I've had three picture books traditionally published and with fingers crossed a new one will be published in the next year or so. With each of these projects I've never worked with the illustrator. I've had a chance to comment, highlight things that are missing or point out the odd element that doesn't correspond to my text but that's all. So when my niece asked if I could be her sounding board for her final major project (a picture book) at University I jumped at the chance.
Rather than simply illustrate a well known story my niece decided to write and illustrate her picture book. So our first step was for me to read her manuscript. I made a few suggestions for editing and tweaking. Note: never send a manuscript to a creative writing teacher if you don't want them to grab the red pen!
Her main character Tumo the baby elephant
We then set aside an afternoon to meet up and she arrived with several large sketchbooks. She had so many ideas we knew some hard decisions had to be made, what to keep and what to 'kill.' It was decided the best course of action was to start to pick the ideas that worked and stitch these together. Basically she started with page one and worked a page at a time.
When spreads 11 and 12 were reached that light bulb moment happened. She had come up with such a lovely image for spread 11 that it cried out to become the final spread. So with a tweak in the wording version one was complete with its new ending. Another version was also needed so the process was repeated.
Just one of my nieces quick sketches
The story is still a work in progress, so I haven't seen the completed story yet. But I know the deadline is extremely close (I know that feeling) and I'm eagerly waiting to see the end result. I have to admit I really enjoyed the experience of seeing words marry images and hope sometime I'll get the opportunity to do so again. And next time perhaps those words will be mine!
I also blog on The Picture Book Den, Authors Electric, Fuelled By Hot Chocolate and The Hedgehog Shed
P.S. Editors: If you're looking for a new voice with some great ideas please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll put you in contact with my niece. It would be lovely to have another writer in the family!