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Beyond Biographies Writing Retreat w/Miranda Paul & Neal Porter – Austin, TX

October 22, 2019 - October 25, 2019


teAre you a life-long learner? Do you love teaching? Are you an expert at something, or know facts that would fascinate children? If you want to tell dynamic, true stories or impart your knowledge to kids in ways that will grab and hold their attention, this is the intensive for you. October 22-25, 2019 at the Writing Barn in Austin, TX!

In this three-day workshop, award-winning picture book author Miranda Paul and guest faculty Editor Neal Porter, will show you how to dazzle 21st century kids with creative nonfiction and informational fiction picture books that outshine the textbooks of generations past. By showcasing myriad formats beyond the ever-popular picture book biography—including narrative, expository, poetic, lyrical and layered structures—the focus of this course will be on shaping informational manuscripts into entertaining, engaging, and salable titles that appeal to trade as well as school and library markets.

These weekends are intimate gatherings where deep work is done and deep bonds are formed. Published authors and illustrators are also encouraged to apply as well as picture book novices and those-on-the-verge. The lecture/workshop and one-on-one critique format allows for deep instruction for all levels.

Pre-homework: NOT a requirement, but highly encouraged

Attendees who come to this retreat are encouraged to bring something they’ve written and want to revise or hope to submit to publishers in the future. Please bring one printed copy of a book synopsis/outline, article, short story, or picture book manuscript.

Registration Deadline: September 10, 2019

Course Objectives

In this course, you will learn how to:

  • Differentiate between fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction, and informational fiction
  • Categorize myriad picture book formats
  • Find unique angles for well-worn ideas
  • Match topics with age-appropriate vocabulary and style
  • Research and document sources
  • Collaborate with experts or interview witnesses
  • Distinguish tone and voice
  • Avoid “information dumping”
  • Craft meaningful back matter and authors’ notes
  • Consider award criteria and best practices
  • Write standout pitches and professional queries
  • Understand what editors and publishers are looking for and so much more…

Who should take this class: 

  • Writers who have a background, expertise, strong interest or connection with a  particular nonfiction subject matter or topic
  • Fiction writers looking to strengthen their research or nonfiction skills, or nonfiction writers looking for more creative and original approaches
  • Writers who want to teach a concept or impart information in a fun or engaging way
  • Writers who are both right and left-brained, who are both creative and geeky
  • Writers considering careers in nonfiction/looking to sell more nonfiction work
  • Writers with a number of creative nonfiction or informational fiction ideas and/or manuscripts and want to assess how salable they are (or aren’t)
  • Writers who want to tell stories that inspire, educate, and coincide with classroom learning

An average intensive day will include:

  • Meals (mostly for lodgers)
  • Lectures from esteemed faculty will include:
    • Definitions and Formats
    • Considering Your Audience
    • Research and Documentation
  • Workshop activities and critiques:
    • Purpose & Clarity
    • Self-Editing Techniques
    • Submitting Your Work & Considering the Wider Market
  • Writing and revising time
  • Happy-Hour Mingling with faculty and attendees
  • Creative activities for inspiration
  • Possible one-on-ones with faculty and more!

Fees and Pricing:

This event is limited to 16 participants. There are two pricing options. One with onsite lodging and another for locals, or out-of-town attendees once the onsite lodging at The Writing Barn is full.

WORKSHOP with ONSITE LODGING: $850–ten of these registrations available:

  • Lodging on The Writing Barn grounds.
  • 1 dinner, 3 breakfasts, and 2 lunches. All vegetarian. (Two additional dinners will be held off-site at local Austin area eateries and not included in the price of the workshop.)
  • Unlimited snacks and beverages, wine and sparkling water included.
  • Airport shuttle to and from The Writing Barn for those traveling to Austin, at prearranged times.

WORKSHOP ONLY: $595, 6 of these registrations available for:

  • Locals not staying on The Writing Barn grounds.
  • Out-of-town attendees, once the on-site lodging is full.
  • DOES NOT include airport shuttle, but will include transportation to off-site dinners.


Upon registration a 50% deposit is due. If there is a waiting list for this event, and you have to cancel, all but a $30 application fee will be returned to you if you cancel 6 weeks before the event. If there is no waiting list, and the spot is unable to be filled, the 50% deposit is non-refundable.

Payments can be made via debit or credit card through our registration system. The remaining 50% is due on the 1st of October, 2019.


  • For $100.00 extend your stay an extra night and partake in the Texas Book Festival happening immediately after the retreat, only 20 minutes from The Writing Barn grounds.
  • If you wish to schedule a headshot session with Author Headshot Photographer, Sam Bond of Sam Bond Photography on the arrival day, please contact her at shropshiresam007@gmail.com.

Miranda Paul is the award-winning children’s author of ten picture books that engage, inspire, and appeal to both educational and trade markets. Her titles One Plastic Bag and Water is Water were both named Junior Library Guild selections, and she has received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly. Several of her books have been translated and her books have been included on more than a dozen state award lists. Adventures to School, co-authored with Baptiste Paul, includes 13 real-life journeys of students from around the world. Miranda has four nonfiction titles forthcoming in 2019, including Nine Months, illustrated by Jason Chin; I Am Farmer, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon; and Little Libraries, Big Heroes, illustrated by John Parra, and Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, which features 32 poems from distinguished children’s authors. Miranda makes regular appearances at schools and libraries, and has been a guest presenter at the Library of Congress Young Readers Center along with environmental activist Isatou Ceesay. She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books and currently serves as their Mentorship chair. Her values include working hard, having fun, and being kind. Learn more at mirandapaul.com or follow her on Twitter @Miranda_Paul.

Neal Porter (Guest Faculty Lecturer via Zoom) is the publisher of the Neal Porter Books imprint of Roaring Brook Press. He has been in the book publishing business for decades. His work has spanned both the editorial process and the marketing departments of the industry. Neal has worked with a number of Caldecott Medal–honored illustrators, including Eric Rohmann, Ted Lewin, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, and the 2011 Caldecott Medal winner, Erin Stead, in her book  A Sick Day for Amos McGee.


Writing Barn classes are nonrefundable. For terms and conditions, specifically for online programming, please see the WB Policy Page.

Event Type: 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Friday, October 25, 2019

Times: Begins Tuesday 10/22 @ 2:00pm – Ends Friday 10/25 @ 12:00pm



Miranda Paul, Neal Porter (guest faculty)

Class Size: 

16 Lodging, 6 Local


The Writing Barn
Manchacha Road and Slaughter Lane
South Austin, TX 78704 United States
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