I promised I’d share more from the conference so here are some things I learned in Larry Rosler’s session on Picture Books. Rosler, who is editorial director at Boyds Mills Press, argued that in a true Picture Book, there are two levels of communication aimed at the reader: visual and verbal. The viewer derives information from the interplay between the visual and the verbal. He adopted an analogy I thought rang true to my experience with Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. He said Picture Books function like films; they are a sequence of images and words. I remember telling friends that I felt like a stage manager, a special effects coordinator, a script-writer, and a cinematographer as I made the images (and wrote the text) for the book. Think of the text as the sound track; the illustrations are the adjectives.
He encouraged us (a group of writers, primarily) to make a storyboard as we write our picture books so we can check whether we have written enough “scenes” for a 32-page book. He recommended Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books by Uri Shulevitz.
In his keynote speech at the Southern Breeze SCBWI fall conference, Larry Rosler, editorial director at Boyds Mills Press, urged writers to create stories that will transform readers. He suggested the most powerful stories, the ones readers return to over and over, make readers think about life in ways they hadn’t previously and, indeed, prompt them to say, “Ah, that is what it is like to live.”
Our conference blogging session turned out to be a talk session about blogging because we weren’t able to get access to the internet at the high school where the conference was held. I am writing this in the hotel room. I’ll share more from the conference when I get back home.
I discovered today that our model snail died sometime earlier this week. I am sad because I was hoping it would join me on some of my school and library visits for Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. Perhaps, I’ll find a new one in the spring.
Though this photograph does capture the down feeling of losing my snail, I had a different reason for taking it. I am going to the Writing and Illustrating for Kids conference this weekend and I’ll be doing some blogging on-site. Robert Kittinger will be leading some sessions on creating a web presence and at the end of the day, we’re going to have a blogging session.
I’ve learned through painful experience that I should do a trial run whenever I am changing equipment or software. In this case, I’ll be using my laptop (not my desktop) and I’ll be using Photoshop Elements (not the full version of Photoshop). I’ll be using a different card reader to transfer photographs from my camera’s media card to the laptop.
So, I collected all the different equipment and re-set my camera to take raw images and jpgs (this saves some time in transferring images and in readying them for the web). I took this photograph of my dog Tanner. He had just let out a big sigh (he’s the most laid back member of our family).
So far, everything has worked. I just need to figure out how I’ll connect my laptop to the internet in the high school cafeteria where the blogging session will be held.
All previous posts have now been restored. I’m not sure whether I’ll be able restore people’s comments. I’ll check into that. It wasn’t an easy process to re-do the posts, but as with any technology I try to use, my screw-ups teach me as much (or more) than my successes.
Sorry for the long absence. We’ve been working behind the scenes to re-design the blog and to figure out how to re-do the entries we lost when we updated the WordPress software. And, honestly, I was a bit deflated by the hugeness of the task. In the meantime, we also have added a computer so I am working on a different machine (not the new one; that went to the techie in the family). It’s good to be back at the blog.
This is a photograph of Nathan and Douglas from 2001, the year that Nathan found the first wolfsnails in our yard. In the photo, he’s three and Douglas is two. Douglas is holding his earthworms. The marigolds in the background are Nathan’s. He loved to quote the line from Sarah Stewart’s The Gardener, “We gardeners never retire.”
I dug this up because I am working on a slide show for my website to tell the story behind, “Nathan’s Pet Snails,” and Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. For a good visual take on how much time has passed, I’m posting a recent photo of Nathan.
We decided that the ultimate test image would include an answer sheet. Richard found one on the web. We wanted to have some action in the image so we decided to photograph a child filling in the the bubbles. We live in a majority African American city, in which the public schools are 97 percent African American. We decided to recruit one of our son’s friends and classmates.
Here is another attempt at making a pencil illustration. I like this one because of the shadow. I like the first one because it has a 2 on it, which identifies it more clearly as a pencil used for a standardized test. You may notice that this entry is tagged for the Building Website category as well as Photography. I am working steadily (OK, more like in fits and starts) toward getting my website fully functional. Come on over to see the newly published gallery on the photographs page. Click here and then click on photographs.
One of my freelance jobs is writing and designing a newsletter for our local chapter of Parents for Public Schools. This fall the head of the Jackson chapter wants the newsletter to help parents understand Mississippi’s new standardized tests. Richard and I have been playing around with images to illustrate the newsletter. Here is one. When I served as a test proctor last spring — when some questions for the new test were being tried out in the field — I was struck by how the only thing students were able to keep of their own during tests was their pencils.
Remember when I said I had been holed up in my sewing room. Well, here’s one of my most recent creations. In honor of Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator, I decided to make a tiny quilt. I figure I can use it at presentation tables to add visual interest and give me something to talk about. I recently had a birthday and I got a new sewing machine. This one has lots of neat bells and whistles that I’ve never had in my decades of sewing. I am like a kid in a candy store. In fact, as soon as I finish this, I’m going back upstairs to the sewing room. Wall-hangings, Christmas stockings, and baby quilts await.
The galleys arrived today: four copies of the book on proof-quality paper trimmed and stapled at the spine. Each looks like a magazine. I’m going to be sending one to an expert in the hopes he finds it worth commenting on. I will take the others with me on my round of visits to local bookstores. I’ll encourage them to carry the book and offer to do signings. My editor is going to set me up to talk with a head honcho at Boyds Mills before I embark on these visits. I’m eager for the advice. In the same batch of mail, I got back a (rejected) proposal I had sent to a different editor at Boyds Mills. I know that everyone in the know (and all the books) will tell you that getting the first book published doesn’t mean anyone — including editors at the house that published your first one — will take anything else you write. There’s just this little thing that happens when you get the call that someone wants your manuscript (“I did it; I can write!”); and then there’s the little thing that happens when you have successfully navigated the revision process (“I learned so much; Everything I write after this will be MUCH better.) Of course, both of these sentiments have bits of truth in them. The hard truth, however, is that every manuscript that finds its way into print must be extra-special and it must fit (i.e. match a publisher’s idea of what will sell in the marketplace.) There are lots of well written manuscripts floating around out there that don’t have that special something. The truth is that some of them are mine.