Mission and Vision

Storyteller Academy is a community of authors, illustrators, editors, agents, and publishing professionals. Inside Storyteller Academy, we share our creative secrets and insider tips to creating award-winning books.
Our mission at Storyteller Academy is simple: We help aspiring authors and illustrators learn the art of storytelling and get published.
We believe that everyone is creative and has stories to tell. We believe that illustrators can write and writers can draw. We believe that a diverse world deserves diverse books made by diverse storytellers. We believe in supportive critique groups. We believe in revising until you get it just right. We also believe that business and marketing skills are just as vital to your success as the craft of storytelling.
Whether you’re just starting out, have been working toward publication for years, or have books of your own already, we’re here to help you reach the highest levels of your creative potential.

“As an award-winning author, illustrator, and international speaker, I travel to schools across the country to encourage children to write stories, make art, and to share their creative ideas. I founded Storyteller Academy to give creators the classes and support I wish that I’d had when starting out my author/illustrator journey.”

“I didn’t start out as an author/illustrator. After college, I began a career in consulting, where I made lots of spreadsheets. I left that to take a job at Pixar, and that is where I learned the secret to success: love what you do.
All around me, people were making stories. I wanted to make my own stories, so I enrolled at the Art Center College of Design. In Steven Turk’s Children’s Book Illustration class, I discovered my love for creating picture books.
But I still had a lot to learn about how to tell stories for children.
Eventually, I found my agent, Rubin Pfeffer, through a conference run by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Rubin sold Ninja! to Kate Farrell at Macmillan, and more books followed.
The first two books in my Ninja series and my newest book, Mixed, received starred book reviews from Kirkus. And Mixed, a picture book that uses color theory to discuss diversity, acceptance, and inclusion, recently won the FCBG award for both the picture book category and the overall children's book award!”

Little Wins Lead to Big Victories

Jessica’s Story

“The Illustrator Coordinator, Chad Hunter, contacted me in December to let me know that I had won the contest but needed to work with him on some changes before it was ready to be used.”

This was a huge surprise. I joined my local SCBWI region right after starting Storyteller Academy and attended one of their illustrator meet-ups at an art museum in Sacramento, CA. I heard about their logo contest and entered during the holidays. The Illustrator Coordinator, Chad Hunter, contacted me in December to let me know that I had won the contest but needed to work with him on some changes before it was ready to be used. I got a 2-week crash course in Illustrating 101 while working with him, which was awesome. He is an illustration professor at one of the universities here in Central California and had also won a Portfolio mentee award at the last SCBWI International Convention in Los Angeles, CA. I learned so much in that short experience and am so thankful for the opportunity to be featured at our region’s upcoming spring conference as the logo winner.
– Jessica Mercado, Winner of the SCBWI Spring Spirit 2019 Logo Contest

Pamela’s Story

“Storyteller Academy’s Making Picture Book Dummies is one amazing hand-holding engagement. Learning to be your own critical editor, creating effective page turns, and accepting how content must make room for illustrations is eye opening.”

“LEND ME YOUR EAR!” I heard writing instructors proclaim, “Inspiration is all around you.” And my favorite, “As a teacher, you’re inspired by funny anecdotes all the time, right?” Uhm NOPE! It hardly, EVER happened. I concluded that the skill of creative observation does not exist in my wheelhouse. Yes, before Storyteller Academy I received pats on the back for my “good writing.”  I wanted, “Your storytelling is the best.” I wanted to craft more than the same three stories I’ve dragged from critique group to critique for years.
I enrolled in Storyteller Academy’s Crafting Picture Book Stories. The first lesson? Literally, a step-by-step idea-generating tool that took me from the same three stories to three story ideas in the first fifteen minutes of our first workshop. Not just ideas, but ideas that are funny (Miss Pam has ALWAYS wanted to bring the funny), science based, and better yet, NONFICTION! My critique group could not believe my first story draft. I totally heard one exclaim, “Genius!” No lie.
Since enrolling in Storyteller Academy, I’ve learned to write outside my comfort zone. Taking risks in my writing is turning into my new normal. Storyteller Academy teaches the rules of writing, then demands writers go beyond rules, flip them on their ear, alter them, and yes, sometimes eliminate them to create our unique way of storytelling.
THE PLOT THICKENS! Being a writer who can’t figure out how to enter a story is maddening. I’d have an idea, enticing scenes filled with beautiful language, but no insight on the story’s direction, its reason for being. This resulted in a story filled with lyrical language but missing a huge piece of storytelling. As one mentor put it, “Your writing is deceptive. I get caught up in the visual language and emotion you create through your voice, but after several reads I realized . . . too many words  . . . and no plot.”
Storyteller Academy’s Making Picture Book Dummies is one amazing hand-holding engagement. Learning to be your own critical editor, creating effective page turns, and accepting how content must make room for illustrations is eye opening. Arree encourages writers to draw the scenes they visualize.
Weekly workshops, one-on-one coaching, marketing intensives . . . Storyteller Academy provides effective solutions to problems that frustrate writers. It truly is a learning academy.
Don’t be so safe. Have fun. Take risks. You’ll enjoy the scenery you create so much better. I do.
– Pamela Courtney, Chosen for the Inaugural Highlights Foundation Diversity Fellowship

Here’s What’s Possible

LaRonda’s Story

“I signed up for the free course, and I found it highly beneficial as I worked on story idea about a robot. Arree had a genuineness about him, the way he approached instruction, breaking down a story, building a community of writers, etc.”

