Thursday, December 1, 2011

Two years! Two years! I'd have given up long ago...

I was doing my Christmas shopping online (hurrah for Book Depository!) when I came across a book by Mem Fox called Where is the Green Sheep.

I started googling to find out more and whether it would be suitable for one of the little people in our family and I discovered an awesome post she had made on her website about the book. Now it is quite long but if you have some spare time (wishful thinking? Especially at this time of year I know), I really highly recommend it. I always thought children’s picture book authors had it so easy: plonk a few words down on a page, rhyming if you want to be tricky, and wallah! Well, was I in for a surprise…

It took Mem two years to complete this book – all 190 words of it. (Oh and as an aside she tells us that 188 of those words have only one syllable!). She wrote and rewrote hundreds of drafts, scrutinizing every word, every syllable, every combination of words to get the book to be very best it could. She even includes an early draft and the finished product so you can get a sense for how much they are worked on and revised – I think the only similarities between the two versions is they both contain a green sheep!

I also didn’t know that picture book authors generally write in isolation: they have a concept, thrash it out until they have a story, send it off to the publisher and that’s it. The publisher takes over, gets someone to put illustrations to your blood sweat and tears and sends it out to market. If you are lucky you will have some input on the illustrator but mostly not – only really if you are a children’s book high flyer like Mem Fox can you get that sort of treatment. Amazing isn’t it.

And that is why I could never be a children’s picture book author: giving over my “baby” that I had slaved on for weeks/months/years and not having any control over what the illustrations that go with it will look like. Oh and that I have not even an iota of enough patience to agonise over a 200 word book for two years!

Anyway, as I said, if you have the time to read it I do recommend – it’s written in Mem’s very easy and engaging style and you will learn some fascinating stuff about the mind of a children’s author.

Oh you might need the link huh? It's here:

And lastly, please don't tell my partner's niece this is her Christmas present from Auntie Kelly!


Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

That's fascinating and interesting ... thank you! Wearing my 'poet hat' for a moment, I'll say - I can totally believe the striving over a few words! :)Hope your niece enjoys I'm sure she will. (Now I must go look up the link you've posted.

Jenny said...

ok I wont tell your niece. I will however sulk on behalf of your nephew ;) this is SUCH a cool book!!

Heather said...

I love this book! I've given it as a gift many times and my friends report to me that it's one they dont actually mind reading over and over again-crucial for a children's picture book!

Kelly said...

Thanks for your comments Kay, Jenny and Heather :)

Jenny: I hope you, Aaron and Conner will enjoy the very cool book I picked for Conner's pressie... fingers crossed it arrives in time.

Heather - great to know I chose well!