They all sound great, don't they? Now, here's Nancy's guest post!
Somebody Had to Say it: Writing Picture Books is Hard Work!
By Nancy Stewart
Yep, I’ll admit it. Hard work. That’s what it is. You have to think as a child, put yourself in a child’s place and always be aware of the child within yourself. That’s the tricky bit.
And then, of course, once you’ve decided on a wonderful, fun and thought provoking plot, one thousands of kids will want to buy and keep forever, it’s time to put together that puzzle called a children’s book. It needs to be fewer than one thousand words and less really with the new generation of books for the younger kid. Keep it short, and keep it simple while making it a fine fully developed story from which children will learn and grow.
Not only that. Oh, no. Words count and not just in numbers. They must be lyrical, fluid, fun words for children to say. They need to be words kids love to repeat over and over and over. They need to be words children will want to remember, so they can be read to caregivers. It makes no difference, of course, whether the children can really read or not.
That brings you to the revision process. Oh, yes. Just when you’re beginning to feel fine about the manuscript, you happily and hopefully flaunt it at your critique group. “Picked apart” is the phrase that comes to mind. “Just a tiny change here” and a “this might be better there.” Who knew?
Next morning, armed with coffee, lots of it, you rip into the now imperfect manuscript. You try to make sense of all the tough direct critiques and the gentle ones that apologetically murmur, “just a modest suggestion.” Bit by bit, the story reshapes, funnily enough, stronger than before. Huh. Maybe they were right. Always knew you liked that group.
And then, finally, you have a manuscript that can stand up to being called a book. The time has come for it to fly on its own. And it does, right to an agent or publisher.
When you get the word that this agent or that publisher wants it, everything else but absolute joy is forgotten, at least until the next manuscript. But you’re stronger this time. This time you know what to expect, and you’re ready. Yeah, piece of cake.
After having been both an elementary school teacher, a university professor of education and a consultant for New Options, Inc. in New York City, Nancy Stewart now writes children’s books full time. She, her husband and three sons, lived in London for eight years, where she was a consultant to several universities, including Cambridge.
Her travels take her extensively throughout the world, most particularly Africa. Nancy is US chair of a charity in Lamu, Kenya, that places girls in intermediate schools to allow them to further their education.
Nancy is the author of the Bella and Britt picture book series, One Pelican at a Time, Sea Turtle Summer and Bella Saves the Beach. A biography, Katrina and Winter: Partners in Courage, will be released in August, 2011. All are published by Guardian Angel Publishing.
She and her family live in St. Louis and Clearwater Beach, Florida.