Monday, April 30, 2012

Writing Without Pictures: Guest Author, Jodi Moore

Today marks the final installment in the new series, Writing Without Pictures, about Picture Book writers who DO NOT illustrate...and I have to say, we are going out with a BANG! with the amazingly fabulous Jodi Moore, author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN (Flashlight Press).  There is no doubt that DRAGON is one of my favorite picture books...AND Jodi Moore is one of my favorite people.  Best of all, on May 1st DRAGON celebrates his first birthday.  How honored I am that she is here to celebrate with us.
So Happy Birthday, Dragon and welcome Jodi!

“Leave room for the illustrator.”

If you’re writing a picture book, you’ve undoubtedly heard that.  It’s grilled into us at conferences. Spelled out in books. Scribbled in red all over our manuscripts by trusted editors and critique partners.
I’m certainly not going to argue the point. In fact, I’m going to expound upon it.

In my humble opinion, leaving room for something (or someone) assumes boundaries. For example:

Leave room in the suitcase for an extra pair of shoes; or
Leave room in the closet for your sister’s clothes; or (my personal favorite)
Leave room in your stomach for dessert.

All of these imply certain constraints. Limits. Walls.

In my mind, illustrators take an author’s words to places outside of those perimeters. Where limits no longer exist. To a level you never dreamed possible.

Perhaps this is best “illustrated” by sharing my own story.

WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN, my first published picture book, was written when my husband Larry and I were in the throes of empty nest syndrome (admittedly, this is a chronic condition for me).

That Labor Day was our first time visiting the beach without our two sons, who had left for college a week earlier. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact we were missing our boys, my hubby brought his satchel of sand toys, determined to carry on the family tradition of crafting a sandcastle.  Of course, it didn’t take long for him to attract a little army of helpers, as children gravitated toward the “construction site” in droves.

(Note: I spent my time that afternoon flitting around to the ever-growing gaggle of anxious moms, explaining why a mature man would be building a sandcastle, seemingly alone, resulting in luring their precious babies toward him. Apprehension was replaced by relief and understanding smiles when I explained the whole Empty Nest thing.)

At one point, one of the toddlers stuck a piece of seaweed into the mouth of the castle. Always positive, Larry took one look and said, “Look! A dragon’s tail! Our castle is so cool, a dragon moved in!”

And the heavens opened and the angels sang…a story was conceived.

WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN is indeed based on the premise that if you build the perfect sandcastle, a dragon will move in. And that’s exactly what happens to one very lucky little boy at the beach. Things are going quite splendidly, in fact, until his family refuses to believe the dragon is real. Then the mischief ensues.

Is there a real dragon in the castle? Or is this just a figment of the boy’s imagination?

That’s what I want the reader to decide for him/herself.

And that’s where the problem surfaced.

I brought my original manuscript to the Intensives at my first SCBWI NY conference, where I signed up for 2 peer critiques, each moderated by an editor. In my morning session, the editor told me that she enjoyed the story, but that I had to make sure the readers knew the dragon was imaginary.

* sigh *

In the afternoon session, a different editor told me he thought the story was well-written, but that I had to make sure readers knew the dragon was real.

* heavy sigh *

Needless to say, I was confused and admittedly, discouraged. I remember saying to my husband, “Well, as soon as I get my rejection from Flashlight Press, I guess I have some decisions to make.”

A couple of months later, I got an email from the amazing Shari Dash Greenspan, the editor for Flashlight. She, too, said she thought the story was really cute…but was the dragon real or imaginary?

* gah *

Before I could talk myself out of it, I typed, “I want the reader to decide” and hit send. I expected the rejection to come lightening quick.

Only it didn’t. Instead, I got an email asking the question: How do we illustrate a creature that may or may not be there?

It was then I realized what a challenge my manuscript posed. Together, Shari and I researched and brainstormed. We read and discussed.

I agonized and ate chocolate.

Thankfully, I am blessed with an editor who thinks like an artist. Shari took my vision and molded, developed and expanded upon it. Then, she placed it in the skilled and loving hands of my brilliant illustrator, Howard McWilliam.

I like to say that Howard crawled inside my head and drew what was in my heart, but in actuality, he created something my heart had yet to even realize.

Howard produced spreads where both options were not only possible, they were visible. They were plausible. They were adorable! We saw – we smelled – the smoke from the dragon’s nostrils…or was it from the dad’s barbecue?

Howard infused color into my concepts, sprinkled seasonings into my settings and breathed life into my characters. He made my dream come true, by transforming my simple words into something simply magical.

