My Mission Statement

I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Notes for Writers from my SCBWI Conference last week-end

I've promised some notes from some of the fabulous speakers of last week-end. Today I'm going to give notes from Allyn Johnston's talk on picture books. I think this talk will speak to everyone, not just writers, but anyone who loves/buys/reads picture books. But before I do that, I want to mention that Libba Bray was the keynote speaker Saturday morning, and she just won the Prinze Award for GOING BOVINE (which I blogged about earlier this week). She spoke like she wrote GOING BOVINE, all over the place and exciting and fast-paced. She talked about her work habits, organizational style, etc., and it sounded a lot like me. I loved this quote, in particular, because I could really relate: "Something I think I'm living my whole life as if I've been shot from a cannon, flailing about, dreading the eventual impact." I don't know, it just cracked me up. She also said, "Who but the bravest of souls would send out their most intimate thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities...writers are the bravest people of all." Amen.

Okay, so on to Allyn Johnston is the Vice President and Publisher of Beach Lane Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster). She was amazing and brilliant and clearly a force to be reckoned with. Here are a few of her thoughts, then I'll share a list of the stand-out picture books she discussed. First of all (and this is what I LOVED most about this talk), she spoke of the importance of picture books in the adult-child relationship. She said she remembers not only the books of her childhood, but her emotional connection to the reader. She recalls the stories shared with parents and grandparents and the feel of their arms around her as they shared these books. These books are connectors, making reading time with parents and children even more special, so they'd better be darn good. Reading time with your kids mends all the raggedy edges of the day. Reading aloud to our children changes their lives forever. That's pretty powerful.

Artistically, she said the picture book is a stage where a piece of theatre unfolds. You want to give the parents a good script. Make it so much fun that they want to do it again and again. The page turn makes the picture book different from any other kind of book. Page turns are magical moments. A PICTURE BOOK AT ITS BEST IS A FORM OF HIGH ART.

Now I'm going to list the picture books she discusses as examples of excellence in some way or another. If you don't know any of these, check them out. Many of them are older classics and many are new, and almost all of them are my favorites, too, which was cool.

Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox
Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
The Scrambled States of America
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
All the World (Just won the Caldecott last week, Ms. Johnston edited it)
The Carrot Seed

Have a wonderful day. Take a moment to stop at the library or check out your favorite bookstore for one of these wonderful titles. What a great bedtime surprise--a new story!
Read on, Mamas!

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