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Great Picture Books–without pictures (aka, Group Hug for text-only PB writers)

April 12, 2013

I write middle grade and young adult novels, but my first love was picture book writing. I love the challenge of telling a complete, entertaining story in a few hundred words. One that children and adults will want to read again. And again.

At least, that’s what I strive for.

Oh, but there are days I moan and groan and fear I’ll never have the satisfaction of knowing my picture books are *out there*, in the hands of readers.
It’s SO HARD, I cry.
So many doors are closed, I wail.
Yes, and especially for writers like me, who aren’t also illustrators, I shout. (to myself. in my head. though very emphatically.)
Authors who are also illustrators have two ways to wow an editor, I lament.
(But then, I imagine the flip side of that coin is that an author/illustrator has to wow an editor on both fronts. Hmm.
*Offers author/illustrators some of my pity-party cake and punch*)
Yes, if only the (enlightened, gorgeous, amazing) agents and editors who rep/acquire picture books could *SEE* what I see in my mind, as I read my 500 words of picture book text…
the expression on the main character’s face as the fun, twisty-bit at the end is revealed,
the illustrated subtext that would yield such fun discoveries for the reader,
the potential for another rich layer of understanding to be woven throughout, on each page spread.
They can’t possibly *get it* without *seeing it*!
Except, here’s the thing…
(this is the bit where I quit smacking my pity-party piñata)
They can.
Picture book editors–and agents who represent picture book authors–see hundreds of picture books each year.
Thousands, maybe, depending on their submission policies.
They can envision those amazing illustration possibilities.
This is their area of expertise.
A story can be great long before it becomes an illustrated book.
In fact, it pretty much has to be.
And agents and editors recognize great picture books, with equally great illustration potential, that are right for their list.
(this is the bit where I step away from the chocolate and pick up a pen)
Text-only picture book writers, group hug and pity-party favors for you as you go. And then, let’s get back to it.
There are great agents and editors on the lookout for great picture books. With or without pictures.
(And P.S., a shout out to the  illustrators with the amazing artistic vision and skill to infuse stories with charms the authors often didn’t even imagine, creating that 50/50 perfect marriage of great story + great pictures that = 100% perfect picture book!)
One Comment
  1. Spending some time in a critique group with talented author-illustrators helped me realize this as well It is incredibly energizing when they get excited about a manuscript and begin to talk about the ways the text could be illustrated!

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