Have you ever tried to write a Goodnight Moon? You know, you read it and think, That was great, the kids loved it, and the writing is so simple! Surely, I can do something even better! Ha!
Ahh, many moons ago, I actually had a life before my FIRST reading of Goodnight Moon (!!). I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it previously. I read it as a nanny of a baby who has now grown up and graduated from high school. I feel old-er. Previous to that, however, I had already started writing down my stories I thought would make great, no Absolutely Wonderful picture books. I took a couple classes from the great and mighty resource for writers The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, and I wrote and rewrote. Oi vey, it is hard work, but sooo enjoyable too. Here’s some things I’ve enjoyed learning along the way.
1. Write it Down. Get it out of your head and onto the paper. Forget about the plot for now. Forget about the word count, and what famous illustrator you want to bring your words to life. (Sorry, you won’t have a choice.) Forget about the fact you just KNOW you are the next J. K. Rowling, except for Picture Books. (It MUST have crossed your mind that you are going to be WILDLY successful, right?) Just forget about publishing it, in general, for now, and write for the love of your story. “You know, for kids!” See movie “Hudsucker Proxy” if you want this quotation explained. Editors surely won’t understand your story for children unless you…
2. CONNECT! Consult any of the great resources out there. If some can’t be found in cyberspace (aka, websites) they can often be waiting for you at your local library. You can invest in your own copy if you find one or two helpful and indispensable to your writing ideas for children.
Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market edited by Chuck Sambuchino (and formerly, Alice Pope) for great articles on the craft, the addresses of editors who don’t require an agent, and ones that do require an agent.
Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) for a wonderful membership-based group that hosts conferences, has regional ones as well as national and international, and a great website where members can connect, challenge one another and share information.
3. BE INSPIRED! There are many wonderful blogs and websites out there on children’s literature. Do you wanna read a great speech on a journey in children’s literature? Tara Lazar’s blog, resources and tips are here: a newly published author and her inspiration . Do you wanna great resource and website on children’s literature? Laurie Halse Anderson’s website of a seasoned children’s and YA author is here. Plus, there’s great tips at Harold Underdown’s Purple Crayon here.
[Update 11/14/2013: There are many great posts and resources out there. Here’s another great post on learning the children’s lit route from the Writers’ Rumpus with the quirky-fun byline “Papa J Funk“. Here’s the Writers’ Rumpus Resource Page.
4. “Get” a Famous Mentor. Here are some of my favorite writers who have not necessarily shared their published writing wisdom specifically for picture book writers. It is writer-wisdom all the same. Stephen King’s On Writing, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and Writing Down the Bones: freeing the writer within: by Natalie Goldberg. Enjoy. I have, again and again. Plus, their advice is also free and available if you “contact” them at your local library, ie, check out their books. (Yes, by “get”, I mean read their wonderful books!)
It may or may not be important to share that I am not a published writer of picture books. I started writing down my ideas, and the journey has had several personal pauses and stops and restarts since then. Reverie of a Picture Book, however, is a great, or at least I hope it is going to be a great compilation of my love for the genre. So, I share these resources from my heart, and hope they bless you in some way, along your way.