Leave room for the illustrator? Why impose such limits? Instead, gift your manuscript to the artist as if it were a beautiful kite. Cut that string and let it soar in your illustrator’s capable hands, free, untethered and uninhibited.

You may just reach heights previously unimagined.

Jodi Moore is the author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN (Flashlight Press) and is totally in awe of her brilliant talent of illustrator Howard McWilliam. Her next book GOOD NEWS NELSON (Story Pie Press) is due for release December 2012 and is presently in the gifted hands of fabulous artist Brendan Flannelly-King.

Jodi considers books, along with chocolate, to be one of the main food groups.  She writes both picture books and young adult novels, hoping to challenge, nourish and inspire her readers by opening up brand new worlds and encouraging unique ways of thinking.  Jodi is the proud and (admittedly) neurotic mother of two incredibly talented young adults and never ceases to be amazed at how far the umbilical cord really will stretch. She lives in central PA with her always-supportive best friend/husband, Larry, two laughing doves and an ever-changing bunch of characters in her head. In addition to reading, writing and chocolate, Jodi enjoys music, theatre, dancing, the beach and precious time spent with her family.  Finally, Jodi thinks it would be really cool if one of her stories eventually became a Disney or Universal movie or theme park ride. Or a Broadway musical. Just puttin’ it out there.

Read more about Jodi at

Monday, April 23, 2012

Writing Without Pictures: Guest Author, Tracey M. Cox

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".

I am honored today to be featuring Tracey M. Cox.  I love Tracey's story because she never seems to forget her audience, having started writing because one of her 3 sons commented on one of her bedtime stories one night, "Mom, that would make a great book!"  From then she started writing for children and even after many rejections, she kept pursuing.  Her first Picture Book was published in 2009 by Guardian Angel Publishing.  And she has gone on to much success and many more titles!

Perhaps a quote on her website best sums up why Tracey is such a gift to this industry:
"To capture a child's attention and hold it.  To be able to bring a smile to a child's lips.  To me, that is my greatest achievement."  Tracey M. Cox

Please welcome, Tracey!

Hi Marcie! Thanks for asking me to post.

I guess I will talk about the beginning of my writing journey. That is where I learned the most important point of NOT doing the illustrators job…

I started writing professionally in 2000. After getting a year under my belt I felt that I was ready to start submitting to publishers. *HaHa!* I submitted the one story I had labored over to a publisher and got a response… It was a rejection along with a note saying that when I learn not to do an illustrator’s job she thought that my underlying talent would shine.

Can you say OUCH? It stung, stung bad. After I had a good cry and a greater pity party, I stood back and took an objectionable look at my story. Did I really have too many details in there that didn’t need to be? Could I find things that could be *gulp* cut? Yes and yes. I pulled out a highlighter and begin going over my story. I marked everywhere I had details. The glare of the highlighted words was eye opening! I stood back again and began cutting most of the details that didn’t have to be in there, and what did I have? A tighter manuscript!

I think it is an important thing to do with picture books when every word must count. At one conference I attended, an editor told us that if your words are not bringing the story forward then you are moving the story backward. That struck home too.

Since then I have taken that heart wrenching advice to heart. I always try to look at a story from every angle. Does that character HAVE to have red hair or a missing tooth? If it doesn’t add an important element to the story then it’s cut.

I also have learned to story board. This has helped with my pacing and illustration projections. I have a 32 page template that I use that includes the front/back covers, title page, info page and then the rest is the layout of the book. I try to visually see the book in those blocks. By doing this I accomplish two things: 1) I make sure I have enough illustration possibilities & 2) I know that I have enough words on each page without an overload of text.

Even when I do all this I still have edits from an editor. In one magazine article, the illustrations changed the story’s main character completely. At first I was unhappy about it, but when I saw how it all tied in together with the illustrations I felt better about it. On my books I feel I have been blessed with the illustrators I have been paired up with. It seems as if they were inside my head and knew what I was thinking. I have only one of my books where I have had any input on what the illustrations would be. The only reason I had that control was because it was a concept book that dealt with shapes and the picture had to include that specific with that idea in it. But how the picture looked was up to her and she added a mouse to each page –her own little element- that wound up tying each page together nicely and gave the reader something extra to look for.

The main thing I have realized over the years with picture books and magazine articles is it is the combined work of the author and illustrator. You wind up with a married pair that comes together and makes a complete masterpiece.

