Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday Writers Weigh In: When the Monsters are Real

The sun came out briefly today in NYC.  I have never been so excited to see blue sky.  But quickly the clouds have rolled back in.

As I was holed up in my Brooklyn apartment during the storm, I could not help but think about all of the other creatives doing what they could to maintain some semblance of normalcy as we waited and waited.  Some, I am sure, were using their laptops, getting as much written and saved as possible before a power outage.  Others were probably using pens, pencils, paper and other archaic materials.  I am sure it is only a matter of time before we see all that was "created" during this time.

All in all, NYC has faired well and you can be sure we will come back better than ever soon. 

Today is Halloween.  The Greenwich Village Parade which is an annual fixture was canceled.  And honestly, I am still reeling from some of the real life horrors, that Halloween is far from my mind.

I was going to post about Halloween Picture Books and have others weigh in with their favorites.  But Tara Lazar and Peter Adam Salomon do a great job of that today at  (btw, quick reminder that PiBoIdMo starts tomorrow, so sign up!)

Instead, as my own mind tries to grasp the long road ahead of so many of us, I realize that books are a HUGE help on this journey.  Bookstores did a great business before the storm and some even rode it out.  My local indie bookstore was open to provide some much needed escapism in paper form.

The Red Cross asked residents of Brooklyn to chip in and help a local shelter which was in need of towels and...wait for it...BOOKS!  Immediately Greenlight Bookstore in the Fort Greene neighborhood Tweeted, "You guys provide the towels, we are on our way with the books!"  Doesn't that warm your heart?

And books don't just provide an escape, they also help us process.  Both in the writing and the reading.

So, this brings me to today's Weigh In. 

What are some Picture Books about "real life tragedies"?  Or books that give comfort when the world is a scary place?

I know some were written around Hurricane Katrina and others about WWII. Weigh in and let me know.  Afterall, its time to brainstorm for PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) and I know this tragedy is front and center in my mind.

Monday, October 29, 2012

WriWOPi: Deborah Underwood

Blogging straight to you from Frankenstorm today in NYC!  It takes more than an epic storm to hold us kidlit writers back.To everyone in the storm's path, please be safe.  Stay home.  Read.  Write.  Just think of the influx of storm stories that will flood editors desk in about 6 months.  :)
But, the show must go on at The Write Routine.  And today I have a very special guest. 
I fell in love with THE QUIET BOOK the second I picked it up.  Deborah Underwood's simple, yet endearing words matched with the amazing illustrations of Renata Liwska is pure picture book magic!  Along with THE LOUD BOOK and THE CHRISTMAS QUIET BOOK, I think we are witnessing the creation of some classics.
Please welcome Deborah Underwood....
Leaving room for the illustrator is one of the most important lessons for picture book writers. And I’m sorry to say it took me about six years to learn it. SIX YEARS. I think that was because I didn’t really understand why we need to leave room, why we shouldn’t write a lot of description. Now--finally!--I do.

Here’s an exercise I like to do in my writing workshops. Please get out your crayons and play along:

First, draw a house. It can be any kind of house--a person house, a dog house, a bird house, a Martian house. It can be any shape, any size, any color.

Done? Good. Now draw a white, two-story house with a red roof, green shutters, and a pink plastic flamingo in the front yard.

I suspect if I collected and displayed all your virtual papers, your first drawings would be wonderfully diverse and imaginative. The second ones? Less diverse. Less imaginative.

Because with every descriptor I gave, I took a choice away from you. You wanted it to be a purple house? Too bad; I said white. You thought it would have been great to make the house seven rickety stories tall? It might have been great, but you couldn’t do it, because I said two stories. You wanted a burlwood ogre in the garden? Nope; it had to be a flamingo.

So there it is. Every descriptive word in a picture book limits your illustrator.

This lesson was powerfully brought home to me when we were working on THE QUIET BOOK. In my manuscript, “Coloring in the lines quiet,” was followed by “Thinking of a good reason you were drawing on the wall with a green crayon quiet.”

My wonderful editor, Kate O’Sullivan, suggested deleting “with a green crayon.”

