Toying With Picture Books

February 7th, 2016

I was perfectly situated to write picture books. I loved kids. I loved kids’ books. I wrote advertising. I was set to write with an economy of words. And I did. Or I tried. Deep in my file cabinet I have at least a couple dozen picture book manuscripts, all, if not brilliant, then on the verge of brilliance. At least I thought so. Publishers? Not so much.

You basically know the rest of the story. I ditched the picture books and moved on to novels. Who knew I had so many words waiting to come out?

But weeks ago when I recognized I needed a breather between longer works and had played way too much solitaire and had watched way too many old movies (assuming you can do too much of both), my mind kept drifting to that white cabinet in the basement. Were those stories really so bad as to accumulate hundreds of rejections?

Maybe not. But the writing was.

I wrote those picture books before I understood the real meaning of revision. Now, armed and dangerous, I tackled one of the stories, chopping 200 words, sharpening images, clearing space for an illustrator’s interpretation.

Even though I am concerned that one crucial element may still pose an illustration hiccup – the reason given in my best rejection letter – I am hopeful a different mind will embrace that challenge.


But now, what truly bothers me is this: I thought I’d know when this story would be ready for submission. With years more experience and with distance from picture books and with tremendous technological advances, I’d hoped the old manuscript might come with a Go light that flashed when it was perfect. But I learned, even with picture books, that doesn’t exist.

I don’t know if I’ll ever publish a picture book, and that’s fine; I need to write novels. But a person can play, can’t she? So I work it, one word at a time, with ever-increasing awe and appreciation for the talents of picture book authors.

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