May 15, 2013

5 Big Ideas for Children's Lit

This week I intended to share a bit about what I learned from my recent SCBWI conference extravaganza, but this blog is less about giving advice and more about just living life. So I've been a little stumped as to how to work advise posts into the mix. I also feel under-qualified to share my knowledge of the children's literature industry quite simply because I haven't been published yet and have only just recently (in the past few years) taken a deeper and committed look into my desire to enter the field. 

With that said and my notebook open in front of me I'd like to share just 5 of the most important things I've learned over the past few years of research. All of my understanding of the industry of children's lit has come from books, being a member of SCBWI, and from personal conversations with professionals in the field. So here goes...

5 Big Ideas for understanding children's literature (specifically picture books):

1. Research- If you're interested in writing or illustrating a book, make sure you research publishers and are careful to follow all the guidelines they have for submissions. This is so important! The more you learn, the more you realize how little you actually know.

2. Edit- Edit your story and/or illustrations until you've boiled it down to the raw essentials. Revise, rework, reword. Sketch and study character design and narration. Prove that you have an interesting and compelling story with a carefully edited manuscript. Critique or have a group of your peers critique your work until you feel you have captured the essence of the story. This takes time and commitment.

3. Narrate- Tell the story visually. Picture books are "read" by children through pictures, so challenge yourself to capture the action of each scene on each page, building to the climax of the story. Writers should understand that when a publishers chooses an illustrator for your book, the illustrator has artistic license to continue the evolution of the story. Give them freedom to make your story real to the child who's reading the pictures!

4. Sharpen Your Skills- Produce a large body of work. Don't stop after you've written just one story or composed one painting. Don't hold so tightly to just one story idea but challenge yourself to sharpen your skills in every area by writing/painting every day. Revise and edit and move on. Challenge yourself daily to personal growth. You won't find your voice after just one try.

5. Accept Rejection- I hear this all the time! Be okay with sharp criticism and learn from the rejection of editors and art directors. Be flexible and willing to change as the story evolves. Don't give up after rejection! Persevere! 

There's so much more I could say, but I'll try to give you bite-size chunks of information at a time. For those of you who have sent me story ideas or emailed me questions, visit back here often for more advice. And feel free to keep emailing me your thoughts/questions!
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