Blog Tour With Author Ann Whitford Paul
June 28, 2009 in Creative Writing activities, Cyrus, Kurt, Elementary Educators, Paul, Ann Whitford, Picture Book, six traits of writing Tags: Ann Whitford Paul, blog tours, Kurt Cyrus, Word Builder, WOW! Women On Writing, Writing Picture Books
Thank you for stopping by “Read These Books and Use Them” today. Author Ann Whitford Paul is with us today on her blog tour, and we have a real treat for you!
**LEAVE A COMMENT below by Tuesday, June 30, 8:00 p.m. CST, for a chance to win either Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication or Word Builder, a picture book about words. Two winners will be drawn randomly. Winner number one will get the first pick of the book he or she wants.
An interview with Ann Whitford Paul, author of Writing Picture Books and Word Builder:
Margo: Hi Ann, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by my blog today and share your knowledge with us. What made you want to write Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication?
Ann: I was fortunate enough to be advised, tutored, and taught by two fantastic teachers who encouraged and prodded me to keep working. Without Myra Cohn Livingston and Sue Alexander, I might still be unpublished. When I finally had a few books published, I knew I wanted to pay back those talented and giving women by doing what they did–mentoring and teaching others. So I started teaching at UCLA Extension. One of my students, Molli Nickell, first brought up the idea of writing a book [about writing picture books], but I was terrified. My manuscripts were only 350 words long. Could I really write a book for adults that in the end turned out to be 350 manuscript pages? I put it off and put it off for several years until finally I willed myself to begin. Breaking the project into chapters made it much easier. I thought of each chapter as a picture book, and then I was able to proceed. Also I discovered that much of the material for my book already lived in my computer. Handouts and class lectures were adapted and revised to fit into the book. Isn’t it amazing how a project that seems so overwhelming can turn out not to be so once we begin?
Margo: That is so true; and we all know it when we are busy procrastinating instead of writing, but we do it anyway. (laughs) Your book offers chapters on all sorts of topics for picture book writers from early story decisions to the structure of your story to what to do when your story is finally done! Out of all of the advice and tips in the book, what are the two things writers can start doing today to improve their picture book manuscripts?
Ann: Yipes! Just two? I think my first suggestion would be to pay close attention to the language of your story. Picture books are meant to be read out loud. Therefore the words have to be able to flow off the tongue of the adult reader. They have to be written in such a manner that even an untrained actor can read them with expression. In addition, they must echo the action in the story. In my book, I spend several chapters talking about the sounds and rhythms of words and sentences. Quiet scenes need quieter words and leisurely sentences. High action scenes need hard words and short tight sentences. Work hard on the language of your story, and you’ll be one step ahead of most picture book writers.
The second suggestion would be to fill your story with action. Action can be illustrated. Think of your picture book as a slide show with each page or spread giving the illustrator an opportunity for a new picture. Following up on this, I encourage every picture book writer to make a dummy of her book . . . a dummy is 32 pages (the usual length of a picture book) with your words pasted on each page where you think they would fall. This dummy is not to send to the publisher, but [it] is yours to make sure that you have good picture variety, strong page turns, and both tight openings and endings. I wouldn’t submit a manuscript without making a dummy.
But my most important advice (I guess this is cheating because it’s number three) to any writer, whether picture books or adult novels, is not to try to imitate other writers. Dr. Seuss and J. K. Rowling are unique. Their books succeed because they were the first. Follow the stories that grab you, and have faith that your experiences and outlook will make your books unique and therefore maybe even best sellers.
Margo: I’m glad you cheated and included three tips because all three are equally important. Let’s switch now and talk about your picture book that you have out called Word Builder. How can teachers use Word Builder in their classrooms? Would it be appropriate for all elementary grades?
Ann: My friend Sandy Sandy Schuckett, a retired librarian, made up a worksheet for teachers to use in the classroom. I’m attaching it here [see the file link below for the worksheet], and it will be available when I update my website, www.annwhitfordpaul.com, soon.
Many schools have units where students write books, and I would imagine that WORD BUILDER might take some of the fear of writing away from girls and boys. After all, writing is simply building words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs. It’s as natural as piling blocks into a tower or walking forward along a line. One block and one step at a time. That’s how you get a story down. And once the story is down, then comes my favorite part—revision. I agree with Katherine Patterson when she said, “I love revisions. Where else in life can spilled milk be transformed into ice cream?” The hardest part of writing is the first draft, then comes the fun part—making a story the best it can be.
Margo: Ann, such words of wisdom from you and Katherine Patterson. Teachers, make sure you download this two page resource for use with the book, Word Builder. It is excellent! worksheetwordbuilder.doc
**Don’t forget to leave a comment or question for Ann for a chance to win one of her fantastic books!