I resisted. I whined. I said I liked the specificity of the green crayon. Kate didn’t think we needed it. I reluctantly acquiesced.

Thank goodness! Because this is how the brilliant Renata Liwska chose to illustrate those lines:

The moose’s self-portrait on the wall is one of my favorite parts of the book. If Renata had been limited to showing a green crayon, she might not have come up with that idea--what self-respecting moose draws himself in green? The green crayon business was completely gratuitous. It would have tied Renata’s hands. And the book would have been diminished.

 When I finally had the pleasure of meeting Renata in person, she said that the spareness of The Quiet Book text had appealed to her, that it had allowed her to immediately begin seeing pictures in her head. She said that if there’s too much description, she feels as if she’s tracing a line that’s already been drawn. If you were an illustrator, would you rather trace or create?

So I learned my lesson. In The Christmas Quiet Book, I wrote text like:



Did Renata need me to tell her what to draw? Clearly not.

But what if you see pictures in your head while you write? What if you know the way your words are supposed to look?

I feel your pain! But think of it this way: what if every time you sat down to write, you had an illustrator hanging over your shoulder saying things like, “Can’t we set the story in Mexico instead of Philadelphia? And can’t the main character be a macaw, instead of a fox? I really like drawing macaws.”

Ridiculous, right? Because it’s not the illustrator’s job to tell you what to write--just as it’s not your job to tell her what to draw.

I, personally, am a total control freak (another reason this lesson has been so difficult for me). But it’s only in letting go that we make space for synergy, that phenomenon in which, because of the contributions of two creative people, the whole truly does become greater than the sum of its parts.

Does that synergy alway materialize? Nope. But it’s worth taking the risk. Because when it does, it’s picture book magic.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friendspiration Friday: Dr. Mira Reisberg

Dr. Mira Reisberg is known to many as the Picture Book Whisperer.  That is the reason why I decided to take an online class through her Picture Book Academy this past fall.  However, it is her generosity, her enthusiasm and her warmth that make Mira a Friendspiration.

When a writer shares their work with someone with the intent of critique it can be quite daunting.  Afterall, each writer thinks of their manuscripts as one of their children.  But in Mira's hands, manuscripts are nurtured and cared for. 

It is my great pleasure to introduce you to a truly fabulous lady and friend...Dr. Mira Reisberg!

What do you do in real life?
In real life I am the Director of the Picture Book Academy where I teach my own picture book e-courses. I also do individual consultations helping authors and/or illustrators create their own successful picture books. I’m kind of a one-trick pony - picture books, picture books, picture books : ) I also write my own stories and illustrate as well as make art for the sheer joy of it. I have a very rich life full of purpose, love, and joy.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I grew up in a very working-class neighborhood to Holocaust survivor parents who had lost everything during the war. We were greatly encouraged from very early on to be creative as a way of channeling feelings and dealing with life. I was always an overachiever, and besides getting in trouble a lot, I was often sent to the headmaster’s office to read my stories to him as everyone seemed to like them. Although I always loved writing, I was much more drawn to making art. I fell into illustrating children’s picture books from an exhibition that the publisher of Children’s Book Press saw and loved saw and from there I fell into writing as well.

I don’t think I was a very good writer until I studied for my PhD and developed more of my left brain because although I was always very creative and innovative, there were too many things that I didn’t know about being a good writer. I learned more about the formal structures of writing and how to read picture books much more critically. I now do this in my free picture book teaching videos every Monday at

How often to do you write? Where? What time of day?
I write a lot because I tend to do a lot of line edits for critiques in my courses and in my individual consultations. In terms of my own writing, this is totally weird, but I do my best writing when someone is driving in a comfy car and I’m sitting in the passenger seat on 1 hour or more freeway trips. Weird I know, but there it is. I still do most of my writing old school by hand and if my assistant Marge is there, she types it up for me then I revise. In terms of time, it’s pretty random but I do at least 6 hours of different kinds of writing every day.

