Writing Picture Books About Heavy Topics

Learn how to write powerful and impactful picture books that tackle emotionally difficult issues with sensitivity and empathy

A Two-Week Mini Course: Saturday, Nov 25 & Dec 2, 12:00-1:30pm ET

Picture books are difficult to write, more so when the aim is to educate children about heavy topics and issues they aren’t familiar with.

These stories require a great deal of care and attention when writing them.

In this short, impactful course, we’ll examine how to address difficult and heavy topics, especially war and living under oppression, and what craft elements are essential to writing these types of books.


Over the course of two weeks, writers will:

  • Dismantle the idea that some topics are too difficult to write about for children
  • Learn ways to empower young readers and leave them feeling hopeful rather than despondent and helpless
  • Closely examine published picture books that tackle heavy topics
  • Learn how to write strong scenes
  • Breakdown the revision process from first to final draft into concrete steps
  • Be equipped to revise a first or early draft into a powerful and compelling story

Course Schedule

Week 1 – Saturday, Nov 25:

  • Essential elements of writing picture books about heavy topics
  • Discussion of relevant craft principles
  • Examining passages from mentor texts
  • Open Q&A and discussion

Week 2 – Saturday, Dec 2:

  • Review early drafts of published picture books
  • Learn revision tips and strategies to know what is working in your story and how to make it stronger
  • Open Q&A and discussion


What if I’ve never written a picture book? Will I benefit from this course? Yes! You’ll learn writing tips and craft elements that are applicable to any picture book, regardless of the topic, and when you are ready to write about heavy topics, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and tools on how to write an evocative and powerful story.

What if I can’t attend the sessions live? Will the sessions be recorded? Yes! The Zoom sessions will be recorded and shared via email within 24 hours. The recordings will be available for a limited time only.

Will you be reviewing manuscripts and giving feedback? Unfortunately, I don’t have the capacity to review manuscripts and give personalized feedback through this course. But you’ll have plenty of opportunities to ask questions during our live sessions, discuss your ideas, and get clarity on how to approach your stories.

About the Instructor

Salaam! I’m Hajera Khaja, a writer and creative writing teacher. I run programs for Muslim writers and I am an editor at Ruqaya’s Bookshelf. I have many years of editing experience, and at Ruqaya’s Bookshelf, I work closely with authors in helping them bring their stories to life.

When it comes to writing picture books about heavy topics, I edited “My Garden Over Gaza” by Sarah Musa and “You Are The Color” by Rifk Ebeid. Both of these books deal with the oppression of Palestinians and are one of the few picture books that have been written about the persecution Palestinians have historically endured and continue to experience. I have also edited other forthcoming titles from Ruqaya’s Bookshelf that deal with heavy topics, including becoming a refugee, experiencing job insecurity and loss of income, and living with a grandparent with dementia.

I’m excited to empower writers to tell their own stories, no matter how difficult they are, and to pass them on to our children.

Course fees: $225 CAD