

Swiney Todd?

Wait, I’ve got it: Oinklahoma!

The trick is to look for parts of each word that sound similar: Sween-ey Todd and Swine-y Todd. 

One of my all-time favorite examples of hilarious word play is right in the title of David Elliott’s sheep story: Baabwaa and Wooliam. Seriously, you can’t get much punnier than that! 

#2- Build Your Character’s Voice- As you revise, think about word choices that enhance the world you’ve established and further develop your character’s personality. 

Here’s an example of punching up an ordinary line: 

First draft: Egg laughed. 

Revision: Egg doubled over-easy. “You’re cracking me up!” she said. 

I absolutely adore the hysterical exclamations in Tara Lazar’s ice skating story, Little Red Gliding Hood

Little Red’s go-to phrase is, “Oh, slippery slush!” 

and when Old MacDonald falls, he yells, “E-I-E-I-ouch!” 

Play around with fun lines that give your characters—and your manuscript—some extra pizzazz. 

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#3- Bait & Switch- One of my favorite techniques for infusing humor involves leading your reader down one line of thought, then switching things up in an unexpected way. 

Confused? This one is a bit more difficult to explain, so let’s look at a couple examples from recently-published picture books. 

In A Little Chicken by Tammi Sauer, we learn that the protagonist, Dot, isn’t very brave. In fact, Dot is afraid of many things: wolves, bears, and… the occasional lawn ornament. 

This line always makes me chuckle, because the addition of the occasional lawn ornament is so unexpected. 

You’ll find another great example in We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins. In the story, little dinosaur Penelope Rex is preparing for her first day of school. Penelope’s dad packs her lunch, and her mom buys her a backpack with ponies on it. Higgins then informs us that Penelope loves ponies… because ponies are delicious.   

I just about fell over the first time I read that line. SO funny, right?! 

One last note on this tip: pacing is everything. Add an ellipse or a page turn in just the right spot to elicit a pause before your punchline.  

I hope these tips help you amp up the humor in your manuscripts. Now go tackle that revision, and above all, have pun! 


Laura Lavoie writes humorous, pun-filled picture books. She can also tap dance, tell terribly cheesy jokes, and bake a mean chocolate chip cookie. Her debut, Vampire Vacation, is forthcoming from Viking in 2022. She resides in upstate New York with her fang-tastic husband and daughters, two irritable cats, and several sagging bookshelves. For more tips, tricks, and author insights, visit Laura’s blog: http://lauralavoieauthor.com/blog/  You can also connect with Laura on Twitter and Instagram

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And now, a word about prizes:

Laura is offering a picture book critique.

Lynne is offering a 30-minute Zoom chat.

Joana is offering a non-rhyming Big Picture picture book critique.

Katie is offering 15-minute Zoom chat about a picture book manuscript.

Michal is offering a picture book critique.

Lauren is offering a picture book critique.

If you spend time working on revisions (any amount of time counts) and leave a comment below, you will be entered to win. Winners will be randomly selected and announced the morning of Wednesday, May 20th. 

In the words of Charlie, “you’ve got this!”

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

(P.S. Lauren is offering 20% off all critiques until May 15th. She will honor this discount until May 31st for #ReVISIONweek participants. https://laurenkerstein.net/critiques%2Ftemplates)

QUICK-READ CRAFTY TIPS: Get Ready for #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day #3

Hello ReVISIONweek-ers! We hope you’re all holding steady during this uncertain and upside-down time.

Our 3rd #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day is May 13th. We’re excited to revise with you! We hope the opportunity to carve out a morsel of creative time might be a welcome distraction right now.

And, WOW do we have a wonderful treat for you! Author Laura Lavoie is our guest blogger, and she’s writing a post about revising with funny and punny in mind. We are thrilled! Laura is a master at writing funny puns.

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As always, we are offering prizes, prizes, and more prizes including critiques and Zoom chats! Sign up in the comments below, and then be sure to comment on Laura’s blog post for a chance to win.

And now for a Quick-Read Crafty Tip. There are many parts and pieces to consider as you revise. I have a more comprehensive chart on my website: https://laurenkerstein.net/critiques%2Ftemplates. I also created this handy dandy graphic to help you as you pick apart your manuscript, and piece it back together again … and again… and again.

