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Poetry Friday: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

This past Tuesday, I had a fantastic surprise that I just have to share with you. Astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, who was living on the International Space station for 200 days (until yesterday when she returned to earth) recited the poem from my picture book, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It was out of this world- literally! You can watch the video here.

Twinkle Cover 120 res

Jama Rattigan at Jama’s Alphabet Soup has some delightful blueberry-themed offerings as well as the Poetry Friday round-up of poems. Please check them out here!

Revising Rhymes


Today I am very happy to be the featured blogger on Angie Karcher’s outstanding site! If you are not familiar with it, I urge you to check it out. It’s chock-full of informative posts on the topic of rhyming picture books. She also includes lots of resources, writing prompts and much more! And,  if you are interested in the rhyme editing process and want to read some of my lousy first drafts, then hop on over here.

OLD KING COLE book trailer

Hello, anybody there…?

I know, I know. I have been away a long time and I apologize. I’ve had an unplanned hiatus- an awful case of blog block,  and then I was too scared and embarrassed to return. But now it’s a new year…

And may it be a happy one for us all!

Last July when I posted, I had already finished the paintings for Old King Cole and was starting sketches for another book (Gabe and Goon 2016.) In the meantime, I have been waiting for final high-res scans and proofs for King Cole which just arrived a few weeks ago. It’s a lengthy process- this book making stuff. I have learned to be patient, though it’s not always easy.

So now, as publication date (Aug 4th) is getting nearer, I’ll be able to post a few of my early rhymes and sketches and compare them to the finished versions. I will do that soon and I hope writers/illustrators will find it informative.

In the meantime, here is the OLD KING COLE BOOK TRAILER.  My stepson put it together. My good friend played the fiddle. And I? Well, you’ll find out my contribution :-) I hope it makes you smile! 



Picture Book Illustration: Making an architectural model

Well, thank goodness for modern technology. Here I am on a small island 10 miles offshore and, though reception is mostly spotty, there are rare moments when I have a good internet signal and can actually tether my iphone to the computer. This is one such moment and I want to show you what I’ve been doing on my working vacation.

In preparation for my next book, Gabe and Goon (Fall 2016), I have made up an architectural model of a boy’s bedroom. Since the whole story takes place in the room, I thought it would be helpful to have this model to sketch from. I can take photos from various angles and viewpoints and maintain consistency. I have drawn floor plans in the past, but I have never done a 3D model before. What fun!



Thinking visually

A few days ago my editor asked me to send her the pagination (what text goes on what page) for my new children’s story. Usually I like to send a clean manuscript, with no side notes that may distract. But this wasn’t one of my nursery rhyme retellings and had more verses then usual, so she wasn’t sure what I had in mind for the page breaks. She said it would be helpful to know this to edit the story.  And  she said that since I am a “visual thinker”,  I surely had the page breaks in mind. She was right. Whenever I write a picture book draft, I do a rough storyboard. I mean rough- like this:

storyboard example (thinking visually)

(click to enlarge)

I do this on a sheet of 8.5×11 paper and there is not enough room for me to write the entire text, so I number my verses in the manuscript and jot down the corresponding numbers in the storyboard (and include the first and last lines of the verses so I know what’s what. )

This simple process really helps me see the flow of the book, the pacing, how the story arcs, if there are too many or not enough verses, if the story moves forward from page to page, if the words suggest good imagery and how the words and pictures fit together.

You don’t need to be an illustrator to do this. I think it’s a useful tool for all picture book writers. All the non-illustrating picture book writers I’ve met said they can envision the pictures. They are visual thinkers too.

Some things to keep in mind: Most picture books are 32 pages. The first few pages are called the front matter. Page 1 is either a half title page (just title of book) or full title page (title, author/illustrator and publisher names.) Pages 2 and 3 can be either the full title spread (if  page 1 wasn’t the full title page) or they can be the copyright and dedication pages. That would allow for the story to begin on page 4. Or, as in my example, I have a half title page on 1, full title spread on 2+3, dedication and copyright on page 4 and the story begins on page 5.  If the story is short, there is also the option of doing 1/2 title on page 1, copyright and dedication on pages 2+3, full title on pages 4+5 and the story begins on page 6. All this is subject to change after the edit- if verses are removed or added- and also after the art director’s input. But it’s a good starting point.

Even if the editor doesn’t ask  for the pagination, doing a storyboard like this is extremely helpful. And if  you are asked for it, this is my editor’s preferred format. I think it’s the least distracting:

P. 6

P. 7

Pp. 8+9


I hope this is helpful.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

On monday I am heading off to Maine for vacation- a working vacation, but still an opportunity to rejuvenate. Have a wonderful summer and I’ll  see you in September!

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