What was your favorite story/book as a child? and why?
Growing up in Australia, our books were different than yours here and were mostly from England. The book that influenced me the most was The Water-babies by Charles Kingsley. It’s a Victorian era book that helped influence the Chimney Sweep Act of 1864 and is a mix of both progressive and regressive politics within a strange otherworldly densely written story. At the time I had no idea of the political subtexts in the story but wonder how much influence it had on my social justice orientation. Of course as a really young child, what impacted me most were the exquisite illustrations and dreaminess of the basic story of a young runaway chimney sweep who dies and is reborn underwater. I have no idea who the illustrator was as the book has been reprinted many times and I’ve never been able to find that version. I also wrote about it as part of my dissertation on children’s picture books and have since written a more in-depth article that I haven’t sent out anywhere yet.

What kind of stories do you like to write? Where do you get your inspiration?
I’m a bit all over the board in terms of what I write. I have a biography on Buckminster Fuller that’s in front of an agent panel right now, a simple rhyming animal book about actions and opposites for really young kids, an imagining of who Mona Lisa might have been, a fun insect book called “A Fly Walks into a CafĂ©,” oh and a super weird story called “10 Jews in Search of a Story” that I’m revising for the millionth time from a totally different perspective despite having dummied it up with illustrations twice - groan. I wish I was as good a writer for myself as I am an editor for others where it’s so easy to see what exactly is going on and what’s needed. I guess it’s like seeing and fixing other people’s problems versus seeing and fixing your own - sigh. I’m also pretty dreadful at sending my work out. Wondering if that’s familiar to others here?

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be an artist. This was in the days when being an artist was like being a criminal and pretty much confined you to a life of poverty. My dad who had been in Paris after the war and seen the starving artists there would say, “Artist shmartist. Be a teacher!” And here I am many years later - an artist, a writer, and a teacher to many award-winning and best-selling authors and illustrators.

If you could go back in time and tell your 8 year old self one thing, what would it be?
I’d use this great quote from my exquisite 86 year old mom-in-law’s fridge (she’s becoming a Buddhist). “In the end, everything will work out fine. And if it hasn’t worked out fine- then it isn’t the end.” This could apply to most kids’ picture books as well : )

What is the greatest piece of writing advice you have ever received?
This is such a hard one. Not sure if it’s the greatest or even where I heard it but one of my favorites that I tell my students is: “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Now of course this doesn’t apply to non-fiction but it’s still pretty handy working with folks who are doing stories based on something that happened to them or in their families. Another one is the old KISS - keep it simple stupid, which mostly means for me simplifying and getting rid of anything extraneous that doesn’t move the story forward or isn’t of core importance. I find it super helpful.


Marcie - thank you for this. I really enjoyed taking a moment to reflect on things and love doing guest interviews. I also love it that we’ve become friends and can’t wait to celebrate your first big picture book sale with you!

Want to find out more about Mira and receive special offers?  Here’s the link to subscribe to her fun gift-filled newsletter

Mira's next online class starts on October 29th and there are only 6 slots left! Sign up at Mira says, "I won’t be running it again for a while because I’ll be developing and teaching an illustration e-Course next February." You don't want to be left out!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

We have a WINNER!

I am so sorry, but it seems I forgot to announce the winner of the signed copy of THREE NINJA PIGS!  I guess with the upcoming NYC Marathon, PiBoIdMo, my October manuscript for 12x12, and launching my Teachers Guide business ( of which I have already sold 3!) it totally slipped my mind.  Ugh!

My apologies!

So the winner is...

LISA NAGEL (@anythingbooks)!!!!!

Congrats, Lisa!  And thanks for Following!

And a special thank you to Corey Rosen Schwartz for the generous prize.  :) KIYA!

See you all tomorrow for a special Friendspiration Friday!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Writers Weigh In: It's November! What's Your Acronym?

November is upon us and many writers worldwide are preparing and waiting in anticipation. 


It has nothing to do with the US Presidential election.

It has nothing to do with Thanksgiving (although, its a darn good holiday!)

It has to do with a month of challenges. 

You see, November is a month for creating in the writing community.

If you are a novelist, consider joining NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  This challenge sets out to  "provide the support, encouragement, and good old-fashioned kick in the pants you need to write the rough draft of your novel in November."

