Editor Robin Tordini (Henry Holt) talked about ways of connecting what we write with the right editor. She suggested using humor because it “infuses the story with vitality.” Some examples she used were: Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman, Arnie, the Doughnut by Laurie Keller, and Benny and the Binky by Barbro Lindgren.
Editor Jennifer Wingartzahn (Clarion Books) told us she also appreciates humor in a picture book. An example she cited from Clarion’s 2007 list is: The Wonderful Thing about Hiccups by Cece Meng and illustrated by Janet Pederson. Wingartzahn also helped us see revision in a different light in her talk, “Revision as Reinvention.” She led an exercise in which we re-wrote the opening sentence of a story by changing tense, adding alliteration, and changing point of view. Read an interview with Wingartzahn here.
Writer Deborah Wiles urged us to search our hearts for the stories that really matter to us and then to mine our experience for the details that will make them come alive for others. Before the editor, before the agent, before the cover letter, she told us in her sonorous voice, comes the STORY. I read Wiles’ most recent book Aurora County All-Stars to my three boys this summer and it became a fast favorite. I began following her career almost as soon as I started writing myself — always seeking connection to others with Mississippi ties.
Artistic Director Martha Rago (Harper Collins) walked us through the process of making a picture book — from manuscript to final product. She shared her recent experience working on Not a Box and Not a Stick, two gorgeous and ingenious books by Antoinette Portis. She also distributed a very useful packet of basic information that she credited to Scott E Franson and the Book Making 101 section of his website. During my brief time with Rago in a formal critique session, she gave me the names of some photographers whose work I might find interesting and helped me jog loose an idea for my next book.