Hey cHEwY gum gums!
A few weeks ago, I attended a CBCA Northern Sydney meeting on ZOOM where the guest speakers were Deb Abela and Majorie Crosby-Fairall, the author and illustrator of the picture book, Bear in Space. Deb has been in the kidslit scene for over twenty years, but it’s only recently that she’s delved into picture books.
I’ve been asked why I haven’t written a picture book. Believe me, I’ve tried. Over the years, I have had a few ideas for picture books and I’ve written manuscripts. Then I send them to my agent who gives me feedback and I sit on it for a few weeks which turn into months, and then I kinda forget about it.
People think that it’s easy to write a picture book, but I think it’s the hardest genre to write for. I’ve sat in plenty of picture book sessions to know that. You have a limited word count and each word has to count. Deb and Majorie took five years for Bear In Space to take shape. I’ve heard authors say that they spent months agonising over one word.
Picture books is an art in itself, an unique way to tell stories, blending pictures and words perfectly. From Matt and Beck’s Stanton’s This is a Ball to Kate and Jol Temple’s Room on Our Rock, people are doing wonderful things with the format.
Maybe that’s my problem. I give picture books too much respect that I get daunted with the process. My first picture book manuscripts had instructions for the illustrator haha. Then I found out that you’re not supposed to, the words have to tell the story. No, the words don’t have to explain everything. They just need to give you a snapshot of the story, so the illustrator can work its magic.
I haven’t totally given up. I had an idea for a picture book, inspired by the lockdown, that I’ve been polishing for the last few months. The feedback points to a lot of promise but it’s still a long way to go. It needs a lot of thinking time. Oh yeah, picture books take years and years to get published, let alone get accepted. But I’m patient and humble enough to keep plugging away. I’ll keep reading and enjoying picture books. I’ll keep attending picture book sessions, and who knows, maybe I’ll sign up for a class or two.
Picture books are like any other books, if the story is solid gold, then it will find its way to the shelf.