And if you are a picture book writer (as yours truly!) consider registering for PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month).  This challenge, created by the ever talented and truly amazing Tara Lazar, finds participants writing one picture book idea a day for 30 days.  Lazar states, " You might think of a clever title. Or a name for a character. Or just a silly thing like “purple polka-dot pony.” The object is to heighten your picture-book-idea-generating senses. Ideas may build upon other ideas and your list of potential stories will grow stronger as the days pass."  Those who sign-up for Picture Book Idea Month will be eligible for prizes—like feedback from one of four literary agents and critiques from picture book editors!

So, the year is not over yet! 

Writers, Weigh In!  What will you do to keep your writing muse busy?  Pick your acronym and let's get to creating!

Happy Writing everyone!

Monday, October 22, 2012

WriWOPi: Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a workshop or seminar or class taught by the lovely Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen do it! 

At the New Jersey SCBWI Conference in June I was able to attend Sudipta's session on Picture Book Pacing and I have to say, this "chick" knows her stuff!  She's a natural teacher. 

The Science World does not know what they are missing, but we are lucky to have her in the PB World with her gift of humor, her sense of style and her amazing stilletos!

I am honored to have Sudipta on the blog today as part of the WriWOPi series.

It’s my picture book. I don’t care what the names on the spine say. I don’t care that after my name, there’s another name, and that name gets a special designation (illustrated by) while mine is left out in the cold alone. It’s MY picture book.

After all, it was my late night inspiration. It was my careful chosen imagery. It was my inventive plot and hilarious details.
It’s MY picture book. Right?

W-R-O-N-G. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

When I started writing picture books, I truly believed it was MY book that I generously allowed an illustrator to work on. But the longer I do this, I realize that Hillary Clinton was right – it takes a village. Not just to raise a child, as most people remember about her 1996 book. Hillary was also right about this: “It takes a village to bring a book into the world.”
Not just one author. A whole village. Author, illustrator, editor, art director, assistants, copy editor, sales/marketing folks, publisher, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And while there are some in that village who contribute less and some who contribute more, there is no way for a sole author to claim to be the principal architect of a picture book project. When there is both an author and an illustrator involved, the resulting book is a true collaboration.
Which means it’s not MY picture book. It’s OUR picture book.

If you’re an author who writes without pictures, that realization might make you uneasy, or even sad. How can someone so easily give up creative control of a project she has brought to life? How can she agree to be relegated to co-creator instead of sole creator?

The answer has two parts:
(1)    If you cannot draw (as I cannot do), you have no choice. No drawings = no picture book. Therefore, get over it.

(2)    In the words of Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
In truly great picture books, the illustrations do not echo the text, nor do the words describe the pictures. In truly great picture books, the combination of text and art creates something so much better than either of the individual pieces. They support each other and enhance each other. They go together like peanuts and Paydays, like Marley and reggae.
Every time I write a picture book, I have a clear idea in my head about what the art should look like. And not once has the art actually looked like it did in my head. I won’t lie to you and say that that never leads to disappointment – at least initially. But I’ve been very, very lucky, and as soon as I can let go of my preconceived notions and view the art with an open mind, I’ve always been pleasantly surprised. Not because the illustrations show what I’ve written in the story, but because the addition of the art has added dimensions that I couldn’t have done with text alone.  Here are some examples…

In PIRATE PRINCESS, Princess Bea fails at a number of pirate ship chores, including serving as the galley cook. JillMcElmurry takes this passing reference of a failed stew and does this with it:
I wish “stinky fish” and “even more salt” had been my idea.

Look at the terror on the animals’ faces in HAMPIRE:
 All the words say is that “the critters braced for Hampire’s fangs,” but what Howard Fine has done is crystallize that moment of terror – and then heighten in with subliminal details. Look at all those sharp, painful farm implements in the background, each one capable of ripping a body to shreds – just like the Hampire can? Maybe?
I like to joke that CHICKS RUN WILD is my autobiography – the story of little chicks at bedtime who, every time Mama kisses them good night, proceed to run wild. But Ward Jenkins took this to a new level – he put our kids in the book. See the chicken drawings above the chicks’ beds? Each of those chickens was drawn by one of our kids, because each of those chicks is one of our kids.

