Tuesday, October 18, 2011

picture book bootcamp

Last weekend, despite serious tooth pain and pending fillings and root canal, I drove to the library in Fayetteville, NY to attend the SCBWI sponsored Picture Book Bootcamp, led by Lisa Wheeler.  It was a cold, rainy, dreary day, and without the ibuprofen and acetaminophen I would have passed out in the back row from the word go.

But a writer's gotta do what a writer's gotta do.  The room was filled with author wanna-bees.  Mostly women, a few men, and plenty of moms like me, trying to squeeze in a line here or there between diapers and drop offs. I got some tea and sat down in the middle of the room.  No need to push any of the edges, right?

After a few minutes of chatter from the group, Lisa stepped up and began her talk. Now, I have to admit something right off the bat.  When I signed up for the workshop, I was emailed a list of books and questions to pre-read in preparation for the class.  I went to our lovely Ithaca library and spent some time trying to find the titles.  Some were names we've all heard, and some were unknown to me.  And of course, there were plenty of Lisa's books on the list to read.  I read them.  And, in general, I didn't like them. She's a rhymer, and quite good at it.  But I just couldn't get into her style, her stories, something. I felt a little deflated about attending this workshop, and with all the tooth pain, I felt even less like going.

But a day away from the family, learning something new, is a day away right?  I have to say I am glad I went for more reasons than just getting out for a day. I could go in to all the details of Lisa's information, her format, her details, but if you are that interested you should simply go to her class.  I think it's sufficient to say that I left the library that day in Fayetteville no more in adoration of Lisa's books, but in deep admiration of her.

This woman has been writing picture books for YEARS.  And she has plenty published. But even more than that, she was thoughtful, kind, and not once did I feel like she was telling us she was better than us because she was published and we weren't.  She simply accepted as truth that if we were there then we were writers looking for help in this crazy business. She had some help to offer and there ya go, good thing we were all in the same room together.

I appreciated her candor, and her ideas. She gave out the closest thing to a formula for writing a picture book that probably exists. I left feeling like I could write the best damn picture book ever that would make kids jump up and down with enthusiasm when they knew it was time to read. (Even though the one I have is very weak and in complete need of major work.)

I've been revising my picture book.  I go up and down with it.  I've got loads of ideas for more. But long after the tooth pain is gone, and I do hope it goes away very very soon (root canal tomorrow), the information and understanding I gained from Lisa Wheeler at Bootcamp last weekend will remain. And that might just get me somewhere much better than a dentist's chair.

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