Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Everything You Wanted to Know About Making a Picture Book, But Were Afraid to Ask" by Patti Ann Harris and Diane Muldrow

Hi everyone! I'm at the Saturday afternoon breakout session with Patti Ann Harris, Senior Art Director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and Diane Muldrow, editorial director at Golden Books/Random House.

Diana Muldrow is both a writer and editor. Picture books are a visual media. The one thing that has struck Diane over the years is that most writers of picture books don't think visually.
Most of her submissions are from writers who are in two categories unpublished and amateurish. She wants to help us NOT look amateurish:

-Don't edit yourself as you write--"vomit" out your stories, don't "constipate" yourself. Take ownership of your manuscript--you're writing this for yourself.
-visualize story as a format (price, page count, size, jacketed hard-cover, novelty). Ask yourself--can your book carry an $18 price tag or is it a board or novelty book? Think about how your story is going to land on those pages. Think about holiday books--look at your topic and think about how you can help sell it.
-What images do you want your picture book to have? Page out your book. Put art notes under each page. Opening page is always a two-page spread--should welcome you into its world--with opening text on right hand page (just enough text to tease reader). Patti Ann says to storyboard so you can see a bird's eye view of your entire book--print it out in thumbnail form. Think of it always as an evolving work in process--real work starts in revision.
-Picture book needs flow--build, suspense, climax--cinematically. Be sure what you have written is visually interesting (beware the "talking heads"). Must make reader turn the page to find out more--tease!
-What's happening in the art should match the first line on any page. Think about the child being read to.
-Think about the visuals you want in your book and write around those.
-Write the flap copy for your book and you'll discover any plot problems.
-What's your last line? It will steer you.
-Diane suggests submitting your manuscript paged-out with art notes.

Patti Ann Harris:

-Patti Ann is showing examples of novelty and picture books starting with Go Away Big Green Monster which she calls a picture book/novelty book hybrid.
-Bob Stack's Look a Book has dye cuts which you look through which is another take on "search and find".
-Todd Parr was doing licensing work with greeting cards, wrapping paper, etc. He does very simple, inspiring images and was discovered by Megan Tingly at Little Brown. Patti Ann loves discovering artists who are working in different areas.
-Think about all of the possibilities of format and ways of creating characters. Think about the broad spectrum. Patti Ann is good at inventing formats. Think about books that you can put in the hands of a baby.

General Info:
Diane: -Think about engaging and involving your reader.
-Non-fiction sells! But don't write in in a text-book way--make a story relevant to a child's world.
-Encourages everyone to read everything written by Margaret Wise Brown to learn about writing picture books.
Patti Ann:
-Embrace revision

Q & A:
Should you pair your manuscript with illustrations? Not unless you're an author/illustrator.
What about rhyme? Let the book tell you what it needs--try it in prose and in rhyme and see what works. Don't stay away from it if you're good at it. Irregular rhyme is okay. Don't be afraid to mix it up.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic roundup of the talk! You caught a lot of great points. And thanks for posting the couple of websites that I completely missed!
    Alison Lyne, illustrator