Each of my picture books, well, it’s not MY picture book, no matter what I may have thought.
It’s OUR picture book, and it’s better for it. (And I’m so glad I can’t draw.)

You can read more about Sudipta and her upcoming projects on her website (, her FB page ( and/or her blog (

Friday, October 19, 2012

NEW! Teachers Guides Tailored for You and a chance to win a signed copy of THREE NINJA PIGS!

You wrote a book and it was published?  Hooray for you!
But now you are drowning in a schedule of school and library visits! 
You are a writer NOT a teacher! 
What do you do? 
How do you fill the other 40 minutes when it only takes 5 minutes to read your book?!
How do you entice teachers to want to use your book year after year?

That’s where I come in! 

I can develop a guide for you to share with teachers and librarians, as well as tailored lessons and activities that you can use for your Author Visits.

I am a former teacher and I am here to help!  I am currently creating Teacher’s Guides for Picture Books, Middle Grade novels and Young Adult novels. 

You will receive:

·         An initial phone consultation to talk about your wants and needs.

·         An a la carte menu for your guide.  Pick and choose which topics you want covered, or go all the way with a thorough cross-curricular option.

·         Activities created specifically for your Author Visits.

·         A guide fully developed to enrich students’ experiences.  

·         Lessons and activities which are "core curriculum standard compliant".

·         Options for every budget!

I just love helping students connect and engage with a piece of literature  so that it suddenly comes alive for the individual!  
Click here to see my latest Teacher's Guide for the fabulous THREE NINJA PIGS by Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat.
If you are interested in contacting me about developing a guide for your book, please email me at 
And today, to help me celebrate this wonderful new endeavor, Corey Rosen Schwartz will be giving away one signed copy of THREE NINJA PIGS!  (Thank you, Corey!)
To enter, become a follower of me (MarcieColleen1) on Twitter or be a follower of this blog AND comment below.  The winner will be chosen over the weekend and notified next week. 
Marcie Colleen has a bachelor’s degree in Education of English and Language Arts from Oswego State Unversity and a Masters degree in Educational Theater from New York University.  She is a former classroom teacher in New York State.  She has served as a curriculum creator for the Central New York Institute of Aesthetic Education, Syracuse Stage, Tony Randall’s National Actors Theater, and various Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, as well as the International Lysistrata Project in 2003. She was the Director of Education for TADA! Youth Theater in NYC creating and managing educational programming reaching over 30,000 students and families in the NYC Metro area a year.  She lives in Brooklyn, NY and is swiftly chasing the dream to picture book publication for her own stories.


Monday, October 15, 2012

WriWOPi: Amy Dixon

It is with great excitement that I start the week introducing Amy Dixon.

I first met Amy through the PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) community.  Although she lives across the country I felt a certain kinship based on a few of our passions:  writing and running.  I was especially excited to learn that her debut picture book (releasing tomorrow!) was about a little determined mouse named Preston who sets out to run the NYC Marathon!  Needless to say, Preston has been a source of inspiration for me these last few months as I set out to complete the same goal.

So, run...don't walk to purchase MARATHON MOUSE written by Amy Dixon, illustrated by Sam Denlinger and published by Sky Pony Press.

Please welcome a new member of the PUBLISHED Picture Book author community, Amy Dixon!  And a huge congratulations to you, my friend!

In the picture book writing community, I've often been a part of conversations that include some form of this comment:
"Wouldn't it be soooo much easier if we were just writers AND illustrators? Then we could make our manuscripts look exactly the way we want!"

And in theory, it feels like it could be easier.
No stressing over whether or not to include an art note.

Word count worries would disappear.
And snagging an agent would be a snap, right?

Would it actually be easier for us? I suppose, if you don't include that pesky learning to be an illustrator stuff.
But what if we are actually asking the wrong question? What if the question isn't, "What would be easier?" but instead, "What would make my picture book better?"