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We’ll see you May 13th!

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren, Joana, Katie, Michal, Lynne, and Shannon

(P.S. If you’re around this morning at 10:30 AM (MST), Rosie the dragon, Charlie, and I are doing Storytime with our beloved local Indie bookstore, Second Star to the Right. Hop on, join the fun! Hangout at meet.google.com/xsm-pcjk-dce)

#ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day #2 Prize Winners

I don’t know about you, but I feel rather distracted. Writing feels more forced than flowing. But writing also soothes my creative soul, so I must keep on keeping on. I must continue nurturing new ideas, writing, and revising. Here are a few quotes that inspire me. I hope they inspire you too.

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As Charlie says: “You’ve got this!”

waving together

And now for our #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day #2 Winners:

Mia Geiger: 15-minute phone chat with Lynne

J.D. Silverwood: 15-minute phone chat with Lauren 

Eileen Mayo: One Big Picture Manuscript Critique with Katie

Patricia Nozell: One Big Picture Manuscript Critique with Michal 

Shannon Nelson: One Big Picture Manuscript Critique with Joana

Hollie Wolverton: One signed copy of CAN U SAVE THE DAY? (Stocker/Disbury) from Shannon.

Please email me at lauren@laurenkerstein.com to claim your prizes.


We’ll see you for #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day #3 on May 13, 2020.

Until then…

Feel. Write. Risk.
Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

Quick-Read Crafty Tips: #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day #2: A Revision Menu

Hello! Hello! Welcome to #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day #2! Whether you participated in the #FireButt challenge yesterday and can’t wait to revise your manuscript, or just want to tackle revisions today, we’re excited you’re here! For today’s Quick-Read Crafty Tips, I’ve created a menu of sorts to guide you through a day of productive revisions. This is not an exhaustive list of options, but it should whet your revision appetite…

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We hope this menu helps you engross yourself in a day of invigorating and inspiring revisions.

Take that pile of sand and make it a castle! We’re here with you, cheering you on!

Share your journey with us below in the comments. Everyone who comments will be entered to win one of our #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day #2 prizes.

Lynne and Lauren are each offering two 15-minute phone chats.

Katie, Michal, and Joana are each offering one Big Picture Manuscript Critique.

Shannon is offering a signed copy of her terrific book CAN U SAVE THE DAY? (Illustrated by: Tom Disbury)

Our next #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day is Wednesday, May 13, 2020. We can’t wait to revise our NaPiBoWriWee manuscripts. (NaPiBoWriWee is hosted by Paula Yoo and takes place during the first week of May.)

We look forward to seeing you then.

Feel. Write. Risk.

-Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon



Cover Reveal for ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT AND Quick-Read Crafty Tips: Keep Your Eye on the True Prize

I have the MOST exciting Friday news! I am thrilled to reveal the cover of ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT, the sequel to ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES.

Are you ready?

Here it is ….

Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Say Good Night by [Lauren H. Kerstein, Nate Wragg]

Go ahead. Squeal with delight. Clap your hands. Dance around the room. I know I am!

Nate Wragg did it again. I love the colors he chose! I love the joy he portrayed! I am so excited to share Rosie and Charlie’s next adventure with you!

ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT will officially hit shelves on September 1, 2020. But, you can PRE-ORDER your very own copy by clicking here. You can also click “Want to Read” on Goodreads, which is an awesome thing to do for an author!

And (SHAMELESS PLUG) while you’re pre-ordering your very own copy, check out the tremendous deal on ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES! Wow!

(If you want a signed copy of your book, please feel free to email me. I’d love to send you a signed book plate.)

And now for your latest Quick-Read Crafty Tips: Keep Your Eye on the TRUE Prize

This is a tough industry. Moments like thisa cover reveal are the moments we long for, live for, strive for. But…

… these moments are few and far between on this long road to publication.

