As part of my "Inspiration Café" series, I've been interviewing some authors. Here's a snippet from the interview I did with Ann Whitford Paul, the author of the book, "Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication"
Can you please share with us how you got started as a picture book author?
That’s easy. I became inspired to write picture books after years of reading them to my four children. I loved the closeness, the quiet, and the focus together on a book. It was such a pleasure I decided to try and write books that other adults and children could share together.
How many picture books have you authored/published - and can you tell us a bit about one or two of them?
I’ve authored hundreds of picture book manuscripts and have sold 20. However two of them were cancelled because an editor left and because an editor “lost enthusiasm over the project.” Many of our stories no matter how we work on them, don’t turn out. I’ve also sold one adult book. A new book TORTUGA (the Spanish word for Tortoise) IN TROUBLE published just this year is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with a Spanish twist. This is part of a series I’ve written that introduces children to some Spanish vocabulary with the hopes that they will be inspired to learn Spanish. Another new book titled IF ANIMALS KISSED GOOD NIGHT is a rhymed picture book about how animals might kiss good night. It grew out of a game my third child, Alan, and I used to play guessing how Snakes and Elephants and other animals would kiss.
What inspires you to write these picture books?
About five years ago, I was in Africa on an airplane next to a 9 year old boy from Afghanistan. He spoke English perfectly. In response to my question, he said he’d been studying English for just one year. Then, and this is the embarrassing part, he asked, “How many languages do you speak?” I must admit I told a fib. I said, “one and one half,” hoping that my two years of college French counted for something, even though I would be hard pressed to carry on a conversation.
While we now have many immigrants in our country we speak more than one language, many still persist in thinking that just speaking English is enough. With the shrinking of our world through travel, television and internet, we all should learn another language. . . maybe two.
I now study Spanish and thrilled to be able to speak not only in the present, but also in the past and future.
What's the best advice you have for people who wish to get started in writing picture books?
Spend a lot of time with your young audience. Pay attention to what are big issues for them . . . being left with a babysitter, dealing with a bully at school, a favorite shirt is too dirty to wear. Write about what matters to them, not to you. Another bit of advice is to read picture books . . . lots and lots of them. I also type them up and even make a dummy book to see which page the print falls on. Do this and you’ll learn lots about pacing and page turns and language. I would not be a good promoter if I didn’t give a plug to my WRITING PICTURE BOOKS which I wish I’d had when I first started out.