Because here's the thing. From the moment you hear your illustrator’s name, to the moment you see the art for the first time, you will be filled with gray-hair-and-deep-wrinkle-line-producing worry. It’s true, being a picture book writer might well mean embracing Golden Girls status well before your time. It is NOT easy.

When we bring two artistic minds together, we've just DOUBLED our creative possibilities. There are ideas brought to the page by our illustrators that we likely would have never come up with on our own. We all have backgrounds and perspectives and worldviews that, even for creative thinkers, are limited. But now, because we've allowed our work to be expanded upon by another creative force, we've increased the depth and even the reach of our story.
One example from Marathon Mouse has to do with a secondary character in the story. It is a book primarily about a mouse family, but near the end, a little girl makes an appearance.

Now, I have three little girls myself, who (in my totally unbiased opinion) are the cutest things ever, so of course I had pictured someone who looked a little like them. Chubby cheeks, fair skin, big blue eyes...sort of a Gerber-esque quality. So when I saw the art for the first time, I registered a delighted surprise when I got to this image:
Isn't she pretty much the cutest thing ever? I am seriously, madly in love with her.

Is she something that I would have come up with myself? Probably not.
Is she the perfect representation of the little girl I wrote in the story? Absolutely.

So, while handing our words over and releasing creative control of our “babies,” might send us running to stock up on Clairol, it can and most often does, make our picture books BETTER. And hopefully, as we travel down the road (and back again) of picture book writing, we will have collaborated to create books whose depth and reach we could have never imagined.
Amy Dixon grew up as one of seven siblings, so the only peace and quiet she ever got was inside a book. Once she had her own kids, she rediscovered her love for picture books at the public library. It was the one place she knew all four of her kids would be happy . . . and quiet. She writes from her home, where she lives with her four little inspirations and her marathon-running husband, Rob.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friendspiration Friday: Your Super Friends

I hate to say it, but we have run out of Friendspiration Friday posts. Therefore, I have a choice. I can either discontinue this popular series. can step up to the plate and tell us about your Friendspiration.

I like the second option.

So what should you do?

Email me at and tell me you have a Friendspiration you would like to introduce us to.

Then you are well on your way to Guest Blogging on a future Friday!!!

You choose the person. You choose the format. You can even borrow the same interview questions I asked.

Its that easy. And it feels good to honor someone else.

So step up.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Writers Weigh In and the BOY + BOT Winner!

It might be rainy and dreary in NYC, but it always fun to brighten someone's day by announcing that they are a winner!  Now, don't get me wrong, I personally think that each and every one of my Followers is a winner...but in the BOT-astic Prize Give-Away there could only be one!

Thanks again to Ame Dyckman for the fabulously funny post and for the Prize Package.

The Winner chosen through is....

Kathy Ellen Davis!!!!! 

Send me an email at with your contact info, Kathy Ellen. 
And congrats!

Now, for Wednesday Writers Weigh In.

The question to ponder today is

"How does where you live influence, if at all, your writing?"

Monday, October 8, 2012

WriWOPi: Ame Dyckman (and a Bot-astic Give Away!)

I am beyond honored to have Ame Dyckman on The Write Routine as part of the October WriWOPi series. 

If you haven't read BOY + BOT yet, you really should.  Its a perfect example of simplicity in language, weighing in at around 240 words.  It is a true testament to the need for a flawless marriage between words and art.

Ame is also one of the funniest, wackiest and most generous people I know.  She quickly agreed to come share her journey with well as provide a fabulous Give-Away! 

For a chance to win a Bot-astic Prize Package which includes a signed copy of BOY + BOT, as well as other fabulous swag...please become a Follower of this blog and leave a comment below.  A winner will be chosen on Tuesday at 12noon EST.

Ame, take it away!

You know when the team captains go back-and-forth choosing players, until there’s just one smallish person left that nobody wants?  
I’m always that person.

I don’t mean dodge ball.  (I’m halfway decent at dodge ball, unless I get a story idea in the middle of a game.)

I’m talking about Pictionary. 

I’m The Worst Pictionary Player on the Planet.  (Title pending.  The Guinness folks are coming tomorrow.)

 Why am I so bad at this game?

