Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jane Yolen: Creating and Recreating the Picture Book

Jane Yolen
Jane Yolen is the author of approximately 16 million books. Oh, but I kid. She won't have written that many until next year.

For now, her fans must satisfy themselves with her  three-hundred some titles, which include the Caldecott-winning OWL MOON and the wildly popular DINOSAUR series, illustrated by Mark Teague, sitting next to Jane on stage.

Jane's fans here are many--when Lin called her name, there was much whooping and clapping.

Her advice to picture book writers:

Know that it takes a long time. Picture book people need to be dedicated. There is a particular kind of writing, illustrating and editing that is very demanding. There is also a great deal that you need to know.

There are 10 key words we need to know: Lyricism, compression, child-centeredness, focus, hook, words, illustratability, motion, emotion, and resolution. I'll explain the thoughts behind the first three (keeping the rest for conference-attendees to savor).

On lyricism: She's a fan of Maurice Sendak's line, "Let the wild rumpus begin." It's more lyrical than "Let the wild rumpus start," because that T in start is a final sound, which stops the action.

On compression: In the last five words of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, Sendak communicates a mother's love, the passage of time according to a child's perspective, and an entire emotional journey.

On child-centeredness: This doesn't mean you need to have a child in the book. Lots of great picture books don't have kids in them. Child-centeredness means the emotional key is something that resonates for kids. (Family, friendship, and frustration are her "three Fs".)

Jane Yolen shares secrets of writing great picture books.

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