So, rather than think of these moments as the prize, I challenge all of us to think of time spent writing and illustrating as the TRUE prize. Take a moment to remember why you write or illustrate. Why did you begin this journey in the first place?
Do you love playing with words?
Do you love massaging emotion until it hovers over the page like a living, breathing entity?
Do you love finding the perfect rhyme?
Do you love crafting an arc with a satisfying and stunning surprise ending?
Do you love writing words or crafting illustrations that might soothe, support, or soften someone’s soul?
Do you love creating characters?
Do you love finding just the right word at just the right time? Or just the right color palette for just the right moment?
Do you want to share your story in a way that only you can share it?
Do you want to shed light on topics that have been hiding in the shadows?
Do you want to help children see themselves or see others in new ways?
Think about those moments when your words take flight…
Those moments when you’re in flow…
Those moments when you pour your heart onto the page…

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And remember…

Those moments are the TRUE prize!
Those moments fuel your writer and illustrator soul.
Those moments make this journey richer.


Seize those moments. Be gentle to yourself. Control the things you can control. And if you believe every moment spent writing is the prize, then…

The rest will come.

It will.

I just know it!

In the words of Charlie, “You’ve got this!”

Feel. Write. Risk.
– Lauren

#ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day Prize Winners!

Happy Tuesday to you! I’m happy-dancing my way through this blog post because I can’t wait to announce our #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day prize winners.

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Don’t scroll down yet! Of course, I must offer a few revising tips before the big announcement.

I know you want to scroll.

Don’t do it!

Revision and writing take patience, LOTS and LOTS of patience. So, we are practicing together.

Are you ready to bonk me yet?

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I don’t blame you.

Okay, here are three quick revision tips before you scroll.

  1. This world is FILLED with distractions. It’s like news-cycle whack-a-mole. DO NOT– I repeat DO NOT get sucked into the whack-a-mole rabbit hole. Set a social media timer, or use your sand timer (that you may have purchased after reading some of my other blog posts). Spend a few nail-biting minutes on social media (hopefully doing WRITING tasks) and then shut it down so that you can DIG into your writing and revisions. Protect writing and revising time! 
  2. As you lay out each page spread either on a dummy, your table, in a template, or however paginations work for you, check to be sure the FEELING you’ve elicited on each spread is not only what you want to elicit, but also as strong as you want it to be. Resonance adds magic.
  3. And… KEEP every single version of your manuscript! Save a new version for new revisions. You never know when you’ll want to go back to an old version. Old versions may contain just the gem you need for your new version.

We made it! It’s time to announce the PRIZE winners!

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The winners of our #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day critiques are:

Joana Pastro’s critique goes to: Mia Geiger

Katie Frawley’s critique goes to: Natalie Cohn 

Lauren Kerstein’s critique goes to: Catherine Friess

Lynne Marie’s critique goes to Hollie Wolverton

Michal Babay’s critique goes to: Sarah Tobias

Shannon Stocker’s critique goes to: Eileen Mayo

Congratulations to all! You will receive an email with further details regarding your critique.

Thank you to EVERYONE for participating in our #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day with The Cuddlefish Gang! We look forward to another day of revising together on March 4, 2020.

In the words of Charlie, “You’ve got this.”

Feel. Write. Risk.
Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

#ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day Wrap Up and Prizes

Greetings, #ReVISIONweek-ers!

We hope you had an enriching and productive Tune-Up Day. Whether you revised for a moment, or spent the entire day immersed in revision tasks, CONGRATULATIONS! Revision is hard and you accepted the challenge!

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Thank you again to The Cuddlefish Gang for your words of wisdom.

Joana Pastro, Katie Frawley, Lynne Marie, Michal Babay, Shannon Stocker, and I are offering critiques to six lucky winners. Please make sure you commented on yesterday’s blog post, and worked on revisions. Then you can enter our Rafflecopter giveaway. The Rafflecopter will be open until 1/26/2020 at 12:00 am (EST).

Finally, please remember:

There is no recipe for the perfect manuscript.

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But if you add:



Hard Work

Unique Voice


Visual Language




You just might cook up a delicious story!

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In the words of Charlie, “You’ve got this!”

We’ll see you on March 4, 2020 for our next #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day.