Tracey M. Cox lives in Georgia with her high school sweetheart  (now her husband) and three sons.  She currently has had four Picture Books published by Guardian Angel Publishing, including "Just the Thing to Be" and "Liddil Gets Her Light".  She has two more Picture Books slated to come out soon, "Angels Do That" and "Arachnabet", both also with Guardian Angel Publishing.  You can learn more about Tracey at

Friday, April 20, 2012

Today's Treat: Going Topsy-Turvy

Today's Treat is a Friday segment dedicated to helping writers 1) treat themselves like a writer by building confidence and craft and 2) putting themselves in situations where others will treat them as a writer to build community and connections.

Today's Treat comes from "Chapter 3: Advice" of Jane Yolen's fabulous book "Take Joy: a book for writers". 

Aptly titled, this Chapter gives so many wonderful pieces of advice regarding developing one's craft and keeping it fresh.  However, the tip that stuck out the most for me was:  "Be Ready to Go Topsy-Turvy".

In this section, Jane explains that:

"Painters know that if they turn a picture upside down, the central shapes are better exposed. No longer concerned with the drawing -- is the head on straight?  Are the trees consistently green? -- what comes through is the composition itself.

Now you cannot very well turn a book upside down, or read it back to front.   But you can look at its composition differently."

She suggests changing the gender of a main character.  Or blocking out the modifiers of a certain paragraph.  Perhaps focus on all five senses when describing.  Maybe chage the point of view.

When you do this, Yolen states that we can see "anew what is on the page."

How can you go "topsy turvy" with one of your pieces this weekend?  Perhaps I will rewrite one of my manuscripts in poetry instead of prose.  :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday Writers Weigh In: 38 in 38

Hello writers!  If I seem more mature, its because my birthday was yesterday.  So yes, I am older and wiser...kind of.  :)

Today I would like to pose a question to you all to help me complete one of my annual traditions...The List!

Last year I drafted up a list of "37 Things to do when I am 37".  The only rule was it had to be achievable goals that I could do goals of "Get an Agent".  That is out of my control.  So I listed things such as "Start a Blog".  Which I did!  And fun things like "Ride the Cyclone at Coney Island".  Which was a blast, by the way!

So, today I am starting to draft up my "38 Things to do when I am 38" List and I am wondering...when it comes to writing, what are some truly achievable goals I can set for myself?  A goal such as "write daily" is hard and kinda sets one up for failure.  So, aside from completing the 12x12in12 Challenge and NaPiBoWriWee, what are some goals I can include on this list?

I look forward to hearing what you writers have to say.  :)  So....Weigh In!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Writing Without Pictures: Guest Author, Julie Fulton

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 a friend from "across the pond"... Julie Fulton, author of "Mrs. MacCready was Ever So Greedy".  I find her story fascinating, as she is a newly published author who was somewhat an "accidental picture book author".  But it is no accident that "Mrs. MacCready..." has become a hit!  Julie's book is delightful!  It is obvious she has found her place in the community and we look forward to reading more from her. 

Thank you, Julie, for popping by to share your story!

The path to having my first picture book published may be a little different from what is perceived to be normal. Ask my husband, he’ll tell you. If there’s a way to do something differently, I’ll find it.

Did I realise I was writing a picture book?No. It hadn’t even entered my head. I was creating children’s poems. As a child I inhabited a world full of the works of people such as Dr Seuss, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Spike Milligan. I loved their nonsense verses, the sounds of the words they used, the rhythm of their writing.

A few years ago I joined a writing group, where the tutor was first and foremost a poet. Yippee, I thought. We studied and worked on the craft of writing in all its forms, but I continued to create my silly verses for children.

What made realisation dawn?The feedback and support of my tutor and fellow writers. I was slow on the uptake. Thank goodness they persevered. I never seemed to hear them saying, ‘You ought to send that off. That would make a good picture book.’ No, they weren’t being serious.

The drip-feed effect eventually got to me. I gave in and researched in The Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and sent my selection of texts to a publisher. I waited. I received the standard rejection. ‘Told you so,’ I said to my writing group. ‘Try again,’ they urged.

A small advert in Writers’ Forum magazine caught my eye. I submitted and before I knew where I was I’d been taken on by Maverick Books, who liked my story ‘Mrs MacCready Was Ever So Greedy’.

Did I feel like a PB writer now?Not really. It all happened so quickly. I’d never thought of the tale of Mrs MacCready as being anything more than words on a page. I had no preconceived images in my head. Nothing. Truth be told, I still feel a rank amateur.

