Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The HICCUPotamus, Part 2- and a Giveaway!


What Does an Illustrator Bring to the Writing Table?

As you can see, Aaron Zenz is an amazing illustrator. But this is a blog about writing. So, what I wanted to know was this: Does being an illustrator affect how you write picture book text, and if so, how?

I should have asked Aaron this directly, but being inept at interviewing, I beat around the bush.

Wow! I see you have Book Dummies up on your web site. That is so cool. Do you recommend that PB authors "page out" their manuscripts even if they are not illustrators?

AARON: Yes, I think it's beneficial for a number of reasons...

First, a major aspect of a picture book is the "Page Turn." It's a reality that is unique to children's books. In an adult novel it doesn't matter -- you can turn a page in the middle of a sentence. Pages are insignificant. But in picture books, "the page" is a Huge component! Where the words fall, how they are paced out, is just as significant as what they say or how they're illustrated. Granted, authors don't always have to determine where those page turns occur. Sometimes that's best left to an editor or art director or illustrator. But I have to believe that being aware of their importance, imagining the Page Turn standing there looking over your shoulder, is going to influence, to improve, the way a person writes for children.

Second, "paging out" a manuscript is going to help you think through the action in a story -- or the lack of. Although an author may not be creating the illustrations him-or-herself, it's ideal to keep in mind that someone else WILL be. Since people know that I'm a children's author, I get asked all the time to look at things they've written (You probably get the same!) One time I was reading a story that, at first glance, seemed perfectly fine. The dialog was clever. The writing was creative. The language was beautiful and engaging. But after a while I wondered... how would someone illustrate this? This was intended to be a picture book, but the first third of the story consisted of a father talking to his daughter as he tucked her into bed. They were saying great stuff, but there was no action until a third of the way through the book. "Paging it out" might have helped the author to realize... here they are at the bedside, bedside again, and again, again still bedside. Gee. What is that going to look like? Picture books are inherently visual. (PICTURE books - see!) Although they aren't making the pictures, the best authors still focus on the visual nature of the product they are creating.

So, there you have it- an illustrator's perspective on PB writing.

Leave a comment for a chance to win two signed copies of The Hiccupotomas. (U.S. residents only. Contest deadline, Sept 19th at 11:59 PM)

18 comments:

Ame Dyckman said...

Fantastic advice! And, writer friends, no fair using the "I can't draw!" excuse. I'm truly the worst artist in the world (alas, even my stick people look like they have rickets or something), but even I make dummies. (No one will ever, ever see them, but I still make them!) They really help!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Wonderful advice. Thank you both for the interview.
Corey, although I write YA, I do have a PB in progress, too, so information like this is super. I know, know. We're supposed to brand ourselves as writers of one kind or another, but I can't help that I'm drawn to many things and need to write them out.

Lazy Writer said...

I don't write PBs, but I've always wanted to. Maybe I will one day, and this information will be quite useful. Thanks for sharing.

Kim said...

Awesome advice! I love your author interview posts. Thank you for doing them.

I have a PB in my head that I can't seem to find a beginning for. But, I have the "scenes" mapped out in my head. I haven't tried a Book Dummy b/c, I too am illustration impaired. Maybe it would help come up w/"the problem" needed for the story to work.

Hey, the word verification to allow my comment to be posted is "sushi". Sushi is my favorite food, and my kids' too. I think it's a sign...

Hardygirl said...

I love this interview--and, I really, really love looking at Aaron's picture book dummies on his website. How wonderful to see his process!

sf

Rebecca said...

Thanks for the great advice!

Dawn VanderMeer said...

What an interesting and informative interview. While I write YA, I have a huge appreciation for picture book authors and illustrators. Thanks for sharing.

storyqueen said...

Super helpful tips. I never have gotten to talk to my illustrators, so it's cool to see how the land lies on that side of the page.

Thanks for doing the interview.

Shelley

Kelly H-Y said...

I really need to do a much better job of 'paging out' my PB manuscripts! Great points!

Infant Bibliophile said...

I've been following the whole tour -- love this post. Great advice.

Kimberly said...

Great advice! These are some important things to consider to improve a book. The Page Turn is something that can really make a book stand out. Thanks Corey for this great interview!

Stephanie Faris said...

I write YA and adult fiction but it's nice to learn more about the picture book process. I still have very little of an idea of how all that works!

Casey McCormick said...

Great interview! Every time I come here, I get a niggling to learn more about picture books. I'd like to try one someday. Gotta keep focus on my YA for now though!

Brimful Curiosities said...

I've also been reading the posts in this tour. First I heard the the term "paging out." My kids do pay a lot more attention to the pictures than I do. They are always finding something in the illustrations that I overlooked.

Swati said...

Glad the contest is over - now I can comment freely! I liked this interview: great idea about the book dummies!

Katie said...

fascinating! I love process posts!!

Amy Tate said...

I'm a firm believer in the writer/illustrator marriage. I've read plenty of books where the relationship is lop-sided and it kills the story! Great post!

Connie said...

Some of my fav's: "ishkabibble", "Peedie Weedie", "Bubbaboobear","Bubsdaddybucket","Imasliver" misspoken from Hi yo Silver and "skeezix".