Monday, April 2, 2012

Writing Without Pictures: Guest Author, Debbie Bernstein LaCroix

I am thrilled to introduce a new series on my blog about Picture Book writers who DO NOT illustrate.

Recently, while struggling with a manuscript, I went to my own bookshelf for inspiration and discovered that almost all of my books were from Author/Illustrators.  I didn't have any books that were written by one person and illustrated by another.  I realized that I needed to seek out Picture Book writers who did not illustrate their own work as a way of discovering my own process and place in the Picture Book World.  I needed to find my peeps! 

On Mondays for the month of April, I will be spotlighting a Picture Book writer who will share their experiences with "writing without pictures".

Today I welcome Debbie Bernstein LaCroix!  Debbie is Success Coach and a "go-getter" who's list of accomplishments is incredibly extensive ~ everything from being named to the "Top 40 Under 40 in Siuoxland" by her local paper to starting a Children's Museum in her hometown! 

Debbie lists one of her passions as "Helping People" and I am so honored that she has stopped by to share her experience with us and help me better understand the journey of the non-illustrating writing. 

Her book, "It's Almost Time" was published by Kane Miller Publishing and released in the Fall of 2011. 

Please welcome Debbie!

“Why is there a horse in my book?”
When I sold my first picture book, I was so excited! I had heard from other authors that I wouldn’t get to help pick out the illustrator, but I didn’t think I would be out of the process all together.

My editor, Kira, was great.  Kira told me who the illustrator was. The first thing I did was Google Sarah Chalek. Sarah had a great portfolio on her blog, and I automatically made a mental connection to her. So when I asked if they needed illustration ideas, I was a little sad to hear back, “No thank you, we got it covered.” At that point I knew I could not contact Sarah. This was hard for me, as I am a hands in everything type of person.
Instead, I worked on my own edits, and kept checking Sarah’s blog. Every so often I’d see a sketch, and get excited. Then there would be nothing.
When I met with Kira a few months later, she showed me the thumbnails. It was really cute, but there was a new element to my book, something I wasn’t expecting. See, my book “It’s Almost Time” is all about clocks. But, in the pictures, there was a horse! Yes, a horse! It was a cute horse. And he was fun, but it wasn’t my image.



Kira tried to keep me involved when she could, showing me the book and illustrations at different stages. But otherwise, I didn’t really have any say. I was well behaved, and I waited until the book had gone to press. Then I contacted Sarah to tell her how excited I was to have had the opportunity to work with her.  We became fast Facebook friends. But it was a school visit that finally made me ask her the question:

Why is there a horse in my book?

Here was her response:

Kira asked me to draw animals interacting with the clocks and I really like horses. When I was a kid there was a horse farm a few blocks from my house. It was really out of place in the suburbs. The woman who owned the horses let all the neighborhood kids walk through the stables and feed them carrots. I think they're beautiful animals, even though the one I drew is really goofy.
When I did samples for Kira, I drew all different types of animals and we both liked the horse the best. I wanted to add a bird as a sidekick because it was small, yet could fly at the horse's eye level. I thought about an owl or goose and chose a blue jay because I liked the color.
So there you have it! The horse is creating a story within my story.

I was really lucky. I know not all authors fall in love with their illustrators. I do hope that someday I will have the opportunity to work with her again.

Debbie Bernstein LaCroix lives in Sioux City, Iowa.  Her book "It's About Time" was published by Kane Miller Publishing.  You can read more about Debbie at www.debbielacroix.com and at her blog http://littledebbiewrites.blogspot.com/

23 comments:

  1. Thank you Marcie and Debbie for a great inside look at the author-illustrator connection!

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  2. Thank you Marcie and Debbie. It's interesting to me as a writer/illustrator to read about the an author's experience of having to let go and trust the publishing process. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series!

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  3. I love the idea of reading about the author/illustrator connection or "dis" connection and look forward to reading more...thanks for the insight!

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  4. I think it's wonderful that you're interviewing authors who aren't illustrators. Those who are illustrators and illustrator/authors should pay particular attention to the sensitivities and knowledge of the authors. This can make for positive relationships in the publishing world. Thanks, Debbie and Marcie. :) www.drawacircle.net

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  5. Thankyou Marcie for letting Debbie tell us about her experience of seeing her first book illustrations. I can see me doing what Debbie did and leaving it till much, much later to ask the "why" question...lol.

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  6. Thanks for having me! Sarah Chalek is an amazing illustrator.

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  7. I love the story of the horse! Thanks, Marcie, for spotlighting Debbie ....and thanks, Debbie for being in the spotlight. This was a fun post!

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  8. Thanks, Debbie, for sharing your journey with us! I'm glad it turned out well. I look forward to the day when I work with my illustrator on my first picture book. This was good preparation for me!

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  9. It's so interesting to hear the story behind the story within this story. (Did that make any sense?) I think this is a great idea for a series. Thank you Marcie and Debbie.

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  10. This is really interesting! I read your post even though I didn't feel 'invited' - I illustrate! I also think Debbie is lucky because Sarah Chalek is so good at what she does. I would have felt nervous about the outcome too not being more a part of the process. Now let me add that an illustrator has to have his/her freedom to create - the book becomes their work too. Funky collaboration when you think about it: you are not conversing about the project - there is the middle man/woman. I imagine you felt a little 'dizzy' when the control left your hands, as I feel when a client (graphic design) tells me what to draw, and how, to suit their needs, even when, as a trained professional, I may very well know what is better for them. Lots to ponder!

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  11. I'm terrified of not getting a say in the illustrations. I guess a writer just has to trust that it will work out.

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  12. Thank you Debbie, for sharing the story of your illustrations, and thank you, Marcie, for this great new series!

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  13. Thank you for this post Debbie. I'm an author who doesn't illustrate and this is something that scares me with submitting to publishers... it's interesting that you were completely left out of the process. The horse is very cute, thought :)

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  14. Thanks Debbie for sharing your story. I know I will be a nervous wreck when that day comes for me to let go. But I do understand the need to, and that it is for the better.

    Thanks Marcie for putting this series together. I look forward to reading next week's post.

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  15. Great post Marcie - so interesting to see this side of the story, so to speak!

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  16. Great idea for a series Marcie! This was a terrific kick-off post!

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  17. What a fun post! It sounds like the illustrator did exactly what they are supposed to do - add an additional dimension to the book. I can only imagine how exciting it must have been to see those first thumbnails!

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  18. Love the interview Debbie & Marcie! The book looks great! And yes, Marcie, I agree, this is a super idea for a blog series!

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  19. Thanks for the most excellect read to accompany my morning coffee, Debbie and Marcie! Now this is the way to begin the day :D

    As a writer, something I've done and highly recommend, chat with an illustrator to learn more about their process in the collaboration of a picture book. I've been fortunate to have illustrators in my critique groups. However, I've also paid illustrators at SCBWI conferences to critique my manuscripts. Oh yeah, I've had fellow writers of the non-illustrative type bewildered by my decision. Without a doubt, doing this has helped me grow tremedously as a writer. Definitely a WIP, but I now paint a more vivid picture with my text.

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  20. I love the idea of a story within a story. Those illustrations are fabulous. Congrats on the book and thanks for sharing Debbie and Marcie.

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  21. Since I am not a published author yet, this post was very informative about the process of putting your trust in the illustrator. I agreed, it would be very hard to be good and not say anything. But as much fun as it is to write the story, the illustrator must get just as much joy bringing the story to life.

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  22. Marcie, I'm a new follower and enjoyed this post!

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