It’s easy to fall into the picture book trenches. Each day, you show up at the computer and hammer away at your current masterpiece. There are so many elements to get right--the opening hook, the appealing main character, the plot, the satisfying yet surprising twist at the end. Sometimes the goal of writing something wonderful can be so consuming, you forget one of the most important story ingredients.
I recently rediscovered this important aspect of story when I read interviews featuring two of the most successful picture book authors today--Adam Rubin (Dragons Love Tacos) and Kelly Bingham (Z is for Moose). In each case, they read what was available, then returned to their computer and decided to write something that would make them laugh. “There were a few books I liked,” said Adam, “but most were saccharine, didactic or just plain boring. I decided to just write something I thought was funny.”
In Kelly’s case, she had a son who was learning to read and she knew he liked humorous books. But when they went to the library to find humorous alphabet books, they couldn’t find anything that fit the bill. (This was some years ago.) So Kelly decided to write her own humorous alphabet book. As she wrote, she kept in mind the kinds of things that made her son laugh. When Kelly’s friends read it, they urged her to submit it. And the rest, as they say, is history.
After reading these interviews, I felt a surge of creative freedom to have fun too. (What had I been waiting for?) My characters didn’t have to stay in a carefully crafted picture book box. I could let loose and who knew what would happen?! It was exciting to trust my instincts and go wherever they took me.
Since my recent fun revival, I’ve written several manuscripts that I’m terribly excited about. I’m sure they'lll sell. (Okay--I always think they’ll sell, but this time I really mean it--lol!) They were just good fun to write, and it was exciting to go where no one (well, me anyway) had gone before.
So step out of those picture book trenches.
And let the fun begin!
Lori Mortensen is an award-winning children’s book author of more than 70 books and over 350 stories and articles. A member of SCBWI, Lori is a frequent speaker at schools, SCBWI conferences, and has worked as a writing instructor for the past eight years at the Institute of Children’s Literature. Recent picture book titles include Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg, (Clarion, 2013), Cindy Moo (HarperCollins, 2012), Come See the Earth Turn – The Story of Léon Foucault (Random House, 2010), and In the Trees, Honey Bees! (Dawn, 2009). To learn more about Lori and her upcoming books, visit her website at www.lorimortensen.com, or read her blog at http://lorimortensen.blogspot.com
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