Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Getting Over Ourselves and On With Writing

Week of October 9—An Interview with Picture Book Author Jean Reidy
Wednesday, October 12—Getting Over Ourselves and Getting On With Writing

This is the third installment in a five-part interview with picture book author, Jean Reidy.

Rob Sanders: What do we need to keep in mind when writing for children?

Jean Reidy: If you notice, none of these key components mention yesterday have anything to do with “the author.” This serves as an important reminder that when we write for children, we need to get over ourselves. In my experience, I've identified five ways in which we, as picture book authors, can do that.

1. We need to get over our perspective. Whether we’re parents, teachers, librarians, childcare providers, or even simply grown-up kids, we have marvelous experiences from which to draw stories. But that perspective can also get in the way. We might want to teach or discipline or judge or convey a message. If that's the case, we might be writing for the wrong reasons. We need to put on a new pair of glasses—and if they're attached to a funny nose and mustache, even better—and view the world through a different lens. A kid’s lens.

2. We need to get over our stories. So while we mine our daily lives and history for story ideas, we might be tempted to tell a story exactly as it happened. Or tell our kid’s story because it was so cute. Or write a picture book that reminds us of a childhood story we loved. But the story we’re fixated on can suddenly get in the way of the story we should be writing. We need to remember who we’re writing for—kids today. And with that kid audience in mind, and our treasure chest of inspiration, we can turn our real stories upside-down and inside-out to reveal fresh stories that kids will love.

3. We need to get over our comfort. In other words—take risks. We can learn from the master of risk-taking himself, Mo Willems. After all, it was Mo who picked a pigeon for his main character.

4. We need to get over our words. My books TOO PURPLEY!, TOO PICKLEY! and TOO PRINCESSY! all weigh in at a whopping 48 words each. TIME (OUT) FOR MONSTERS, coming out next year, has approximately 150 words and ALL AROUND MY TOWN (coming 2013) has about 100 words. While LIGHT UP THE NIGHT is my longest picture book thus far, at approximately 650 words, it's the repetition in the cumulative verse that's driving up the word count. We spend hours poring over our carefully chosen text, but we need to remember that there’s so much at play in the picture book experience—text, art, page design, the read-aloud experience, relatability—if we think it’s all about our words, we need to think again.

5. We need to get over our egos and excuses. This is a humbling business and it’s best to approach it on our knees rather than from a pedestal. Bonus—you'll see your audience better that way!

It’s Your Turn!
1. Is there anything you need to get over in order to be the rest writer you can be?


Lori Ann said...

This was a great article. Thank you Jean & Rob!

Lori Ann

Jean Reidy said...

Thank you, Lori. Have a great day!

Heather at My Coupon Coop said...

Fantastic! Kudos to Jean & Rob!

Jean Reidy said...

Thank you, Heather!!

Smithwright said...

Love this, Jean. So important to remember these five come sometimes it is so hard?!!!

Jean Reidy said...

It's hard for me too, Smithwright. I need to remind myself all the time. Thanks for stopping by.