Tag Archives: picture books

Alison Goldberg’s Big Moment!

alisons-author-photoIt is my great honor to host Alison Goldberg today as she reveals the cover for her debut picture book, I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES, coming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux next December. (How will we wait??)

Alison, this is so exciting! I’ve watched this book transform from an idea to a manuscript. Now it’s almost a real book. How did you first get the idea?

Between the ages of two to four, my son was deep into trucks. My daughter loved building complicated train tracks. We lived and breathed vehicles for a few years. The bedtime game, “How much do you love me?” turned into a comparison of the size, strength, and length of all things that go. After many nights of coming up with these examples for my own children, I thought this could be a fun take on a love book.

I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES is *perfect* for children who love trucks, boats, planes, and trains! It’s sure to be a favorite of caregivers too, with enough heart to make story time a sweet, snuggly experience again and again.

With no further ado, here’s the gorgeous cover!

loveyouformiles_biblio

What did you think when you first saw the cover, Alison?

I was absolutely thrilled! There is so much movement and so much sweetness in Mike Yamada’s illustrations. The perspective of the plane flying toward the reader is incredible. And I love those bears!

Heavy-duty vehicles zoom, soar, and dig on every page. Mike Yamada’s dynamic, vibrant illustrations are packed with page-filling excitement! Here’s a bigger sneak peek:

 I especially like how I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES offers readers—both child and adult—the profound reassurance that, “Love can be stronger than the strongest excavator” and “steadier than the steadiest tugboat.” I can’t wait to preorder it and share it with the trucks-and-trains kids in my life.

So, do you have any advice for new picture book writers?

Revise, revise, revise.

 Also, finding critique partners to share the challenges and the joys of this process is so important. When you go to classes, conferences, or events, don’t be shy about approaching people.

 Hayley, we met in NYC at a SCBWI conference, even though we both live in the Boston area. I remember hearing you read a fabulous picture book manuscript at a roundtable and thinking, I need to connect with her!

I remember feeling the exact same way at the time, and now here we are! Congratulations, my friend!

————————————————————————-

More about Alison:

Alison Goldberg is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Before becoming a children’s book author, Alison worked for economic justice organizations and wrote a resource guide about social change philanthropy. These days, she blogs about activism in children’s literature and loves researching everything from marine life to contemporary art for her books. Alison is also a board member of the Food Research and Action Center, an organization committed to ending hunger in the United States.

Alison participates in Picture the Books, a group of picture book creators with 2017 debuts and is a member of The Writers’ Loft (thewritersloft.org) in Sherborn, MA. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Learn more about Alison and I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES at www.alisongoldberg.com or on Twitter @alisongoldberg.

 

Advertisements

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…

I dream of illustrators. I drift in reveries of soft-focus pastels. I wonder about the mysteries of charcoal drawings in grays and blacks. I hardly dare to hope for cut paper. Will my illustrator prefer realism? Or will my illustrator be funny and cartoonish? Will they understand the real me?

When I tell people I write picture books, I get one of two questions right out of the gate. It’s either, “Are you published yet?” or “Do you illustrate your own work?” My answer, as of today, is easy. No and no. It feels a lot like when your well-intentioned grandmother asks if you are seeing anyone special. “Thanks, Gramma, but no. Not yet.” Emphasis on the yet.

When I explain how the process works, people are surprised and confused. “I’m the writer. I write the text. Other people design the book,” I say. They usually splutter a bit about creative control. What happens if the publisher chooses an illustrator I don’t like? What if I’m unhappy? Good questions.

Of course, I’ve wrestled with the same questions. Could I embrace a literary arranged marriage? Could I trust a stranger with my precious book baby? I think about the people who want to be involved in the creation of a book. Editors. Art directors. The whole book-birthing team. Mostly, I think about illustrators. Eager to usher something of themselves into the world. Waiting for their chance at happiness. Maybe even a match made in heaven. Just like me.

I find the prospect of co-creation exhilarating. The thought that my work could bring professional joy to an illustrator keeps my brain buzzing and my fingers tapping. I strive to write visually, to invite the artistic impulse. I leave room in my text for an unknown illustrator’s individuality. I’m thrilled when friends receive their first art samples. They proudly show them around like ultrasounds. “Look!” they say, “look!” Through the hard work of illustration, the dreamed-of and long-awaited book baby becomes real. It has personality. Humor. Wit. Tenderness.

As a writer, I have a clear choice. I can keep my words to myself, tucked lovingly into a folder or a drawer. Or I can take the plunge, entrust them to others, and give them the chance become something I can’t fully imagine. Something better. Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…

500 Words or Less

I enjoyed my first reading of Stephen King’s ON WRITING. As a matter of personal taste, I’m not a fan of his fiction, mostly because I was the anti-self-censoring kid. I clearly remember many, many books (like CARRIE) that should have been yanked out of my sweet little mitts. He’s an excellent writer, but make my King non-fiction.

