Monday, October 21, 2019

Two Picture Book Workshops at SCBWI-C

Most of my faithful blog readers know that I've been working on a novel for many years. What you might not know is that novel started as a picture book. Although that is another story, I continue to love picture books.

Recently, I've reviewed a number of nonfiction picture books  including some biographies. It appears to be a growing (perhaps limitless) trend in children's books. As I wrote HALF-TRUTHS I came across two historical figures that became mentor figures to Lillie and Kate. As I mentioned here, they each could be an inspirational subject for a picture book. 

With that in mind, I attended two workshops on picture books at the SCBWI-Carolinas conference. Here are some of my takeaways:

Tara Luebbe

Picture Book Workshop #1

Tara Luebbe spoke on "Mining Nonfiction for Fiction Picture Books." Each of her books, written with her sister, Becky Cattie, started with a real fact. Although this isn't exactly what I have in mind to write, her workshop was informative and inspirational.  

Tara brainstorms as many unusual facts as she can find and then digs deeper. She tries to marry different ideas together and thinks, "What can I add to make this marketable and kid-friendly?" She researches to make sure that the idea hasn't been taken, does more research into the subject, and even finds jokes related to the topic. Her wide range of picture books are a testimony that this process works!

She mentioned submitting back matter with your manuscript and to use art notes as needed, particularly for action. "Don't overuse them. If the script doesn't make sense without them, then it's okay."

Picture Book Workshop #2

The second picture book workshop I attended (there were others, these were the ones I selected) was, "Bringing Your Voice to Nonfiction" with Lina Maslo and Alice Ratterree. Lina is the author illustrator of Free as a Bird and an upcoming biography Through the Wardrobe: How C.S. Lewis Created Narnia. Alice has illustrated several books but focused on Dangerous Jane, the biography of Jane Addams. 

Lina Maslo

Alice Ratterree

Lina and Alice stressed that the person you are writing about inspires you. And as you write, remember to:

#1 Discover! Learn something new! Play!

#2 Cross pollinate as you write. Draw from other areas of your life. 

#3 Always ask yourself,  "Who am I creating for?"

All three of these points resonated with me. It is easy to lose the sense of play and discovery when we're writing so I appreciated the reminder. 

I   Writers are also encouraged to consider the character's natural environment, his or her time period, and the city, town or village where your character lives. Nonfiction biographers must constantly consider what influenced their character. I was particularly interested in how Alice demonstrated that the color palette she used in Dangerous Jane reflected the colors in Jane's life.

Speaking of nonfiction, here's one more slide from Vicki Selvaggio's intensive:

She told me, "This varies for picture books as you usually don't need a proposal for a nonfiction picture book. This information applies mainly for middle grade and young adult books." Depending on the topic of book, Vicki always determines what to send in her proposal based on the publisher's submission guidelines and the type of nonfiction project. 

Is there a nonfiction picture book in your future? If so, I hope these tips will help you on your journey. Keep me posted on your progress--we can compare notes along the way!

Next Up: Small With Big Dreams


Constance L said...

I admire all these women and their fun and beautiful books! Thanks for the interesting post, especially as I didn't get to the conference this year.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Constance. I was hoping that those who couldn't make it would appreciate the blogs!

Rosi said...

Thanks for sharing this information. Sounds like a great conference.

LIGHT COMES TO SHADOW MOUNTAIN A Guest Blogger Review by Mara Scudder

  I've been on the "other side of the pond" for the last two weeks and just returned home. I look forward to sharing a few of ...