Lately, I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about the craft of writing picture books in the hopes of becoming a picture book scholar! There is so much information available to new authors. While I have to thank those that take the time to share their experiences with newbies, like me, it can get overwhelming. What are your favorite craft books about writing picture books?
Learning from those who’ve gone before us.
I’m currently reading “Writing Picture Books” by Ann Whitford Paul and I’m about 1/3 of the way through. It’s REALLY good – an actual step-by-step process for writing your picture book. The author recommends following the steps through the book in real time, as you are writing your book. Of course, never one to completely follow directions, I’m reading it cover to cover and will then go back and work my way through the steps. I like to see the big picture first.
The first chapter is titled, “Becoming a Picture Book Scholar,” hence the subject of this week’s blog post. The very first sentence in the chapter sets the tone of the author’s matter-of-fact, straightforward manner. She says, “Having had your appendix out doesn’t qualify you to perform an appendectomy, so why should having seen picture books as a child qualify you to write one?” Touché. I love it!
So how do we become a picture book scholar?
Of course the author recommends, reading, reading, and more reading, and I am more than happy to comply. This advice also inspired me to start this blog so I could write picture book reviews while learning the craft. As I study each new book, I am amazed at the creativity and in awe of the number of wonderful stories there are available in picture book format. It is so inspiring!
Following are a few of my takeaways on some of the topics covered in the first chapter of “Writing Picture Books.”
Everything is a New Adventure
Children create an adventure out of anything and everything. They are curious, full of wonder, open to trying new things. They see things from a different perspective. Imagine for a day that everything is new. If you have a hard time imagining something as new, seek out something that IS new to you. Research a topic you’ve always wanted to learn about or a place you’ve always wanted to visit. How do you feel when tackling something new? Do you treat it like a new adventure or are you more reserved and cautious? Try to look through a different lens and return to the natural wonder and curiosity of a child. It will change your whole attitude.
It IS a big deal.
As a child, everything matters. Everything is important. Children care deeply about everything. Your little guy may have a t-shirt he wants to wear every single day. It’s his favorite. It matters. As an adult, we know it needs to be washed, but this will come at no small price to him. He feels strongly about wearing that t-shirt. Think about something that matters deeply to you. Multiply that times “everything matters” and write with those emotions.
It’s not always rainbows and butterflies.
Ann Whitford Paul recommends printing a sign or writing a sticky note and putting it where you work and will see it while you are writing that says, “CHILDHOOD IS NOT ALL SILLY AND JOYFUL.” As parents, we sometimes like to shield our children from all things unhappy, but that is doing them a disservice. I do love a good happy story, who doesn’t? But, the reality is we learn about life through our challenges. What we can do as responsible adults is to be thoughtful while remaining realistic when introducing tough topics to our kids by teaching through compassion and empathy.
Becoming a Picture Book Scholar
There’s a lot to learn on the road to becoming a picture book scholar. I think the biggest takeaway I have from reading the first chapter of “Writing Picture Books” is to call on your inner child. Treat everything like a new adventure, imagine it IS a big deal and everything matters and is important. Tapping into the essence of your child-likeness could very well inspire your next picture book.
For more information
NOTE: I purchased my copy of this book from Amazon. This is not a book review, though I do highly recommend it for whatever stage you are at on your writing journey. You can purchase “Writing Picture Books” on Amazon and through the links on the pictures below. I am an Amazon affiliate and receive a small compensation for purchases made through the links on my website. Full disclosure notice here.