Paying Attention to Page Turns

By Kate Carroll

I don’t know about you, but if I get a plan for a picture book, I zero in on it immediately, get it out of my head and onto paper, my phone, my computer – OK – maybe a dinner napkin or grocery receipt.  I don’t think about page turns until I've written a draft or two. But when reading what the experts have to say about pagination of picture book manuscripts, it should be a priority.

In picture book creation, a page break has to have purpose.  It has to evoke interest to make the reader want to keep turning the page. With that in mind, a page turn should have a rhythm to accompany that purpose. The words on a page reflect the mood of the scene. Longer sentence patterns, full of imagery may work in one scene of your story, but not in another. Consider being at a place of tension in the story. Short, punchy sentences may be the rhythm. The words in each scene should invite the reader to want something more, or desire to go to the next page. Page turns have just the right amount of lure for the reader. Have you ever read aloud to a child who is trying to get a sneak peek at the next page? Compliments to the author!

Here are some things to consider when breaking your manuscript into spreads or page turns. In Writing Picture Books, Anne Whitford Paul tells us that the hooks found at the end of each chapter in longer books are the page turns in a picture book. They represent moments of wonder for the main character, moments of curiosity, doubt or even discomfort. it is vital that the page turns contain some element of motivation for the reader.

In an article on the Writers’ Rumpus Blog, Kim Chafee states, “Some page turns happen because it’s the end of a scene or a moment. Some happen to provide a break in the tension. But a purposeful page turn is different. It can be a cliffhanger, a set-up, to add surprise and engage the reader toward a satisfying payoff.”

Suffice it to say, pagination requires our imagination!

Think about books with questions. They automatically lead to a page turn. Rhyming stories tend to have a natural page turn element. Repeat lines often indicate a page turn as well. Check out these examples of stories with great page turns below.

Some agents even prefer paginated manuscript submissions. As always, it’s best to refer to the sub requirements of every agent and editor beforehand.

As an effort to become more fluent with this particular writing task, I encourage you to take the time to paginate your manuscript as you write. Study the craft. Devise a dummy. Find ways to incorporate elements of motivation. Who knows? Someday there may be a kid trying to sneak a peek at your next page!


Cover Reveal: I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures that Look Like Food by Jenna Grodzicki

By Lisa Amstutz

Today, we're thrilled to welcome Jenna Grodzicki to the Six Pens blog to share about her new book, I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food (Oct. 2019, Millbrook Press). I had the privilege of critiquing Jenna's manuscript along the way, and can't wait to see it in print. It's both fun and educational, and I know kids will love it!

So without further ado, here's the cover, which features an edible-looking egg yolk jellyfish!

Jenna, what inspired you to write I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures that Look Like Food?

I stumbled upon this topic completely by accident. In early 2016, I was doing research on lemon sharks for a different manuscript (Finn Finds a Friend, Clear Fork Publishing 2017). I came across an article online called “Fish food: 15 marine animals named by hungry biologists.” The article featured some sea creatures that actually looked like foods we eat, such as the lettuce sea slug and the egg yolk jellyfish. I had never heard of these animals, and I was completely fascinated by them.

I never planned to write nonfiction, but I couldn’t stop thinking about these creatures. They’re so unique, and I was sure kids would be interested in learning about them. So, I started researching and never looked back!

What’s your favorite thing about writing for kids?

I love so many things about being a children’s author. I’ve become passionate about nonfiction, and I love finding quirky topics to research and write about. I also love interacting with young readers. Between school visits, book signings, and library events, I cherish every moment I spend with children. I was a classroom teacher and library media specialist for over a decade and talking with children who are excited about MY books is truly a magical feeling.

What advice do you have for aspiring nonfiction PB writers?

You don’t have to already be an expert in a topic to write about it. You just have to be willing to put in the research. I don’t have a background in science or marine biology. But I used what I knew about conducting research to become an expert on these sea animals. If you find a topic you’re excited about, just go for it!

Publisher's blurb:

Meet some of the wackiest creatures under the sea―creatures that look like food―through eye-catching photos and engaging text. This funny, informative book introduces readers to the egg yolk jellyfish, the lettuce sea slug, the chocolate chip sea star, and many more! Accessible text and engaging photos make this a very fun read. 

Places to Pre-Order I See Sea Food:

Connect with Jenna online:

Twitter - @jennawritesPB

Instagram - @jennawritespb

Facebook - @jennawritesPB 

Interview with Author Michelle Houts

By Lana Koehler

When I first met Michelle Houts, I was introducing her at an SCBWI Conference and had trouble remembering the pronunciation of her name (Houts, like “out”). She was gracious and patient with me. A few years later, we were both authors at the Cincinnati Books By the Bank and she came up and congratulated me as though we were long-lost friends.

Since then, we have maintained contact and she is gracious once again, this time to share her insights as a prolific writer. Her new book, Sea Glass Summer, has received a coveted starred Kirkus review.

