Writing classes are not just for undergrads and MFA students. I consider myself a life-long learner and if you are writing for children, I encourage you to do the same. Why? Because the publishing industry is a living thing. Trends change, agents retire, even hashtags undergo metamorphoses. To stay on top of the craft and business of writing, you need to do two important things.
Read in your genre
Reading NEW (within the past 3 years) picture books will help you understand the genre a bunch! Reading new books will give you insight on the most current trends: word counts, themes, characters, plot devices. Study what books are selling or being checked out of your library. While trends change and the industry moves at a snail's pace, you can glean a lot of great information from reading new books.
Reading CLASSIC books will also benefit you! Classics are classics because they have that certain spark that attracts readers again and again. Notice page turns, humor, lyrical language, and how authors give plenty of space for illustration.
2. Keep on learning
You're never too old to learn something new and lucky for you there are a number excellent options for learning the craft and business of picture book writing. See below for resources.
If you are writing for children, join SCBWI! It is a treasure trove of resources, opportunities, and community-building for people like you and me. Choose from regional online webinars and conferences or join a workshop or panel at one of their two national conferences (Winter and Summer). They also publish The Book, an essential guide to the children’s publishing industry, which they update annually. Classes and conferences range in price. Yearly membership is $80-90. Free-$$
While classes can be pricey, the expertise you will gain from a class at The Highlights Foundation will be an investment in your writing career. Many options for subject matter, schedules, in-person and online. Taught by published authors and publishing professionals. $$-$$$
Located in Austin, Texas, The Writing Barn has a huge menu of classes for all types of writers. They consistently offer classes for children's authors, in particular picture book writers, taught by authors, editors, and agents. Free-$$
Founded and directed by Clearfork/Spork editor Mira Reisenberg, this online educational resource is an affordable alternative to an MFA in writing. Classes are available live and self-directed and are taught by industry professionals in children's lit -- authors, illustrators, author-illustrators, art directors, agents, and editors. The community if friendly and engaging and the academy offers many opportunities for scholarships and reduced pricing, but you must plan ahead and apply early. $$
Picture book author Julie Hedlund (Over Bear, Under Where?) is an encyclopedia of kidlit! She has been running the paid membership program 12X12 since 2012. 12X12 is an annual challenge to write 12 picture books in a year, one per month. The community she has built is very active in digital chats and critique exchanges and she welcomes a star-powered roster of guests from the publishing industry for webinars and Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) discussions that are only available to members of the program. Guests include traditionally published authors, Big 4 editors, and rock star agents. The cost of membership is a little under $200 per year for the lowest level, but the amount of resources she provides are, as they say, priceless. $$
Much like Children's Book Academy, Storyteller Academy offers a roster of digital classes for all genres of children's literature and illustration. Founded and directed by author/illustrator Aree Chung (the Ninja series), the academy offers classes through membership available at two levels and price points. There are significant benefits to the higher priced membership, which include critique groups led by author, illustrator, or agent mentors. Tuition is charged monthly, which makes the financial commitment more manageable. $$