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#FirstDraftFriday with Bea Birdsong

I'm so excited to be hosting author Bea Birdsong on today's #FirstDraftFriday. I have been the lucky recipient of a critique from her, and trust me, you do not want to miss this opportunity! Plus, she's dishing on her latest book—BOOP!—which is adorable and genius. So read on to get inspired and then draft your own picture book manuscript today.

Cover of My Sister, Daisy

BOOP!, written by Bea Birdsong and illustrated by Linzie Hunter, just released last month from HarperCollins.

To order or learn more about Bea, visit: She also has a free story time kit to go with the book. Check it out here: Story Time Kits – Bea Birdsong

Bea is generously offering a Zoom manuscript critique as a prize for someone who completes a draft today! Details on how to enter at the end of this post.

Welcome Bea! Tell us a little about BOOP! and what inspired you to sit down and write the first draft of it?

Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in First Draft Friday, Hollie!

BOOP! is a picture book that invites readers to boop (gently tap) all the dog snoots they see. I was inspired to write BOOP! by my sweet dog, Bilbo. He is a miniature schnauzer mix that we rescued nine years ago. Bilbo is my first dog, and I never imagined how much I would love him. His cute snoot is responsible for this book!

Love your dog's name and that he was your inspiration! Did you dive right in and start drafting once you had the idea or did you let it stew for a while? Is this how you typically work?

With this book, the idea came to me, and I immediately wrote the first draft. Sometimes, I need to think about an idea for a while, but sometimes it’s all there right away and that’s how it was for this book.

While you mull over an idea, do you do any pre-drafting or brainstorming exercises to help you flesh it out?

Even though I’m not an illustrator, the words and pictures always go together for me. When books come to me in full form, I know what the illustrations will look like too (in a general way). If I have an idea but don’t know the text yet, it’s usually because I don’t know the art either. So, I’ll sketch out what it might look like.

Sketching the art (even if you’re drawing stick figures) can also help you see where the page turns will land and where you might be able to cut text that repeats what the reader already knows from the art.

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

BOOP! is a high concept picture book, so I thought it was either going to be a big hit with editors or a big miss. It all depended on whether the concept was as appealing to others as it was to me. When I sent it to Melissa (my agent), she thought it was hilarious. She suggested we send it to just a few people to test it out. We ended up with four offers from that initial submission list. After that, we went to auction and accepted a deal with Harper.

Was there any part of your original manuscript that changed significantly, and if so, how did you know it needed work?

It’s difficult to remember! This book released more than two years after I wrote the first draft. Looking back through emails and files, the manuscript didn’t change much. However, one change Melissa suggested I make was to define the word boop for the reader, and I’m so glad she did!

Here are the two versions:


This is a snoot.

Snoots need BOOPS.

Can you help boop this snoot?

Get your finger ready and …



This is a snoot.

Snoots need BOOPS.

Can you help boop this snoot?

A boop is a pat.

A gentle tap.

Get your finger ready and …


Such a little tweak that makes a big difference! Got to love an agent with an editorial eye. For you, what is the hardest part of writing a first draft? And how do you deal with that?

The most difficult part for me is deciding on an opening. First lines are so important, especially for picture books! I often have most of the story in my head before I sit down to write, but I might not have chosen the first line yet. I’ve learned to deal with it by forcing myself to write the rest of the story first. Once I know what most of the story looks like, I know the first lines. This solution may seem obvious, but it was a hard lesson for me to learn. The first several picture books I wrote came to me in full. I knew every line before I sat down to write. When that didn’t happen with other books, I had to convince myself I could still write the book without knowing everything at once.

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

As mentioned, I will sketch ideas for the art or make myself write the parts of the book I know, even if I don’t know every line yet. But I think the most important thing for me is reminding myself that I have done this before and can do it again.

What a great mantra for us picture book writers: "I've done it before. I can do it again!" Who's ready to do it again? I hope you are because it's #FirstDraftFriday! (NOTE: If this is your first attempt ever at a picture book, you've got this. If we can do it, so can you!!)

Bea is offering a 30-minute Zoom meeting, where she will do a live critique of a picture book manuscript that has been sent to her in advance. A fiction, non-rhyming manuscript would be the best fit for her. The Zoom will give the author a chance to ask questions about Bea's feedback, as well as ask any other questions they have about publishing. To enter for a chance at a Zoom critique from Bea, do the following by 10 pm ET today (July 7, 2023):

  1. Follow both me and Bea on Twitter: @HollieWolverton and @BeaBirdsong (You can also find Bea on Instagram: @beabirdsong)

  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 writing!

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