#FirstPictureBook Q&A

10 More Tips for Writing Picture Books

August 1, 2016

Tags: Laban Carrick Hill, Abraham Schroeder, Maria Gianferrari, Megan Wagner Lloyd, Sylvia Liu, Susan Hood, Emma Bland Smith, Penny Parker Klostermann, Karlin Gray, Donna Mae

Here is a list of tips pulled from previous posts. Click on the quote to read the writer's entire Q&A.

Laban Carrick Hill: "A picture book is not a word book. The words in a picture book need to serve the illustrations, not the other way around, even though the illustrations would not exist if not the words had been written first. What I tried to do was provide artfully descriptive language that would be a springboard for the illustrator to do their thing."

Abraham Schroeder: "If you can't stop thinking about even the faintest notion of an idea, a character, a little phrase, write it down and see what it turns into. Many times I've jotted down an idea that I think is totally silly, but after considering it objectively, sometimes months or years later, I realize there might be a whole a lot more to it."

Maria Gianferrari: "Donít give up! Even though picture books are short, theyíre not easy to write. They often undergo multiple revisions and entirely change shape. It takes time to improve your craft. Keep reading; keep writing and join a critique group for feedback."

Megan Wagner Lloyd: "Find your unique voice and trust the illustrator (aka keep your art notes to a minimum!)"

Sylvia Liu: "I had known about the award for over a decade. After I started writing picture books, I kept the award in the back of my mind each year, but it wasnít until I wrote A MORNING WITH GRANDPA that I felt I had a story that was suitable for the contest."

Susan Hood: "An interesting exercise is to type out the text of a favorite picture book and then compare it to the finished book. It will help you see how the text works hand in hand with the art to create something new."

Emma Bland Smith: "My process is always something like this: I write something. I think itís great. I send it to my critique partners. They tell me everything thatís wrong with it and how to fix it. I lick my wounds for a few hours or days. Then I take their advice and revise it. Repeat several times."

Penny Parker Klostermann: "I took pictures of clouds that took on familiar shapes. One evening I photographed one that looked just like a dragon and I thought what a great main character a dragon would make if I could just find a story for him."

Karlin Gray: "I thought back to my six-year-old self and wondered, who would I have wanted to see in a picture book?"

Donna Mae: "I took on self-publishing as a personal challenge. I had an overwhelming feeling of Do This Book By Yourself."


June 13, 2016

Tags: MARSHMALLOWS GALORE, Donna Mae, Brandon Fall

Donna Mae dreamt of writing a children's book but, like so many of us, was busy taking care of a family. Once her children grew up and left home, she dusted off that old dream and made it sparkle! Today she shares the story of self-publishing her first picture book MARSHMALLOWS GALORE.

Q. Was MARSHMALLOWS GALORE the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?
A. MARSHMALLOWS GALORE was not the first one I wrote. The first one I wrote is the one Iím revising at the present moment. I wrote it many years ago. It needed a lot of revising, so I let it percolate.

Q. What event or person inspired MARSHMALLOWS GALORE?
A. I must confess, I was daydreaming at work! The thought came into my mind and I ran with it. It seemed like a silly concept, marshmallows falling from the sky, but I like SILLY.

Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. The story is about giant marshmallows falling from the sky. I envisioned giant marshmallows everywhere. The name seemed perfect. MARSHMALLOWS GALORE!

Q. What is your favorite part of MARSHMALLOWS GALORE? And was that part in the first draft?
A. My favorite part of the book is the end and it was always in the manuscript. I wonít give it away. It fills my heart!!!!!!

Q. Why did you decide to tell the story in first person?
A. I write in rhyme, from my heart, and that is how it came out.

Q. How much of the story did you know when you began to write MARSHMALLOWS GALORE?
A. My initial story was just a silly thought about giant marshmallows falling from the sky. Next I needed to tell a story about caring, sharing, compassion and maybe some much needed team work. I was hoping to write a story that would plant a seed! Ask the question? What would you do with giant marshmallows that fell from the sky?
Iíve created ďThe Marshmallow PledgeĒ that accompanies my reading, the kids recite it at the end of my story. Parents love it!!!

Q. MARSHMALLOWS GALORE is self-published. Can you tell us about the process? Did you submit it to traditional publishers?
A. I took on self-publishing as a personal challenge. I had an overwhelming feeling of Do This Book By Yourself. I took baby steps and decided that the only way I would be able to do that was to take fear and doubt out of the equation. Itís an all inspiring story from start to finish. Do you have all day ????? Itís really the story of my life.

Q. How did you select the illustrator for MARSHMALLOWS GALORE?
A. Iím a member of The Society of Childrenís Book Writers and Illustrators and there are many illustrators to choose from. But I found an illustrator's website and loved his work. It was the highlight of my life. I decided to do this book through an epiphany I had and people just showed up for me as I needed them. It was truly MEANT TO BE.

Q. What jumped out at you when you saw the first sketches and jacket cover?
A. I loved his color choices. He (Brandon Fall) is from Colorado, so his southwestern color scheme was very pleasing to me. We really hit it off throughout the process. Our collaboration was very easy and flowing. Brandon had illustrated six or seven books prior to mine. He does work for Disney and had been in the business for a while. He was so helpful and knowledgeable. The perfect fit for me. Like I said, the right people showed up for me as I needed them. The illustration he chose for the jacket is perfect!!!!

Q. How long did MARSHMALLOWS GALORE take to be publishedófrom the time you decided to self-publish until it printed?
A. It took 18 glorious, fun-filled, baby-step months. I was so sad when it was over. I learned so much.
I now do all the marketing for my books and love every minute of it. Itís a lot of out-of-the-box thinking and itís so much fun. I love to tell the story of how my book actually came over ON A SLOW BOAT FROM CHINA!!!! HAHAHA!!! Itís sooooo true.

Q. Is there anything you would change in the book today if you could reprint it? (Was there a part that you really loved but had to edit out? Or did you think of something later that you wanted to add? )
A. I think the only thing that I would change would be the shape of the giant marshmallow treat that the boy makes to share. Itís round and I think it should have been heart shaped to show more LOVE. There isnít anything else Iíd change.

Q. When you do readings of MARSHMALLOWS GALORE which part of the book gets the best reaction?
A. There are two parts of the story that visually the children oooh!!!and ahh!!! over. The first being the pages where the giant marshmallows are falling from the sky and the pages where the boy and all his friends feed the WHOLE WORLD. Thatís my favorite too.

Q. What is your #1 tip to those who want to write picture books?
First, I want to say that it has to be your passion. Itís not as easy as some might think. And most of all, read and pay attention to what others are doing. Stay informed and be aware; think outside the box and never follow trends. Always do what YOU do. Believe in yourself and know that there is room for all. I think thatís more than one tip, but I could go on. Love what you do. I get to work from homeóin my pajamas if I want to.
To learn more about Donna Mae, visit her website .