When David mentions that he can see you, he can actually see you. He's magic. I just hope you are dressed appropriately to read this post. If not, go, get changed and then enjoy David's words.
This may surprise you, but I think about books a lot. All the time. I love the way they look, I love the way they feel in my hands, and, of course, they’re filled with amazing things like words and pictures and stories! If you’re here reading this (and I know you are! I can see you out there!) you probably like a lot of these same things. You are probably my people.
So, my people, I present to you a three-part magic formula for making books:
Read, Write, Draw.
I still joke (maybe?), but there truly are some awful books out there. Read some of them to the bitter end in order to anchor the deep end of your pool of understanding what picture books can be. But also read the best books. Read the ones everyone talks about. Read the ones that the librarians say they can’t keep on the shelf. Most of all, read the underappreciated gems that make you feel like a high-dive, that feel like you are the only person who could possibly love these books they way you do. Those are the ones that will thrill your heart and shape the books that you want to make.
Obviously. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Simple.
Picture books are amazing. They come in so many shapes and sizes. They can be filled with encyclopedic facts, they can sing with lyrical verse, or they can be entirely wordless. It is entirely up to you. But even a wordless story has to be written somehow.
This part has always felt most natural to me. I am an artist. A draw-er. I am a doodler. I can’t watch TV or a movie without a sketch pad handy. And because I am always drawing as I ingest stories, I think the two - drawing and storytelling - are thoroughly tangled in my synapses.
Drawing is thinking. Drawing is a way to study the problem. Drawing makes the ideas in your head into something you can look at and rearrange and add to and trim and sculpt. And when you make picture books, drawing is writing!
Just because I have a story in draft zero does not mean I haven’t worked on it. On the contrary: I have sketched the characters in dozens of ways. I have drawn them talking and digging and worrying and doing all manner of silly things as I figure out who they are, and why they do the things at the beginning and at the end of my story - all in pursuit of finding out what they do in the middle, of course. Let me know if you come across any good story-middles.
Read, Write Draw, repeat
Not every story can be captured in the same way. Some of the ones I have written need all their words in order before I can add images to them. Others don’t make sense to me verbally, but instead flash through my mind as scenes and pictures. Most of the time it’s somewhere in between, and I’ll work back and forth from text to sketch to dummy and back through it all again.
I’m tempted to say there isn’t some magic formula for making picture books, but that would make me look pretty dumb, since I offered you exactly that about 1,000 words ago. But like making picture books, we all know that magic is never as easy as it looks - it takes concentrated effort and practice to pull it off. But I know, and you know, that you, my people, have the power to read and write and draw your way to a glittery, sparkly, magical picture book of your very own.
Good luck this month as you create your smartest of dummies! I will see you on the bookshelves!
David Huyck has been drawing for as long as he can remember, drawing picture books since he was in college, and publishing as a children's illustrator since 2012. The third book he illustrated, If Kids Ruled the World, won both the Shining Willow Award in Saskatchewan and the Blue Spruce Award in Ontario in 2016, and his fourth and latest book, Manners Are Not For Monkeys, is up for a 2017 Rainforest of Reading Award.
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