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#FirstDraftFriday with Angela Pham Krans

Updated: Feb 26, 2023

Let's get February rolling with #FirstDraftFriday and author Angela Pham Krans! Read on to get inspired and then draft your own picture book manuscript today.

Cover of My Sister, Daisy

Angela’s debut picture book, FINDING PAPA, illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Thi Bui, will be out in just a few days from HarperCollins.

To pre-order or learn more about Angela, visit:

Angela is generously offering a manuscript critique or an Ask-Me-Anything call as a prize for someone who completes a draft today! Details on how to enter at the end of this post.

Angela, tell us a little about FINDING PAPA and what inspired you to sit down and write the first draft of it?

FINDING PAPA is about young Mai and her mother’s journey from Vietnam to America to find Papa. The story begins with Mai playing her favorite game with Papa, the crocodile “Chomp! Chomp!” But soon after, Papa leaves Vietnam to find a new home for their family. Mai and Mama miss him very much, until one day, Mama decides to pack a small bag and they say goodbye to the only home Mai has ever known. And so begins Mai and Mama’s long and hopeful journey to find Papa.

This story was inspired by the real-life journey that my mother and I braved from Vietnam to America to reunite with my father. I grew up hearing bits and pieces of their story and was amazed by their great courage and immense hope in reuniting as a family.

Did you dive right in and start drafting once you decide to write this story or did you let it stew for a while? Is this how you typically work?

When an idea pops in my mind, I typically let it stew before I start drafting. Stewing includes jotting down potential character names, scenes, problems to resolve, and any research I need to tackle. My brainstorming process is carefree--anything goes and all ideas count. When the idea for FINDING PAPA popped into my head, I interviewed my parents to make sure I captured all the important bits. I took copious notes and reviewed them before writing my first draft.

Do you remember what you thought of your first draft of this story when it was done? Did you think it was a winner or were you not even sure you’d keep working on it?

When I sat down to draft FINDING PAPA for the first time, I wrote the entire story in one sitting. That has not happened since, haha! Because this story was so close to my heart, I think the words flowed easier than most stories I’ve written.

When the first draft was completed, there was this kind of quiet joy that spread over me. The draft was nowhere near perfect, but I knew, without a doubt, this was the story I wanted to share with the world.

Was there any part of your original manuscript that changed significantly that you’d like to share here. How did you know this needed work and what was the process like to get it where it is today?

One of the changes I made was prompted by the editor’s insightful feedback. She suggested adding a couple of scenes to heighten Mai’s feeling of loss and of being uprooted from the only home she’s ever known. It took several tries, but I landed on the below version, which echoes Papa's farewell in a childlike way.


One night, Mama packed a small bag. "Where are we going, Mama?” "We are going to find Papa.”

Mai wrapped her arms around Mama’s neck and hung on her back.


One night, Mama packed a small bag.

“Where are we going, Mama?”

“We are going to find Papa.”

When it was time to leave, Mai hugged her favorite mango tree.

She gave her pet chicken a big kiss.

Then Mai wrapped her arms around Mama’s neck and hung on her back.

As Mama walked down the village dirt road, Mai glanced back at her home one last time.

“Goodbye,” she whispered.

What is the hardest part of drafting a story for you? And how do you deal with that?

The hardest part for me is pushing through the middle part of the story, trying to make sure each scene makes sense and transitions to the next. I can sit there for hours and write only a few sentences. When I get stuck, I pull out picture books I love and study them for inspiration. Sometimes I just take a break and walk away completely. When I focus on other things and allow my back brain process to leisurely work, I find that ideas usually bubble up – like while I’m cooking, walking the dog, etc.

What are your tips and tricks for getting that first draft committed to the page?

I remind myself that the first draft can be messy and unbaked. There can be misspellings, fractured sentences, incomplete scenes, etc. – it doesn’t matter! This gives me permission to capture whatever rolls from my head to my hands and onto the page. If I reframe it as playing and experimenting, everything seems less stressful.

Who's ready to play and experiment? I hope you are because it's #FirstDraftFriday!

To enter for a chance at either a free critique of a fiction or non-fiction picture book manuscript (up to 800 words) from Angela OR a 15-minute Ask-Me-Anything call to discuss any topic you like with Angela, do the following by 10 pm ET today (Feb. 3, 2023):

  1. Follow both me and Angela on Twitter: @HollieWolverton and @angelakrans (Not on Twitter? You can also find Angela on Instagram at @angela.pham.krans)

  2. Complete a full picture book draft

  3. Return to this blog post and comment that you’ve completed your draft and provide your Twitter handle or full name. You will need to Sign Up/Log In to leave a comment (it’s easy - just an email and password).

You don’t need to send in your draft or provide proof - we’re all about the honor system here! The lucky winner will be randomly drawn from the comments and announced on Twitter shortly after 10 pm ET tonight.

Happy drafting!

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Bridgitte Rodguez
Bridgitte Rodguez

Hi Angela! C0ngratulations on the book! It sounds like a harrowing experience, and an important read. I look forward to reading it. PS. I met you at Big Sur this past December.

Yesterday didn’t go as planned so though I had an idea for a first draft, I didn’t actually get to write it! But I did write, a bad draft of it this morning! Hopefully next month, I can do it first thing!


Well... I finished my draft at 10:48 pm PST

Does that count?

This is a wonderful post. I appreciate your comment about drafts being unbaked. Such a great description. Congratulations on the launch of FINDING PAPA. It looks like a beautiful and heart-filled book.


Thank you for hosting me, Hollie! Loved hearing about all the first drafts. Congrats to everyone and Happy Writing!! You got this! And if you feel like you don't, you're not alone ❤️


Eric Herrington
Eric Herrington

Me too squeezed in a draft hope I made it in time here in CST.

Love the before and after process and the illustrations!


Thanks for stopping in, Eric!


Reed Hilton-Eddy
Reed Hilton-Eddy

Squeezed in a draft! The book FINDING PAPA sounds amazing! I cant wait to read it.


Thank you, Reed! Hope you enjoy it!

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