With my second book, Sunbelievable, due to be released in print this fall (2011), I’m looking back at what I might have done differently. I’ve been truly humbled, exasperated but also exhilarated at different times during the process. I hope some of what I’ve learned may be of practical use to you. I’ll be writing more about mistakes. In the best sense, they’ve all been lessons learned. Here are two for starters:
First big mistake—An unfinished story
My son and I created the story for Sunbelievable almost 2 years ago. Never did we imagine that our first draft would be the first of dozens. We were inspired by his daughters, then ages 5 and 3. They always entertain each other with vivid imagination and storytelling. We, accomplished authors on academic topics, thought we could simply/easily transform their amusing dialogue into a children’s book. Feedback from friends showed us holes and inconsistencies. We re-wrote, sought more feedback, and continued revising.
One of the most helpful steps I took was joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). A local SCBWI writers’ group offered lots of constructive criticism.
Through SCBWI, I learned about the Writing4Kids Advanced Online Class: http://www.sadler4kids.com/writing4kids.htm. I’m happy to share this resource because it provided the structure, creative direction and expert advice sorely needed to advance our story.
Second big mistake—No artistic experience
At the same time, I began illustrating a story that wasn’t more than an outline. Here, I claim no artistic expertise. So, I had to learn Adobe Photoshop, an amazing tool with a steep learning curve. I joined the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP): http://www.photoshopuser.com/.
I attended a NAPP workshop in New York City, read instruction books, purchased digital scrapbook kits and played with the Photoshop software.
To my great surprise, a “style” began to emerge. I didn’t realize it then, but the technique was already established—“digital photo collage.” I searched bookstores and libraries for children’s books using this approach, but found almost nothing. My computer became my canvas. Gradually, I gained a basic enough level of competence, something like learning how to be “conversational” in a new and difficult language.
Here’s a very early “experiment” with digital photo collage. Much more on this technique in future posts on illustrating!