What I am reading: picture books

Earlier in the year I wrote about the Master of Arts in Creative Writing course I am undertaking this year. I am currently on a five week break between semesters, hardly enough time to catch my breath. My main interest in writing is books for children, in particular picture books. Over the duration of the course so far I have been regularly reading vast numbers of picture books, just to get a feel for what is being published these days.

There are other benefits too. Writers are readers, first and foremost. If you are not a reader you will struggle to be an effective writer. Period. The picture book genre is a particularly demanding one. A very restricted word count means that every word is important. There has to be balance between the text and the illustrations. Some publishers require a strictly limited vocabulary while others have restricted themes or topics. It is a very competitive field and one that is hard to break into.

Half way through the first semester I had to write and submit the text of a 700 word picture book to the lecturer. The title changed several times during the editing period but it eventually became “Brave Alice,” the story of a little lamb who pretended not to be afraid. The idea came from seeing a flock of lambs frolicking in a paddock in the mid-north of our state (South Australia) about four years ago. The concept simmered away happily until crunch time came; I had to submit a text as an assignment. Would it be good enough? The lecturer – and my fellow students – were a part of the development process, all giving valuable feedback as I developed the text.

The final day came and I submitted the manuscript to the lecturer. A few weeks later I received it back: Distinction. I should not have worried. While that result was very satisfying for all the work put into the text, it counts for very little. The big test is to submit it to a publisher. The frightening prospect of the manuscript being returned still awaits me.

Perhaps I should be like Alice in my story: Be Brave!


2 Responses to “What I am reading: picture books”

  1. Snail says:

    The frightening prospect of the manuscript being returned still awaits me.

    Perhaps I should be like Alice in my story: Be Brave!

    And Prepared.

    Good luck, Trevor. Sounds like you’re having fun (including the trepidation — it’s all part of the joy of learning, ain’t it?)

  2. Trevor says:

    Thanks Snail. Trepidation ain’t the word – sometimes it is sheer, unadulterated panic. But one copes – and our worst fears are usually nothing like the reality – in fact, reality can be quite dull at times. Take Big Brother for example. Totally boring. (Not that I’ve ever watched more than about 30 seconds of the show – I have better things to do with my life)