Sunday, February 8, 2015

Laura Vaccaro Seeger: The Making of a Picture Book

Laura shows us a slide of all the books she's done, and how happy she is to have done them all with her editor and now friend, Neal Porter.

It all starts with journals: a place for doodles and stream of consciousness thinking. Laura numbers all of her pages in a journal and makes a table of contents for remembering those fleeting good ideas—brilliant!

A lot of times, one book will inform and shape your next book, especially for concept books. Laura loves exploring opposites. For the hidden alphabet, she used negative space to force the reader to read the shapes of the letters, using die-cut shapes to do that, led to Lemons are Not Red, where die-cut shapes force you to think about why a certain thing is not a certain color, and to wonder what the page turn will reveal as the correct answer.

Even when making a concept book, there's always story. Whenever you can add story to something that's ostensibly just conceptual, it adds another layer to everything and makes the book better.

Sometimes you get an idea you believe in, but you get to a point when you're working on it where you think it can't work and you want to give up. Laura says you have to trust your first instinct and carry on.

How Laura built the characters for Dog and Bear: She started with a list of their character traits, it turns out she is a lot like Dog, and Neal Porter is a lot like Bear.

It makes the writing process easier and the story more authentic when you know your characters well.

It's so fun to watch Laura illustrate the power of prediction and page turn in a picture book by reading us a snippet of Dog and Bear: Tricks and Treats and One Boy.

Next she shows us a screenshot of a manuscript with all of it's revision notes (there are many). Laura understands how attached artists get to their art, but, she reminds us, we have to be willing to let go of a lot of stuff.

Make very, very very rough storyboards because PACING IS EVERYTHING. Do character design explorations, then figure out the essence of your book.

For BULLY, after doing all of her character design studies, Laura realized the essence of her book was that the main character was rough around the edges, and that all of her existing art supplies were too soft. Laura ended up inking all of the art in BULLY with a stick she found in her yard.

Laura also uses BULLY to illustrate how you can control how a picture book is read by varying the size of your type. So much fun!

Laura shows us the evolution of GREEN, which began in an email from Neal in 2007 giving Laura the title GREEN until its publication in 2012 and subsequent Caldecott Honor in 2013.

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