So what happened next? 
Steve Bicknell, MD of Maverick Books, sent my text out to illustrators. From the sketches returned he chose Jona Jung to bring Mrs MacCready to life. After her pencil sketches for each spread were sent through to me, I was given the chance to comment on what I felt worked and what I thought needed to be changed or added. There wasn’t much, she’d done a brilliant job! (Jona lives in Poland and we’ve never met. We do communicate by e-mail. Through this I discovered she doesn’t speak much English and works on my text in translation. My admiration of her illustrations more than doubled when I found that out!)

How much of my text was changed once the illustrations were underway?On the whole it remains much as it was when I first submitted. One or two clumsy lines were altered in consultation with both Steve and Kimara Nye, Maverick’s Publishing Assistant, but this had nothing to do with the pictures.

Did I learn anything about writing picture books before any artwork is considered?
Most definitely! Maverick have asked me to come up with more ‘Ever So’ stories. ‘Tabitha Posy Was Ever So Nosy’ is with Jona right now. I approached the writing of this book in a very different way.

I had to stick to the rhythm and rhyme structure set down in the previous story, but I found I could see pictures in my head this time. I knew I was writing a picture book. There are some lines in the verses that will only make sense when matched with an illustration.

The ethos at Maverick of working as ‘a family’ means I know I can discuss what’s needed and we’ll work together to get it right. This time a couple of verses have been cut and some lines altered, but all in consultation and discussed thoroughly! Having spoken with other published PB writers within the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, this doesn’t always seem to be the usual way of doing things. Maverick are certainly maverick by name and nature!

Will I ever write a picture book again without thinking about the illustrations?
I think I can honestly state : No!

I have made it my aim to read a different picture book each week. To study them. To see what each illustration adds to the story. The best piece of advice I have been given to date is ‘Read, read, read’.

I have just finished another text and begun editing. Lots of words are disappearing. I now realise far more what is and isn’t needed. What can be inferred in the text or left out all together, because a good illustrator will see it and place it in their drawing. I have even been trying out my own comic sketches to see what might be included in the drawings and therefore which words I can do away with. Those who know me will remember I gave up art at school aged 13. These sketches are for my eyes only - a tool to help me edit!

There are fantastic books out there about the craft of writing picture books. My current favourite is ‘Writing Picture Books’ by Ann Whitford Paul. In it she states : ‘The illustrator’s pictures are the narrative of our words. That’s why we don’t need…long descriptions. The pictures will show what the character looks like….the setting. Trust the creativity of the artist.’

So, how do you create half a picture book and make it a success?
I’m not sure I feel experienced enough to answer that one. I can only say what I have discovered so far.

Think about the age group you are aiming your story at. Find out what language is expected of children at that age. Think about your word count. Rhyming stories are often frowned upon, but children (and teachers) love them and they can include far more words of a higher level. The children will follow the rhythm and rhyme and learn as they go. If not rhyming you will probably use less words. There are some marvellous books with little text that tell fabulous stories. ‘Not now, Bernard’ by David McKee and ‘Diary of a Wombat’ by Jackie French spring to mind.

Try taking your favourite book and re-writing it with all the description needed for it to make sense without the pictures. Then you might see how much can be left out once an illustrator becomes involved.

Most of all, don’t stress. If you have a good story it will work. Tell it in the leanest way possible. Don’t worry about setting the scene, telling us what the character looks like or what they wear. It’s ‘Show not Tell’ in its truest form. Give the bare bones of your tale and let the illustrator, whoever they may end up to be, show the reader - and you - the rest!

Julie Fulton is a British Picture Book Author who lives in Worcestershire, UK.  You can find out more about Julie at or at her blog  Her first book, "Mrs. MacCready was Ever So Greedy" was published by Maverick Books.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Writing Without Pictures: Guest Author, Susanna Leonard Hill

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 Susanna Leonard Hill!  Susanna is author of Punxsutawney Phyllis, April Fools Phyllis, and Can't Sleep Without Sheep.  I consider Susanna a major inspiration and a wonderful person who is never too busy to help out us fellow pre-pubbies. 

I am honored she is here to share!  Here is Susanna!

There's a lot to learn in the world of picture books! What language, length, and subject matter are appropriate? Is it okay to write about talking animals or inanimate objects? And what about art? If you're a writer only, how do you allow for the equally important other half of a picture book? How does a writer know how much room to leave an illustrator? How much direction can you, as an author, give?

When Marcie asked me to address this question, I had to laugh. Obviously, it's on people's minds of late, because only a couple weeks before I had talked about the same thing on my own blog.

Here is the link, if you're interested. There are some excellent comments at the bottom, some from other published picture book authors.