 I can’t draw.

like to draw.  But it’s nigh impossible for me to draw something that resembles what I actually set out to draw.

THE KID (peering over my shoulder):  “Is that a bumblebee?”

 ME:  “Close.  T-Rex.”

 THE KID (pats my head):  “Good try, Mom.”

I’ll give you another example—with a picture I drew.  (Please don your safety goggles now.)

In the early stages of BOY + BOT, my lovely Knopf editor, Michele Burke, approached me with a possible idea for the endpapers of our book. 

Michele asked me to compose a list of robotic terms for Bot that could also (humorously) apply to Boy. 

            “Sure!” I said.  “Words?  No problem!”

            Then she added, “And draw a little diagram.”

            (Record scratch.)

But I did.  And I thought I’d be extra-cool by drawing it on the computer. 

Remember:  you’ve been warned.



(Laughing with you.) It’s beyond awful, right? It’s awfully awful!

However, my imperfect illustration perfectly illustrates one of my favorite writing mottos:

(I’m going to get this as a stitched sampler for my house.  Or possibly, a tattoo.) 

So if you’re Illustrating Challenged like me, how can we show our appreciation for the folks—THANK YOU, DAN!—who’re responsible for bringing our characters to loveable (and recognizable) life?

(Yells from mountaintop.)  “Write text that will be FUN TO ILLUSTRATE-ATE-ate…!”

Here are some of my favorite tricks:

·         Create emotional characters. 

·         Add action. 

·         Use scene changes.

 And the Really, REALLY Important One:

·         Write short.

Wow.  I could hear you groan from here.

I know writing short is tough!  But wait!  I have a Secret Tip for Cutting Your Word Count!  Ready?

Wear clothes with pockets.

It’s true!  Pockets!  Print out the latest draft of your picture book manuscript, fold it up, and put it in your pocket.  Carry it around with you as you go about your day.  (Try this, novelists!  Ha ha ha!  PB Power!)

Sorry.  Genre pride.  Back to the Secret Tip.

Then whenever you get a minute, take your manuscript out and cross out three words—just three little unneeded descriptive words!—before you put it away again.          

Repeat as needed. 

I don’t know why this method works, but it does!  (Just don’t forget to remove your manuscript from your pocket before you do the wash.  Speaking from experience here.  See picture of recently washed and dried manuscript.)

Writing short goes for your art notes, too.  They should contain only what is necessary to get your non-text idea across. 

Think this:

            There was the monster!  (Tiny, cute.)

 Not this:

            There was the monster!  (Tiny and cute, with big eyelashes, purple polka-dotted fur, itty bitty horns, and a piece of pink dryer lint stuck in his bellybutton.)

(Don’t know what this thing is, but I caught it eating manuscript remnants in my washing machine last week.)

Struggling with what goes in text and what goes in art notes?  In addition to studying your weekly Mountain of Picture Books, here’s a little extra homework that always helps me:

Watch cartoons.

Seriously!  Watch cartoons, paying particular attention to what the narrator says, what the characters say, and what doesn’t need to be said because it’s shown.  (And try not to rub it in to your kids.  “Oh, you have math for your homework?  I have cartoons!”)

I’m right there with you that it’s SO tempting to write long, descriptive text and art notes, because you can SEE the picture in your mind…

But so can your future illustrator.  And that’s their job.  Make it their fun, too, and the two of you will make a great book!

Gotta run, PB writers!  (Must clean up the house for the Guinness people.)

Thanks for reading, and happy writing!  —Ame


            Ame Dyckman LOVES picture books.  Sometimes she’ll even put them down long enough to write one of her own:

·         BOY + BOT, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf; 2012)

·         TEA PARTY RULES, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Viking; 2013)

·         WOLFIE AND DOT (working title), illustrator TBD (Little, Brown; TBD)

            Ame lives in New Jersey with her family, pets (including a demanding-but-adorable squirrel), and a picture book collection that’s taking over the house.  Please say “Hi!” if you see Ame at a SCBWI event, book signing, or around town (usually, at the library or bookstore).  Depending on the time and place, she’d love to chat, grab a coffee, even play a game—anything but Pictionary.