I am in a SCBWI regional illustrators’ group on FB, and in the summer of 2017, someone shared a link with information about a free six-week picture book dummy course through something called Storyteller Academy. I signed up for the free course, and I found it highly beneficial as I worked on a story idea about a robot. Arree had a genuineness about him, the way he approached instruction, breaking down a story, building a community of writers, etc.  So, when he opened enrollment for Fall of 2017, I joined the academy.
– LaRonda Gardner Middlemiss, Author of I LOVE ME! (Beaming Books, 2020)

Isabella’s Story

“Jim has the innate ability to pinpoint the core of a story and provide suggestions on how to strengthen the storytelling.”

I learned so much from Jim Averbeck’s class; he changed the way I think about writing. Jim’s critiques are invaluable. I gained just as much seeing him break down a manuscript as the online syllabus he wrote. I hunkered down the entire 6 weeks and turned an idea I’d shelved years ago into a fleshed-out dummy! Jim has the innate ability to pinpoint the core of a story and provide suggestions on how to strengthen the storytelling. I highly recommend it!
– Isabella Kung, Author-Illustrator of NO FUZZBALL! (Scholastic Press, 2020)

Elaine’s Story

“By making the dummy, however, I could see exactly how my manuscript was working and where it wasn’t working.”

At the time I took Arree’s class, I had just written a brand new draft about a dinosaur that I thought had a decent hook. So I decided to work on that one. Arree’s class was incredible because it forced me to make a physical dummy of the book. That was new for me. As a writer, I didn’t think about creating dummies of my drafts. I thought that was something for illustrators. By making the dummy, however, I could see exactly how my manuscript was working and where it wasn’t working. Arree’s class worked for me because it was the perfect balance of craft discussion and creation. In teaching, I will often present material in various forms for a deeper understanding to my students. Arree’s methodology is similar, and for me, it just worked.
Full disclosure: I was initially tempted to SKIP the dummy portion of the class, but I am so happy that I did not. I create dummies for every manuscript I write now!
– Elaine Kiely Kearns, Author of NOAH NOASAURUS, (Albert Whitman)

Vicky’s Story

“Since taking the class in 2017, I'm excited to say that I've signed 3 book deals with a total of 7 books coming out, including board books, a picture book, and an early chapter book series!”

Arree’s class helped me understand how to analyze story structures, character, and visuals to actively improve my craft. The materials and guidance gave me practical tools to write and pitch better stories. I also signed up for 1:1 sessions with Arree, and his personal feedback and advice helped me better understand myself as a writer and the industry as a whole. Since taking the class in 2017, I'm excited to say that I've signed 3 book deals with a total of 7 books coming out, including board books, a picture book, and an early chapter book series! I'm so grateful to Arree for his knowledge and guidance in my journey to become a children's book author
– Vicky Fang, Author of Seven Forthcoming Children’s Books (Sterling and Scholastic)

Abi’s Story

“As it turns out, Arree is one of my People Angels. And thanks to Arree and Storyteller Academy, I have my first picture book coming out from Viking Children's Books in 2020, with a second book to follow in 2021!”

When I joined Storyteller Academy in 2016, I had no idea what an impact it would make on me or my new career as an author-illustrator. In the first courses I took at Storyteller Academy (Crafting Picture Book Stories and Making Picture Book Dummies), Arree spoke of People Angels- those special people who helped, encouraged, and taught him throughout his journey to publication. As it turns out, Arree is one of my People Angels. And thanks to Arree and Storyteller Academy, I have my first picture book coming out from Viking Children's Books in 2020, with a second book to follow in 2021!
What makes Storyteller Academy stand out from the crowd is that it provides the tools to develop long-lasting careers as authors and illustrators. The various classes will teach you ways to consistently create powerful stories and illustrations that resonate with kids. But with instructors who are working authors and illustrators, Storyteller Academy also provides mentorship, real world advice on how to thrive as creative professionals, and business and marketing strategies for after that first book deal.
I highly recommend Storyteller Academy for anyone interested in writing and illustrating books for children and look forward to reading all the wonderful books produced by Storyteller Academy alumni in the future.
– Abi Cushman, Author-Illustrator of SOAKED (Viking Children's Books, 2020)
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