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#FirstDraftFriday with Brenna Jeanneret!

Updated: May 3

Who doesn't want cake? The main character in Brenna Jeanneret's debut picture book, that's who! Brenna is here for #FirstDraftFriday to tell us how this MC, and her story that explores an important topic in a very kid-friendly way, came to be.

Read on to get inspired and then draft your own picture book manuscript today.

THE LAW OF BIRTHDAYS, written by Brenna Jeanneret and illustrated by Marina Kondra, is out May 1 from Cardinal Rule Press. 

To pre-order or learn more about Brenna, visit

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

Welcome Brenna! Can you tell us a little about THE LAW OF BIRTHDAYS and what inspired you to sit down and write the first draft of it?

The Law of Birthdays is about cake and choice. I came up with the idea after a particularly harsh decision about women’s choices was passed. I wanted to channel my anger and frustration into something productive, so I wrote.

Did you dive right in and start drafting when you had the story idea or did you let it stew for a while? Is this how you typically work?

Like most of my stories, I dove right in, haha! Pantser for life!!Though I don’t generally let an idea stew for too long, once I start writing, I’m constantly coming up with new ideas and new angles for it. I’m known for doing a TON of drafts to actually find the story because of this. 

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? 

Ha! I ALWAYS think my first drafts are winners! It’s all I can do to NOT send them to my CPs. I’ve gotten better at sitting on them, thank goodness, because they are not in fact winners! Although, with this particular story, I will say that I had a clear idea from the beginning and wrote a lot faster than my other stories. I knew the concept was good from the start but the execution needed some work. 

Can you share an excerpt of your original manuscript that changed significantly and how it appears in the final book?

This was easy because the biggest change came from the scene-setting art note at the start of the story. This was the original art note:

[Birthday Kid is offering everyone cake at his party.]

This one line changes the whole feel of the story and I quickly realized that instead of having the kid offer cake, the cake needed to be offered to the kid in order to make my point. The new art note looked like this:

[The whole kingdom is singing Happy Birthday to the King while the King is anxiously waiting in his tower.]

Putting the King in charge of The Law of Birthdays gave my MC the opportunity to stand her ground. 

The process was just a matter of switching my POV. Once I did that it came together pretty quickly.

Did you have any favorite darlings you had to cut? Tell us why you loved it and why it had to go.

About three-quarters of the way through the book, my MC loses her mind with a wall of text. I loved this wall because it was totally ridiculous detailing the MC’s cumulative reasons for not eating cake. It involved her last clean shirt, a big mess, running off with the circus and eventually having to live out life in a lion’s belly. 

My editor, Adam Blackman, also loved this wall of text, but he suggested one small tweak–that we actually relate it to the story! I mean, the nerve! The new wall of text makes a lot more sense and adds a bit of tension to the already frazzled MC and I love it. 

What is the hardest part of writing a first draft for you? And how do you deal with that?

The hardest part is thinking my idea won’t have legs once it hits the page. That it’s dumb.

I deal with it by writing anyway. I’ve been able to turn a lot of ideas I initially thought were dumb into some of my best manuscripts! And then I remind myself that every story has to start somewhere, why not here?

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

Two things help me get a first draft on the page. First, if I’m excited about an idea, that's the time to write before that spark disappears. That usually helps me to power through! And second, my CPs or a contest, or a rad blog like First Draft Friday, all help to give me a deadline and keep me accountable. 

Ooooh, it's exciting to have a guest list #FirstDraftFriday in their "tips and tricks"! If it works for Brenna, it can work for you too! Let's get drafting, friends!!

To enter for a chance at a free picture book (non-rhyming) critique from Brenna, do the following by 10 pm ET today (April 5, 2024):

  1. Follow me and Brenna on Twitter @HollieWolverton and @BrennaJeanneret (You can also check out Brenna's and co-host Josh Monken's kidlit podcast, You May Contribute a Verse, at

  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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Apr 06

Just finished my draft! Thanks so much for the inspiration. Thanks, also, for sharing the story behind the story! I can't wait to read The Law of Birthdays!

Abby Wooldridge



Draft written!

So interesting to hear about your inspiration, really makes me want to read it now! Congrats on the book.

Twitter-X: StoriesByStephM


Well, I did it. Took me a while, but like my main character "the rock" I managed to keep my head above water despite the rain of ideas falling around me. Love this interview. So much energy is bouncing off the page.


A draft has been written! Very rough, but I'm so excited to revise it! Thanks so much, Hollie, for this amazing challenge, and thanks, Brenna, for your inspiration! I loved reading about your process (especially as a fellow pantser) and can't wait to read The Law of Birthdays!! Diane O'Neill @DianeMary3


First draft completed! I really enjoyed this interview, Hollie! And loved learning about your writing process, Brenna! Thanks for sharing!


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