the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Carol Brendler and THE PICKWICKS' PICNIC!

Posted by Adi Rule on Fri, Sep 08, 2017 @ 11:09 AM
Today we're celebrating Carol Brendler's delicious new picture book -- say it aloud five times -- The Pickwicks' Picnic, out now from Clarion, illustrated by Renée Kurilla. Carol is a member of the VCFA class the Cliffhangers and she stopped by to give us the inside scoop!
Community cooperation turns a traffic jam into an opportunity for fun in this inventive counting book starring a pair of clever canine siblings.
Welcome, Carol! So, tell us . . .
What was the spark that ignited this book?
This book started out as a bit of verse I wrote about crossing a river on a box girder bridge. My agent suggested turning it into a story with a plot and everything—easy for her to say! The text for this one, which seems so simple, was the result of many, many, many, many drafts. Probably more drafts than anything else I’ve ever written. Every time I thought I had produced a winner, my agent would ask me to go back and rework it some more. I’m so glad she did, since the result is a book with a full-fledged plot and lots of read-aloud potential.
What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?
Marion Dane Bauer once mentioned to me that a picture book should stick to just one thing, one idea, one through line. No extras, no subplots, nothing to distract from the main story. Maybe it sounds obvious, but for someone like me it’s a tough rule to adhere to (see the next answer).
IMG_2520.jpegWhat authors do you love for their sentences?
I have a soft spot for the florid and prolix prose of Victorian English literature. I know, it’s not for everyone, and it’s a weird favorite, perhaps, for a picture book writer, but there you have it. Charles Dickens watches over me as I write (not really—it’s just a postcard photograph on my desk) and holds me to very high standards.
Who were your advisors at VCFA?
Leda Schubert, Uma Krishnaswami, Tim Wynne-Jones, and Sarah Ellis
What was special about your VCFA graduating class?
We were the WCYA class that began residencies around the time that the school seemed to be teetering on the brink of folding. Tom Greene swooped in and saved the program, and our class was the first to have "The Vermont College of Fine Arts” on its diplomas. It’s always felt to me that the Cliffhangers’ loyalty to VCFA had some small part in buoying up the school during the transition. Also, we invented the legendary “wine pit.”
That was you? Wow! There have been so many friendships formed and great stories told in the wine pit.
Thanks for interviewing me, and viva VCFA!
Hear, hear! Thanks for coming by, Carol. Welcome to the world, The Pickwicks' Picnic!
Visit Carol online at

Topics: picture book, Carol Brendler, Clarion, 2017 release, Renée Kurilla

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