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.


  1. I love this post! And especially the pockets tip. I'm totally doing that. Manuscript! Into pocket! Yer going DOWN!

  2. Very fun post, Ame! Thanks for all the tips! I can't draw either. I'll have to try the pocket advice!

  3. Ame is awesome (wow it didn't auto-correct Ame to "HATBANDS" this time, YAYCAKES!). Definitely a good tip for refining a manuscript and who knows, a piece of discarded pocket lint in the right place could actually trigger changes you hadn't thought of before! Yay!

  4. Yay Ame! What a fun post. I laughed AND learned. =) Note to self...take ms out of pocket. Also, stay away from Ame in Dodgeball. (I am awful...To have to play Dodge Ball is like being asked to particpate in the Hunger Games and the odds are never in my favor! Ouch!) I would love to win this book. My library would also love for me to win this book. BUD DUM DUM. (That's BOT' for I just told a joke.) Thanks so much ladies!

  5. Love Ame. Love BOY PLUS BOT. Thanks for the great tips! Curious...did you include any art notes in your B+B manuscript?

  6. Thanks for the fun post - and great writing tips! Boy & Bot looks adorable!!

  7. I love it! Thanks for the great share. I love it. You rock!

  8. I have to disagree, Ame - you can draw. If you want to draw well, you have to draw more. Not much different than writing well - except for PB mss, as you mentioned: read more, write less! Great post, look forward to more drawings in the future!

  9. I <3 Ame! She has inspired my third graders!

  10. What a fun post. Thanks Ame and Marcie. Thanks for the tops. Do love Boy + Bot!

  11. WOW! THANKS, everybody! World of Julie, I LOVE your enthusiasm! I'm calling you next time I have Writer's Block! :) Tina, thanks for letting me know I'm not alone! We should hang out and draw T-Rexes... I mean, BUMBLEBEES together! ;) Phil, it's so funny you remembered HATBANDS! I have yet to write a story about pocket lint, but I did save a particularly lovely blob of purple dryer lint yesterday. Elizabeth, I would still pick you for my dodge ball team! :) Lori A., GREAT question! I did include a few short art notes in my ms. And later, Michele and our fabulous Art Director, Sarah Hokanson, said there was room at the end for more wordless scenes. (I ADORE wordless scenes!) I suggested some, Dan came up with some, and I LOVE the result! Lori D., thanks for the cheer! Sandie, YOU rock, too! And THANK YOU, Marcie, for having me on your AWESOME blog! This is so much fun! :)

  12. *laughing* More comments came in as I was responding to the comments that had come in! You guys are AWESOME! Julie, I really do LIKE drawing. You're right--must make more time to do it. The best: getting a big pad of paper and the whole family draws on their tummies in the living room. (I mean, the whole family RESTS on their tummies around the drawing pad--not that we draw ON our tummies! Although that happened once. With Sharpies.) Erika, you're the sweetest! And your third graders inspired ME! Darshana, thanks for the BOY + BOT love! They love you, too! :)

  13. Love this post. If I draw, it is ONLY stick people which don't look much like people. Thanks for the ms in pocket revision instructions. I must try it, but I am worried about the washer/dryer result, too....because I do that a lot! By the that Fiestaware in the picture? I do love Fiestaware!
    Congrats on Boy + Bot and your upcoming books.

  14. Thank you Marcie, and Ame! What a great post! Very interesting about putting your manuscript in your pocket...I recently discovered the "print it out" editing technique. I print something out, scribble ALL OVER IT, and come out with a better story.

    Unfortunately, I don't have a printer.
    But my library does, and I don't mind paying them 10 cents a page. They deserve it.

    Ame, keep drawing...if you like it, do it just for that!
    You can call yourself a "recreational illustrator" which is what I do :)

    Thanks for writing such awesome books and I'll keep my eyes out for more by you!

  15. A wonderful post, Marcie & Ame. Love the tip about wearing & using pockets. I will definitely have to try this, as most of my stories have way, way too many words. And Ame, I can relate to being drawing-challenged; I drew a map for a scene & one daughter couldn't even identify it as a map. I did have fun doing so, though, so I may have to keep on drawing anyway...Would suggest you do the same!

  16. This post is so funny it's easy to forget that there is a really great writing/revision tip here. I'm looking for shirts with pockets otherwise I'll have to pin a folded mss to my shirt :p

    I read BOY + BOT this summer at the library while visiting the US and loved it. :)

  17. Love this post and this blog! Thanks Ame!

  18. I mostly walk around with little pieces of paper with kid-scratched call numbers on them (the life of a school librarian!) :) Will definitely share this inspiration with students who know that illustration may not be in their future (something I can totally connect with!)

