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WAIT FOR IT…COVER REVEAL!

I am over the moon excited to share in the Yosemite Conservancy’s cover reveal of my latest board book, EAT UP, BEAR! (Ill. by Nadja Sarell).  Living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this book is close to my heart as it helps teach little ones how to keep bears wild, AND every purchase helps support one of our greatest national treasures, Yosemite National Park. The book comes out spring 2021, but you can preorder now through Bookshop. Just press your paw HERE.

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Toot Your Horn

What a great collection of new releases from my fellow SCBWI-tri-regions members!

Kite Tales

TOOT HORN

SCBWI members’ publishing news is something to celebrate here at Kite Tales! Check out whose book is coming to a platform near you or around the world. Horn-tooting and digital hi-fives welcome in thecomments!


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COVER REVEAL! (okay, a bit late…)

Hello Children’s Book Lovers! Boy, it’s been a while and my apologies. Between dealing with a health issue and pandemic stress, I sort of went into a hole. Luckily, I was able to have back surgery a week before the pandemic shut down non-elective surgeries. A few weeks of recovery and strengthening, and I’m physically up to writing again. I also took a few days (weeks?) to climb my way out of the “creative dead zone” that so many writers have found themselves in during the pandemic. Now, I’m ready to look forward to the future, which brings me to this post.

A few weeks ago, my editor sent me the final cover image of my next book, Love Can Come in Many Ways (Chronicle Books, illustrated by Suzy Ultman). Here it is! Isn’t it adorable? It’s a novelty book with ten (count ’em, ten!) felt flaps for little hands to lift. You can see a hint of the gorgeously colored felt in the leopard’s heart seen here.

The book comes out in October but you can pre-order your copy today! Here’s a link to pre-order from Amazon or to pre-order from Indie Bound.

More to come on this book. This summer, I’m going to do a journaling of sorts here, to share how this book went from story idea to dream come true.

Storyboarding: Why and How

We’ve all heard the idea of “pantsers” and “planners” when it comes to writing. Pantsers are those who simply write the story as it comes to them (writing by the seat of their pants). Planners are those who plot out the story before they start the actual writing (planning the story’s main plotpoints in advance).

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Well, I seem to have fallen on both sides of this idea, but when it comes to writing a picture book I tend to fall on the “planners” side. Why? Because picture books are formatted to fit within a specific number of pages, most typically 32. This means that within the standard 32-page picture book format, there will be 14-16 page spreads available for the actual telling of the story (the number of page spreads depends on the publisher and editorial decisions). The rest of the pages in the book are for other information, such as the title page, the publishing information (publisher, copyright, etc.) and sometimes back matter (additional information for the reader).

Why the crash course in picture book formatting? Because I often see new picture book writers tell their story without understanding this. And it often results in a manuscript with paragraph after paragraph of narrative and descriptive text (which doesn’t work for today’s picture books!). As a picture book writer, when I read a PB manuscript, I tend to look for page turn moments. When I finish reading the story, I sit back and scan the overall story and visualize how it might break down into 14-15 illustratable scenes. And this is where many new writers fall short. Their piece feels more like short story or a magazine piece when it lacks distinct scenes and strong page turn moments.

How can you resolve this problem? As you can see from the title above, storyboard your work! What does this mean? It means you plan out the story’s main events or scenes in advance of writing the book. In other words, you break down your story into 14 bite-sized pieces to give yourself a general roadmap BEFORE you start the actual writing. This can help with pacing and force you to think visually, so you see what’s happening in the story FIRST (and picture books are all about the pictures!). You can do use words (from one to a few) or if you’re more visual, sketch out what you see happening (I’ve even used stick figures).

It’s not as hard as it might seem and you have choices in how to do it. Here are a few:

Bookmap: The amazing Carol Heyer (illustrator of my bedtime book, Mother Earth’s Lullaby) shares how to storyboard your picture book AND she’s generous enough to post a printable bookmap. WOW! Thank you, Carol.

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Post-Its: If you’re more of a kinesthetic thinker, perhaps using Post-Its on wall or mirror would work for you. It’s simple enough—count out 14 pieces, place them on a wall or mirror and start thinking about your story—what are the highlights? Where would they occur? Do they build to a climax? Here’s a photo of a ms I storyboarded in my bathroom (I’d laid it out by pages, not by scenes but you get the idea!).

 

Thumbnail sketches: What I find myself doing most often (admittedly because it’s the easiest for me), is to take a legal pad and draw 14 rectangles on it, spaced evenly. This is like Carol’s bookmap, without having to print it out (yeah, I’m that lazy sometimes!). Then I start visualizing my story, trying to pace it out, writing keywords for each scene and sometimes drawing stick figure sketches.

Book dummy: Making a book dummy  is another way to plan out your story. Here, you make a dummy out of typing paper. The advantage to using a dummy is that you experience the physical turn of the page, which can help you “see” where the best page turn opportunities are in your story. That said, I usually save this tool for after my first draft. It’s invaluable for pacing, determining page turns and figuring out where the text is too wordy because I’ve “told” something that’s already in the art.

Regardless of which method you choose, I highly recommend storyboarding your picture book. It can help streamline the writing process once you begin! Good luck and happy writing!