I’m pleased to welcome Michelle to our Six Pens blog!
Michelle Houts is an author, editor, kidlit enthusiast, writing coach, and preservationist. She writes fiction and nonfiction for the picture book through middle-grader reader. Michelle’s debut middle-grade novel The Beef Princess of Practical County won an IRA Children’s Book Award for Intermediate Fiction. Winterfrost was named a Bank Street Best of 2014 with Outstanding Merit.  She has written the biographies of a ground-breaking woman baseball player, a mid-century modern artist, and the first woman to solo hike the Appalachian Trail. 2019 will see the release of two new picture books.  Sea Glass Summer (Candlewick Press) is illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline and is available May 14th. Silent Swoop: An Owl, an Egg, and a Warm Shirt Pocket, illustrated by Deb Hoeffner (Dawn Publishing) tells the true tale of a Great Horned Owl rescued as an egg releases September 1st. 

Michelle started the 52 Letter Challenge, encourage letter writers of all ages and all over the world to write and send a letter a week for a year.  Find out more about Michelle and the challenge at and on Instagram and Twitter @mhoutswrites .

1.    What inspired you to write your first book?

A longtime friend and English teacher read a letter I wrote to her and said, “You know you’re a novelist, right?” I didn’t know. I’d dabbled in picture books, submitted a little, collected a few rejections, and joined SCBWI. I’d never thought I could write a novel, but this person’s opinion meant a lot to me. I set out to tell a story that only I could tell.

2.    Who are some authors you admire? 

The writings of Katherine Patterson, Cynthia Rylant, and Natalie Babbitt have inspired me immensely. I’ve more recently studied the works of J.R.R.Tolkien and other YA and MG fantasy writers and found so much to admire.

3.    How did you get involved in Ohio University Press’ series, “Biographies for Young  Readers”?

Here’s one for the books: It was all because of rejection. I submitted a picture book manuscript to the Ohio University Press, and the publisher herself called to turn me down. But, she said she’d been pondering the idea of a middle-grade biography series and she was looking for a middle-grade author to write the first book. With a couple of middle-grade books under my belt already, I agreed to the task. Since then, I have not only written the inaugural title and the fifth title in Ohio University Press’s Biographies for Young Readers series, but I’ve signed on as series editor where I’ve had the pleasure of editing six more titles.

4.    Tell us about your new book, Sea Glass Summer. How did it come about?

Several years ago, I became part of a small writers group that met annually in Maine. As a land-locked Ohio girl, I was delighted with the idea sea glass.  The very notion that I might find a small piece of history lying on the pebble beach - a story waiting to be discovered – was fascinating. On the plane from Maine to Ohio, I jotted some notes for a picture book. Of course, that was more than five years ago. Nothing moves quickly in the publishing world.

5.    Tell us about your Little Red Schoolhouse!

I live in rural Ohio, where the landscape is dotted with old barns , sheds, and abandoned one-room schoolhouses. A few years ago, my family bought a farm with a schoolhouse (turned farm shed) on the corner. It was solid, but in need of much repair. I would have been so sad to see it crumble. Since it was just a mile from my home, I decided it would be the perfect writing studio. Three years ago, the renovations were complete, and now, every morning I pinch myself that I get to work in such a wonderful space.

6.    What kind of books do you like to read? 

That’s a question I would have answered differently a year or two ago. I have always read widely in the genres I write: picture books, middle grade fiction and biographies. But this past year I’ve made it goal to expand my reading repertoire. I’ve read some YA science fiction and some middle-grade fantasy, choosing books that I probably would never have chosen in the past, and as a result, I’ve grown as a reader and a writer.

7.    What book has influenced you the most?

Recently, it was Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I read it twice and have sections highlighted that I go back to often. It has helped me make sense of the creative life.  As a child Little Women fascinated me. I come from a family of girls, I love historical fiction, and I wanted to be Jo March.

8.    What was your most unusual or funny experience as a writer?  

Research often takes us places we never expected to go and sometimes we unearth treasures. While researching artist Charley Harper for the book Count the Wings, I found some of his earliest illustration, done for Ford Times Magazine in the 1950s and 1960s. I was particularly fond of his paintings of colorful kites for an article by a new, unknown writer. Her name? Jane Yolen. Weeks later I was with Jane in Massachusettes and was able to bring her a long-forgotten piece from her past.

9.    What work do you wish you had written? Why? 

I wish I had written Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. That book, in my opinion, has everything a great story should have. Depth, beautiful writing, unforgettable characters, suspense, humor, and a thought-provoking premise. I like rereading it every few years just to relive the experience of meeting the Tucks and contemplating a life well lived.

10.    What is one piece of advice that you would give to writers? 

We hear so often: To be a successful, you must write every day. That might be true for some, but I have found that for many writers, especially those just starting out, life gets in the way of daily writing. If you have a day job, young children, aging parents, teenagers, or any number of life circumstances, sometimes you have to write when you can. And sometimes you can’t. You’ll make yourself and those around you miserable if you are beating yourself up for not writing on a given day/week/month. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission not to write. That doesn’t mean you allow excuses. You know the difference between procrastination and dealing with life’s important demands. Write often. Write passionately. Write when you can. And don’t torture yourself when you can’t.

Short and Sweet:

Pantser or Plotter?  Fiction pantser. Nonfiction plotter.
Guilty Food Pleasure?  Authentic Chicago pizza
Favorite Hobby? Hiking
Dog or Cat person?  The cat on my lap would be very offended if I said dog. Cat it is.
Who would you like to have dinner with (living or dead)? J.K. Rowling
Do you do your best work in the Morning, Afternoon, or Evening? You forgot Night. Night.