I expected him to be funny. He is. He’s also emotionally honest, appreciative of his family, and warmly encouraging. If I ever meet him–I saw him at a Maine rest stop once–I’ll be glad. I generally pay no attention to celebrities, and I wouldn’t recognize Justin Bieber if he ran up and slapped me, but when I saw Stephen King step out of his car and walk toward Dunkin’ Donuts, I knew it. He’s a recognizable fellow. He must dread stopping on the Maine Turnpike.

King has a lot to teach writers. He expects us to shun the passive voice. He doesn’t truck with adverbs. For dialogue, “said” will do most of the time. He recommends a bracing dose of Larry McMurty to show us how much can be accomplished with “said.” I agree.

Except… I write for children and that leaves me in a tricky spot. Accepted word count for a picture book text is 500 words or less. Preferably much less. Good picture book writers wield that tight word limit like a plastic surgeon wields a scalpel. They carve out  stories that offer well-developed characters, clear story arcs, zingy tension, and satisfying resolutions. The very best examples, in my opinion, have something more. Delicious, nutritious language.

A favorite read-aloud in our house was Charlotte Pomerantz and James Marshall’s THE PIGGY IN THE PUDDLE. It was a treasure trove of fun words and my children delighted in Little Piggy’s rebellious adventures. They cheered as she would, “…waddle, plump and little, in the very merry middle.” Gently and naturally, the book expanded my kids’ vocabularies and fed their love of reading. The adorable illustrations and lilting language were an Astaire-and-Rogers team. We loved it.

Stephen King wasn’t talking about picture books. He was talking about–and to–grown-up writers who use corn-fed filler words that sap the strength of their prose. Still, as picture book word counts become more and more limited, we have to wonder what we stand to lose as the scalpel nears the bone.

Children need to read adverbs. They need to read adjectives. They need to read and learn lots of ways to say “said” without saying “said.” They need words like they need vegetables and plenty of them.

Most writers I know lament the scarcity of long, luxurious picture books. They still occasionally happen, and we all hope they’ll experience a renaissance. Candlewick’s gorgeous CLOUD TEA MONKEYS, written by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham and illustrated by Juan Wijngaard, is a recent example. Books like this, however, are as rare as snow leopards.

So, with the help of ON WRITING, I’ll sharpen my scalpel and have at it with my 500 words. But I hope I see more snow leopards.

Enjoy the day.

Some Things Never Change

Thankfully, some things never change. Like horses. Horses never change. I fell in love with them when I was two years old, and they are the very same creatures now as then. In a world whirling with change, that’s pretty precious. They smell the same, sound the same, act the same. They are as gorgeous, fragile, and dangerous as ever.

When I was a kid, the horses I knew were ponies. Down and dirty, backyard ponies housed in old sheds. They were fenced in with a motley assortment of boards and wire.  They received only rudimentary vet care. They were hardly trained and could be very unpredictable. They were good teachers, though. Nothing will teach you to hold your seat in the saddle like a sudden left-hand turn at a full gallop. Their lives were simple. They were happy and healthy animals, loved by their people, and content to trot kids through the woods for hours.

Now I ride at a beautiful, beautiful barn. It was designed and built for the management of well-bred dressage horses. Every possible care was taken to make sure they would be comfortable and safe. The horses have a live-in manager to watch over them. They get dental care. Massages. Acupuncture.  

But you know what? They are no different in most ways from the shaggy little guys I knew and loved. They are still creatures of flight that will flee from imagined danger into very real danger in the blink of an eye. You still have to win their trust. You still have to remember to watch out for their hooves and their teeth.

When I was a pony-mad girl, I only knew I loved horses and wanted to be near them. Now I know how they nourish me.

For one thing, horsemanship and riding are difficult. Anyone can provide basic care for a horse, but to really understand them takes a lifetime of devotion. I love that. I’ll never, ever, learn enough and that’s okay. To ride well, whatever the discipline, takes patience and focus. To persuade a horse to participate as a partner rather than force him to obey takes delicacy and respect. Even the littlest is huge–a miniature horse can weigh 250 pounds–and they are both strong and opinionated. They do not suffer fools. 

My work as a writer nourishes me in a similar way. Writing is difficult and takes a lifetime’s worth of learning. I love that. I’ll never, ever, learn enough and that’s okay. Writing requires patience and focus. Even the littlest bit of writing–a 250 word picture book–is huge and opinionated. To try to force words to do anything is both foolhardy and likely fruitless. They’ll run away from you every time and once loose, are hard to capture again. Beautiful writing, like beautiful riding, takes delicacy and a respectful attitude. 

So I try. I try to ride well, despite achy joints and the many pressures of life. I try to write well, despite the same achy joints. Both disciplines are difficult. Both are beautiful. Some things never change, and for that, I’m grateful.

Enjoy the day.