When are you going to write a proper book?

That is the question that plagues a lot of aspiring writers, but fear not! Incredible dlr Writer in Residence Sarah Webb has organized, alongside CBI – Children’s Books Ireland, a few events focused on supplying all the people that work (or want to) in Children’s Books with insights and tools of the trade to succeed called #properbook

I listened to all sessions from the first #properbook event (available on Soundcloud – listen here) and I knew I could get a lot from the second one, especially because it was focused on my favourite type of Children’s Books – Picturebooks.

These are my notes from the first session of the day:

Does it have to Rhyme?
With Valerie Coghlan and Lucinda Jacobs (chaired by Sarah Webb)

Much was discussed with Valerie Coghlan on the importance of the visual and verbal narratives of picturebooks, since it is of its nature to have an interdependence of pictures and words. The rhythms of stories (verbally and visually) are what matter most.

Some main points:

  • Creating the drama of turning of the page is also essential. Left pages are considered “safe” and right ones are more “adventurous”.
  • Pictures advance the narrative
  • Pictures and words should create synergy
  • Pictures should expand the text
  • Pictures may contradict/subvert/counterpoint the text (irony/humour/comic effect)
  • Some picturebooks may be wordless.
  • Words can also be used as visual devices.

Picturebooks also follow the same conventions of a stage, so it’s important to work on the planning of a picturebook considering it as a whole, for instance, the endpapers can express the mood of the book, or even be a more prominent part of the story.

Now considering the text, remember that a prose text will have poetry elements, because picturebooks are usually read aloud, but before you start writing, make sure the story actually works as a story. (Guess what? Rhyming is not necessary).

In my next #properbook post I’ll cover the inside information coming from the great panel of illustrators Michael Emberly, Mary Murphy and Chris Judge.