I think what it really comes down to is a combination of strong writing and thinking visually. Your illustrator needs changes of scene, perspective, and emotion - plenty to choose from so that the pictures can vary from page to page. They also need freedom to express the story in their way - many books have whole other story lines told in the illustrations that were the brain child of the illustrator, or hidden characters or objects that children can look for, or indications as to the time of day, season, or other setting details that bring the story to life in ways you might not have foreseen.
Marcie asked about what happens if you overwrite by 20 words or so to get your image across. When you talk about overwriting by 20 words or so, what exactly are those words saying/trying to accomplish? Some details (like what color the MC's hair is) do not need to be spelled out. Unless it is critical to the story that her hair is red, leave it out and let the illustrator draw what he/she imagines. It may not be what you imagined, but those details aren't the ones that matter. It's the MC's character and motivation that matter.. The illustrator needs to pick up the feel of your character from your words, so that when they draw your character her determination or shyness or grumpiness or sense of humor shine through.
As an example, when I wrote Punxsutawney Phyllis, it never occurred to me that when the book was painted the groundhogs would be wearing clothes! I pictured them plain furry and brown with cute little faces, but I didn't get any farther than that. When the book showed up and they were all dressed, was it exactly the way I had pictured it? Not quite. But did it make sense? Absolutely! How else for a child reader to easily distinguish one from another? And did it harm the story in any way? Not at all! The critical element - Phyllis's spunky character - came through beautifully - even enhanced by Jeff's choice of green overalls with a yellow flower on the pocket for her.
Does any of that make sense? Feel free to ask follow up questions in the comments below - I will check in :)
In terms of what gets cut, that's a tricky question. An editor may want to cut any number of things for reasons other than illustration. But sometimes once a picture is drawn, there are words that are no longer necessary, so out they come. I gave an example in the blog post above from Can't Sleep Without Sheep, where once the illustrations was complete, some of the words about the hippos were no longer necessary and the story read better without them.
When I write, I always think visually. I can see the story in my head like a movie - kind of funny because I can't draw to save myself. I can't tell you how to do that, or even if it's necessary - it's just how my mind works. I know that's not particularly helpful!

I can tell you one story, though, a situation where I thought everything was crystal clear and it turned out not to be the case. I wrote a story called No Sword Fighting In The House. The characters names were Arthur, Lance and Gwenn. The father was the King who worked at the castle, the mother belonged to the Camelot Ladies Garden Society. Now before I say anything else, what setting do you imagine?

I imagined a medieval setting - knights, horses, castles, armor etc. The illustrator drew modern day suburbia.

So sometimes things aren't as clear as they seem!

One of the things I didn't know when I was first published was how little authors and illustrators work together. The publishing house chooses the illustrator for you. (Maybe when you're Jane Yolen or someone you get some say :) but as a first-time author, it's out of your hands.) Then, depending on your editor and the particular publishing house's policy, you may not get even a glimpse of the art until it's done. With one exception (Can't Sleep Without Sheep) I have never gotten to see my art in process. I understand the reasons for it, but it does make waiting for the art a bit of a nail-biter. Will your illustrator have the same vision you did? Will he or she draw anything like what you imagined? For the most part, I have been incredibly lucky. Jeff, Nicole, and Mike have been particularly wonderful to work with! But surprises do pop up from time to time - like the setting in No Sword Fighting, or how with my first book, The House That Mack Built, I wrote a whole spread about a bulldozer only to find when I got the proofs that the illustrator had drawn a loader. No self-respecting 2 year old would let that go by! It was too late to change the art, so I had to change the story! But in my experience, it generally works out in the end :)

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Marcie! And if anyone has any questions, fire away :)

Susanna lives in Poughquag, NY.  She is a successful author and has published many titles!  Check her out at, or read her blog at 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wednesday Writers Weigh In: The Sandpaper Touch of Art

This week I am reading Chapter Two of Jane Yolen's book "Take Joy: a book for writers". 

Chapter Two is called "The Mystery That is Writing" and asks the question, "where do stories come from?"

Many of us receive inspiration from everyday experiences, headlines in the newspaper, funny things kids say, etc.  But is this enough?

Jane Yolen states that interesting anecdotes are not fiction by themselves.  "They need the sandpaper touch of art."  Fiction is more than "a recitation of facts or author embellishments.  It is reality surprised.  It shakes us up and makes us see familiar things in new ways."

Writers Weigh In...What are your thoughts on this idea of the "sandpaper touch of art" and Yolen's idea of what fiction is?

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 and at her blog