  19. I ooh'ed and aahhh'ed over the pocket paper tip too, but do not overlook Ame's cartoon homework tip! Here's a twist - also listen to the cartoon with your eyes shut and visualize the action. Predictable or not predictable? Works well especially if you are not familiar with the characters and can help sharpen your dialogue-writing!

  20. Great post, Ame!

    “Oh, you have math for your homework? I have cartoons!”
    Ha! Love the way you think.

  21. So fun! I love your extra clean and april fresh manuscript, Ame!

  22. Fun suggestions! Thanks Ame and Marcie for a wonderful post.

  23. Penny, you're lucky! Even my stick people look like they have scurvy. ;) And no, not Fiestaware. Targetware. (I'm terribly clumsy. Except at dodge ball.) Kathy, I LOVE "recreational illustrator!" Brilliant! Patricia, we'll have to get together for a doodling jam session! Dana, I'm laughing over the image of you pinning your manuscript to your shirt--RIOT! Thanks for the kind BOY + BOT words. :) Kim and LJ, thanks for the love! Erin, this is the cutest librarian image EVER! Thanks for sharing! Cathy, love YOUR tip about listening to toon dialogue--I'll try that! THANKS! Nina, you're so funny! And Kathy C. B., Marcie's AWESOME, isn't she? It was a BLAST, guys! :)

  24. Ame, you're adorable. I love that you own not being able to draw. I believe I can draw anything. And I draw all the time, but everything I draw looks like me. I can't get past it. Is there medication for this?

  25. Following your blog - honestly, I thought I was already was since I always read it but I must just be seeing and clicking on it from the 12x12 page.

    Love Ame. I follow her on Twitter (as you all should) and her posts are part of my daily dose of funny. I'm telling you she is hilarious!

    Thanks for this great post. Read her book and LOVE it. So cute and funny.
    -Alison Hertz

  26. Cool to see where the little boy gets his hair style from! Great post.-Pauletta Brooks

  27. Ame, you crack me up! Love your voice and your humor. I've kept my ms in my pocket before. Fortunately, I've taken it out before it reached the wash. Maybe a sign my ms is too wordy and long. Good word cutting tip! Thanks for having Ame on your blog, Marcie.

    I read Boy + bot at my library. Would love to win it for my nephew!

  28. Funny! I can't believe I have an excuse to watch cartoons now!

  29. Our class loves Boy + Bot. We just finished reading it and decided that the main message of the story is about friendship and how friends take care of others. It doesn't matter whether your friend is a robot, a boy, a girl, a tree, you can be a friend to anything. Friendship is about caring for your friend, even when they are stuck. Friends don't care what their friends look like, they just care for each other.

    The Cingiser Class of Moretown Vermont

  30. Genevieve, that's so funny! I can't draw people at all! (Once, on an "All About Me" assignment in 5th grade, I drew a mouse instead. I got in trouble.) Alison, thank you! *HUG* Eric, I call the remote! ;) Pauletta, Boy's hair got decidedly spikier AFTER Dan and I met, so could be! :) Thanks, Romelle, fellow ms-in-my-pocket person! Remember, Rena, it's homework! ;) Thank you, Cingiser Class! I LOVE your friendship discussion! And thank you, Marcie, for hosting me on your blog! SO much fun! :)

  31. OMG, friggin' hilarious! Ame, that is one of my favorite posts ever!

  32. OMG, friggin' hilarious! Ame, that is one of my favorite posts ever!

  33. Thanks, Corey, my uber-talented-author-and-wonder-Mama friend! *HUG*

  34. Genius. Thanks for the cross out tip.

  35. This is great, Marcie and Ame! And now I'm off to watch some cartoons...

  36. I LOVE Ame! I am so happy to have "met" her online. I hope to meet you in person, too, sometime, Ame. You have such a wonderful enthusiasm and spirit.

  37. Hilarious! Love it Ame. I loved Boy+Bot and now I know why. Thanks Marcie, great post. :)

  38. Loving Boy + Bot from Singapore! Now let me go watch some cartoons :)

  39. I was just trying to remember if I had added Boy+Bot to my library yet. Love how your books teach to be conservative in storytelling.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Ame is an absolute MASTER at keeping word count low while still telling a story that tugs at the heart. LOVE HER WORK!