Oh, Happy Monday!
It’s March! So even if we’re at the in-like-a-lion stage, spring is beginning to feel like a possibility 🙂 Here’s a little something to get you thinking spring 🙂
Today, fun of fun, we have the February Pitch Pick to determine which of our talented writers will get to have her pitch sent to editor Erin Molta for critique!
A little refresher:
Working Title: Summer of ’71
The Pitch: When eleven-year old Fiona peered through the broken slat of the caretaker’s shed at the back corner of the West End Cemetery, the last thing she expected to see was a girl about her own age, asleep on the dirt floor. Thus begins an unlikely friendship that carries them through a summer of bullies, a best friend’s betrayal, and a life-changing tragedy.
Working Title: Starstruck
Pitch: Seventeen year old Katie literally stumbles into Matt’s life one icy January morning. Within two months they’re friends, and in three, they’re dating. But there’s a snag. Matt is a movie star and teenage heart-throb. Katie’s living the dream that every other girl her age has, but the dazzle of having a famous boyfriend only lasts so long. How will Katie cope when the line between dream and nightmare becomes blurred?
Working Title: Sorrysorrysorry
Age/Genre: Early PB (ages 2-5)
The Pitch: Three frolicking baby giraffes try to find a place to play on a hot and crowded savannah. They find it isn’t an easy task. They run into a troop of baboons, a dazzle of zebras, and a pride of lions. At last, they turn to the river, only to be confronted by hippopotami. Our giraffes find fun and friendship at the end of a long a grueling day.
#4 Jennifer R
Working Title: The Birthday Bash
Age/Genre: PB (ages 6-8)
The Pitch: It’s Sylvia’s birthday tomorrow and Stan and Louie have a big surprise party planned. With hilarity and hi-jinks the two raccoons search for Sylvia’s favorite foods in the forest, garages and backyard patios. Will they find what they’re looking for or will the birthday party be a bust?
#5 Jennifer Y
Working Title: Planet Vacation
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch: Rose takes a vacation to visit the planets. Will she get a chance to rollerblade on the rings of Saturn and scuba dive for starfish on Jupiter or will her trip be nothing like she dreamed?
A tough choice as always, made tougher by the fact that February, although a short month, managed to have 5 Wednesdays!
Please cast your vote for the best pitch in the poll below by Wednesday March 7 at 11:59 PM EST. That way I can announce the winner on Friday after Perfect Picture Books 🙂
Moving right along, we also have an Oh, Susanna question today.
I am a pre-published PB author still learning her craft.
I keep hearing to leave enough “space” for the illustrator to do their job.
In other words, don’t overwrite.
How do you make that call when you are writing your MS.
“Jay .. ” sighed Mr. Martin. “You could have entered the Academy. You’ll have to wait until next year to try out again.”
Jay’s head dropped and his feathers dropped. <<< is this needed in text or do I leave it for the illustrator to show?
Teary-eyed, Jay flew away to the coast.
Another excellent question!
A picture book is supposed to be a marriage of words and art. The author should tell half the story, and the illustrator should tell the other half. This means that, unless it is absolutely crucial to the plot for some reason (as in Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse) you do not need to say that the MC is wearing a red coat, or that her hair is blond, or his dad drives a Chevy. Leave those details to the illustrator’s imagination.
That said, there are some things which are crucial on first reading (for the editor and illustrator to imagine) that can later be cut from the text once they’ve done their job – i.e. once the illustrator has shown it. An example, from Can’t Sleep Without Sheep, was that in the original ms it said “The hippos waddled forward. ‘We’re going to need a crane,’ said the sheep. “This could take a while.'” Once Mike had drawn the crane, we didn’t need that sentence anymore and were able to go to the funnier, “The hippos waddled forward. ‘This could take a while,’ said the sheep.”
Another option, to be used sparingly because most editors and illustrators don’t like it, is to include art specs. This should only be done when something specific HAS to be drawn to make the story work, or when the text is so spare that the reader won’t know what you intend without the art notes. For example, the text of No Dogs Allowed
. If you scroll down that link on Linda Ashman’s page, you can click on the actual manuscript and see how she did it.
But ultimately, it is your job as author to use the strongest nouns and verbs you can, so that your intent is crystal clear without having to explain.
In your example above, I don’t think you need the part you asked about. If you go straight from “try again” to “Teary-eyed, Jay flew away…”, you have clearly indicated his sadness with “teary-eyed”and an illustrator is likely to pick up on that and paint his dejection.
But this is where picture books are different from every other genre. The illustrator might paint something else. And it might be just as good as what you intended, or even better!
So your job is to tell the story and let the illustrator draw it.
And be forewarned that when your book arrives in proof form, it may not be quite what you expected, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great!
Anyone else who has submitted mss, please chime in with your thoughts. And illustrators too – what do you like to see?