Tag Archives: Shutta Crum

Studying Art Notes

3 Mar

 

If you’re writing picture books, you’ve certainly heard these words more than once.

Leave Room for the Illustrator.

One of the most important aspects of  illustrations is how much information the reader gets from the artwork that is not narrated in the text of the story. Picture book readers trust that the illustrations tell the story as much as the text, and often times more than the text. Illustrations convey emotion, definition, story arc, plot twist, and surprise elements.

In studying picture books which do this well, it’s helpful to practice writing  your own art notes where you think it’s important to the story that the illustrations depict a specific element. I sometimes mark the page with a post-it note to show where I might have added a note if I were the author. Then look back over these notes and try to word them so that my meaning is clear without interfering with the illustrator’s work. Later I can rewrite these in a notebook or just stick the post-it note in my writing journal.

Shutta Crum must be an expert art note writer. Her books Mine! and Uh-Oh! are written using only one word each! If not, how were these nearly wordless picture books written since she is not also the illustrator? Although I have heard that some writers write in a side-by-side column, with the text on one side and the art note on the other, I cannot say with certainty that this is how Shutta submits her work. But it is a good exercise for us to practice.

Look at these spreads and think about what is necessary to put in an art note and what can be left to the illustrator’s imagination.

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Notice that it isn’t always important to leave a note. Do the children need to be siblings or friends? No. Is the specific collection of toys important? No. Is it important that one toy get left behind? Yes. Is it important that there is a dog in the scene? Yes. (That comes out later int he story.)

Note: There are more of these than you realize.

I wonder how many, and what kind of art notes Tammi Sauer included in her first manuscript for Your Alien. I’m thinking there weren’t as many notes as in the example above, simply because there is more text in the story. The illustrator is an adult who can visualize a scene without help.

Take a look at this scene. Was it necessary to say exactly what the alien should be eating (or even doing) on this page?FullSizeRender

I don’t think so. The alien could be eating popcorn, bananas, or pizza. He could even be zipping around the room or playing with the cat instead of eating. Either way, it doesn’t affect the outcome of the story. This is purely up to the illustrator to decide what ‘other ideas’ the alien has on this page.

Even books which are written and illustrated by the same person, must have a certain element of art notes even if they are not specifically written out since the work is submitted as a whole unit, not in pieces.

My guess is that Chris Haughton either jotted down ideas in words or sketches before he produced the final art for his story, Shh! We Have a Plan.shh2

Before he began illustrating, he knew that the littlest character was a different kind of hunter than the others. He was kind and friendly. He was always the first to spot a bird and instinctively attracted the birds to himself. He didn’t carry a net or a ladder, but used bread crumbs to charm the birds.

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As a writer of picture books, balance is the key. Tell your story in a way which allows your reader to be an active participant. Give enough information to feed their imagination while allowing them to make their own connections.

 

13 Notes on the Magic of 13 SCBWI Conference

30 Sep

2015logoMagicof13It’s been 13 days since The Magic of 13 conference in Cleveland this month. I’ve had time to review my notes and relive the magic. And it was magical! On Friday, I was able to participate in an intensive class with Jodell Sadler of the Sadler Children’s Literary Agency and have a one-on-one manuscript critique with Nikki Garcia, Assistant Editor for Little Brown Books for Young Readers. Then I spent the full day, Saturday, attending workshops with Jodell Sadler again; and Marie Lamba, Associate Literary Agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency; Kendra Levin, Senior Editor with Viking’s Children Books, the Penguin Young Readers Group; and Victoria Selvaggio, Associate Agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. What a lineup! I talked with wonderful authors like Mary Kay Carson, Miranda Paul, Shutta Crum, Michelle Houts, and Liz Coley. However, there were other wonderful authors and illustrators I missed, like Denise Fleming, Gloria Adams, and Sophie Cayless… the days were just to full to see everyone! And of course, I met and worked with countless other writers and illustrators who attended the workshops. Oh, how I wish I had a week with these extraordinary people!

With the passing of 13 days since the Magic of 13, I want to share 13 things I learned with you. Hopefully these 13 tricks will help you get where you want to be in your writing and publication.

  1. Tell your story. Begin at the beginning. Go until you get to the end. Then stop.

2. Be on every page with the reader. See what they see, hear what they hear, smell what they smell, feel what they feel.

3. Use vivid words to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. Use fun and interesting language. Make your words work hard, make them pull double duty when engaging a reader.

4. Determine your character’s core values. These will guide his/her actions. Apply the emotional truths of what you know to new situations for your characters. You may never have been lost in a jungle like your character is, but you do know what it feels like to be lost. Use that to guide your character through unfamiliar territory.

5. The road to publication comes from employing plot, poetry, pauses, and personality. 

6. Form allegiances with other writers. Support each other. Champion each other to do your best.

7. Study your craft. Find mentor texts and professionals to guide you along the way.

8. Find inspiration in those who have gone before you.

9. Forge your own processes. Don’t be afraid of doing things differently than what ‘everyone else’ says you should be doing.

10. Have a strong hook. Your story must be easy to pitch. Prepare a one sentence log line, a description that can be used to promote your work. It must evoke feeling.

11.Stay current on today’s market and know where your book fits. Yours should be the same but different. It must fit into a market audience.

12. Be aware of your social media presence. Contribute to the promotion of yourself. Be professional. Be positive in your social interactions at all times.

13. Have fun! If you’re having fun, your reader will have fun!

…and now for the magic…

Abracadbra… Poof!

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