Until then…

Feel. Write. Risk.
– Lauren, Joana, Shannon, Michal, Lynne, and Katie



One lovely September day toward the end of #ReVISIONweek 2019, Heather Brockman Lee and I were chatting at Lily William’s book launch party for IF ELEPHANTS DISAPPEARED. As an aside, if you haven’t read Lily Williams’ unbelievable books, stop what you’re doing and order them from the library or purchase them right now! Anyway, one thing led to another and Heather and I were excited about the prospect of a #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up post focused on revising with the illustrator in mind. 

So… here we go! The below tips are from a few of the members of the incredibly talented, Colorado-based group, The Cuddlefish Gang. I hope you find their thoughts as helpful as I did! 

Kaz Windness
Follow on Twitter- @KWindness
Instagram- @kazwindnessart

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  1. Don’t edit out flowery visual language in your first drafts, but in editing, leave room for the illustrations to do their job. There may be reasons to use descriptions and adjectives, but those are typically easy word count cuts, given that the illustrator is going to describe the characters and environments visually. A picture book is ideally around 500 words, but no more than 1000.
  2. Split up the text into approximately 28 pages. (Picture books are typically 32 pages, but you’ll need room for front matter.) Is there a page that has way more or way less text than the others? Unless you’re using this difference in text weight as a gag or for emphasis, even out your text.
  3. Make a dummy even if you aren’t an illustrator. Stick figures are fine. No one else needs to see this. Are the page turns compelling? Are there spots where the text is just mirroring what the illustrations would already be communicating? Edit!
  4. Don’t crush your illustrator with illustration notes. If your visual cannot be inferred from the text, include that note. Everything else will stifle your illustrator’s creativity (and most editors will delete those notes anyway). Trust the artist to bring something brilliant to the story that you hadn’t even considered. 

Heather Brockman Lee
Follow on Twitter- @Heathertbl

When I am revising to leave more room for illustrations, I think about writing only about half of what that spread needs to communicate. I generally think about what the image could be, and what that image will communicate. Then I figure out where the text needs to compliment or fill in, and where it doesn’t. And of course, I try to remove as many unnecessary descriptive words as possible. 

Even if a writer is not also an illustrator, they could still visualize what each scene or spread would be and decide only what the text needs to fill in. Even without art notes, that space would allow the illustrator to enrich the story, even if it’s different from the author’s original vision. 

Stan Yan
Follow on Twitter- @stan_yan
Instagram- @zombicatures 


I actually probably write TOO loosely on purpose to a fault to allow me a bit of wiggle room for my drawings in production. This isn’t really ideal when I’m working with other illustrators, but it allows me to only include what is most pertinent for me. My graphic novel scripts are very loose, which allows me to revise as I draw and redraw. 

I feel like getting too detailed with the illustration notes in the scripting process stifles me creatively. It also takes me longer in the illustration process when I try to fit my story to the strict illustration notes instead of letting it visually evolve as I draw it. 

Illustration notes should be used only where necessary: the illustration needs to be something not clearly stated in the text (irony, etc), or a visual refrain of some sort that is important to the story pops up. 

Lily Williams
Follow on Twitter- @lwbean
Instagram- @lwbean 

Trust your illustrator, they have been trained to know what they are doing and they are also being art directed. 


Thank you Cuddlefish Gang! 

I just know these terrific tips will help everyone as they revise! Here are a few additional tips from me to ponder:

1. Since picture books are a 50/50 project (unless you are the author/illustrator on that project), think about using text that conjures clear visuals for the illustrator.

For example, in Rosie and Charlie, I wrote: “I didn’t plan to adopt a dragon, but Rosie found me irresistible. I think she liked my skunk hat. And now we’re best friends. We do everything together.”

Then, the uber-talented Nate Wragg filled in the “everything” with his own ideas. It turned out even better than I’d imagined it would!Wragg_06_07_c (5)
2. Let your text breathe! Choose only the most important words to get your point across.

3. In addition to TRUSTING your illustrator, TRUST the process. If you write visually, hone in on the heart, and write the most outstanding manuscript possible, your book will be beautiful!

In the words of Charlie, “You’ve got this!”

Feel. Write. Risk.
– Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

PS: Let’s thank The Cuddlefish Gang for their fabulous tips, by following them on social media, checking out their books (upcoming and already released) and visiting them on their individual websites or at https://www.cuddlefishgang.com/