Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pick of the Month: February 2012

I have been plugging away at my 75 Book Challenge. I have read 26 books so far.  Awesome -- yes! But, I still feel behind.  Will I make it to 75 by the end of the year?  I hope so! It's been fun so far.

Here is my favorite read from February 2012.

Picture Book:  Lost Boy: The Story of the Man who created Peter Pan by Jane Yolen

This is lovely picture book biography about the life J.M. Barrie, author of "Peter Pan."  At 2990 words, this is probably not the best choice for a one-night bedtime story for young children.  It might work if you spread it out over several nights.  The story is primarily meant for middle grade readers, grades 4-8.  The illustrations are beautiful, whimsical, and fill the readers and listeners with 'awe'.

As an aspiring writer, Barrie's story struck a chord with me.  His path to becoming a successful author was not an easy as you would think.  He went through many of the same trials and tribulations in his time that we all continue to go through now.  It made me feel connected to him in an unexpected way.  I always find experiences like these make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  It's one of many reasons I love children's literature -- the stories reach people of all ages, from 0-90.  I hope you will check it out!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Leaving Room

When writing picture book texts have you ever heard the following advice?  

'You must leave room for the illustrations.'

I know I have.  As a largely intuitive person, I have soaked in the knowledge from classes, conferences, workshops, and reading slowly over time. I can compare my picture book texts from two years ago to texts from today and see a difference -- more room.

So how can you achieve this in your own writing? Here's a few things that have worked for me.

1) Reading at least 30-40+ classic & new picture books.
     I don't just mean flip through the pages, get the general gist of the story, and the add it to your 'read' pile.  I mean really read the story.  Put yourselves in a child's shoes.  Read each page aloud, and then stop to enjoy the illustrations on each page.  How are those illustrations adding to the story? Do they make you feel happy or sad? Do they make you laugh?  Do they make you want to turn the page and find out what happens next?  

2)  Break your picture book text up into scenes, and create a storyboard.
     I am not an Author//Illustrator, but I do like to break the story up into scenes and make a storyboard.  Granted, these are things the Author may not have much control of during the publishing process, but at this point that is not really what it's meant for.  This process gives you the ability to know if what you have written works as a picture book. Are there at least 12-16 distinctly different scenes?  Another added bonus is that it might help you envision changes in the text you may not have seen before.  Perhaps you've written something that is too wordy or has too many descriptions.  Or perhaps there may be an added emotional layer you didn't see before.