Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tips for Picture Book Writers

Right before bed last night an email message arrived from  the good people at  Rocky Mountain Chapter of Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators  (big breath.)  

I was sleepy, but I read it anyway.  A Spring workshop presenter was looking for published authors to share their tips for writing children's picture books.  As I drifted off to sleep I was pondering what would be on my list.... list.... list... (that's when I fell asleep.)  

When I woke up, I had this list of tips:   
  • Keep chocolate in your desk drawer. (I prefer 70% cacao... lah-dee-dah.) 
  • Picture book writer's are on word diets.  Celery, carrots, broccoli, maybe some whole grains, but remember make it YUMMY!!  You do not have access to words like  fromage or pate brioche.  Dang.   Keep it simple, BUT YUMMY!!  (Average picture book length is getting shorter by the minute--under 1000 words-- but  have you ever counted how many words are in Olivia??)
  • Trim-trim-trim... do not be afraid to trim.  Sometimes your all-time, very favorite sentence doesn't move the story ahead.    A wise, old editor (she really isn't old, just wise) once told me, "You'll use it, someday,  in another story..." 
  • It's okay to throw in a couple zingers for good measure.  In my first book,  Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots,  (all 250 words of it!)  I use the word "delectable" because, well because,  it stretches children's vocabulary...  Plus I couldn't find anything else that rhymed with "vegetables."
  • Think of yourself as Gumby!!  You know, the little bendy guy that looks like the gingerbread man?  Only Gumby's smarter because he's made out of a slab of stinky rubber, not yummy cookie dough,  so... the sly fox isn't going to be interested in eating him up.   Be smart (and bendy)-- editors, agents, publishers,  friends, your mother,  a little bird... are all going to give advice.  Every single suggestion, whether it comes from the industry or the UPS guy, might just be the catalyst to something astounding.   
  • Did you notice that all my tips so far, except one,  have been food related?  Geeez.
  • Have ears like DUMBO  and HORTON.   Listen to every teeny tiny word that children say.  My daughter began saying wonderful things before she could officially talk. Mountains were WOWS and blankies were WEEEE's.  (Long story.)   My personal favorite, "When me looks at the moon, me sees a white banana..."   That said, sometimes kids say things that become book titles!!  I know mine did.    

copyright 2008  all rights reserved carmela lavigna coyle

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

WHY-OH-WHY am I writing a novel??

Well, that's easy...  because I need to extrapolate.  That's why.  So there... humph.

Don't misunderstand.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE writing children's picture books, it's so very refreshing and I get to be and think like a little kid all over again. It's the best job in the world. (That, and being a mom.)  I get to "think" words like,  pahlease and phew and poopy and yucky and yippy!!    But, writing for kids is very challenging. You have, at best, 300-500 words to tell a whompin' good story.  Every single word counts.  No superfulous-ness allowed.  

Now and then I yearn to go off on a tangent!!  To spit words all over the page.  Throw them into the corners and folds and outside of the margins.  Giddy-up!  Yah... 

There... I said it.   

So... that's why I'm writing a novel.