As a teenager I wanted to to be an overseas correspondent. I naively saw myself in dangerous zones in the world, risking all to send gripping reports back to European headquarters. The overseas bit worked out (and I did get caught up in one Coup d’Etat in Africa!), but as life would have it the correspondence has always remained at a personal level across the seas. Many times I have thought of transforming my newsletters and journals into travalogues or novels, but it was during my years as a school librarian, immersed in narrating around 100 stories a week to K-5 kids, that the desire and ideas to write picture books were kindled. I loved this work and just adored seeing how much pleasure these children received from a good story and illustrations. Even the most disruptive student can be happily quieted the length of a good book, I wanted my opportunity to craft a story that would produce such enjoyment.
As with so many ideas, it was put on the back-burner, until recently, when I felt this yearning to return to more active, creative pursuits that had been dormant far too long (apart from my cooking, which has always remained a creative outlet ;)). During the fall I started reading a lot more book, movie and theatre reviews and this progressed onto some authors’ blogs, including Emma Walton Hamilton’s. I had already read a number of books that she had co-written with her mother, Julie Andrews Edwards, and had listened to interviews Emma had given, speaking on literacy and the arts. So when I saw that she was offering an online training program to learn how to write picture books, I knew the time was right and I had confidence in the quality I would be receiving. I have not been disappointed!
Just Write For Kids is a program of 8 lessons, one a week for two months (you can, of course, take as long as you need to complete each assignment) sent by email, providing step-by-step essentials on creating a publishable Picture Book. Thank goodness I didn’t launch into this without learning these basics.It has surely helped me avoid at least some of the typical beginners’ errors. I have plans/outlines/tips/resources that I will consistently reuse in the future, even with writing different genres. The site has space for comments and questions and Emma’s feedback is incredibly concrete and specific, geared to equipping and encouraging participants, not just giving information.
I am just finishing the final week of JWFK, doing lots of tweaking, editing and rewriting, creating a draft which is ready to go to the next stage, of feedback (more on feedback and editing in a future post). It has been a very rewarding course; exceeding my expectations in the foundation I have received and the vision it has given me for my future!