Reported by Dana Sullivan
Standing room only. Take that Tina Wexler.
Victoria Jamieson just finished art for a book coming out in a year and a half. Used to be a book designer at Green Willow. Great way to learn how to make books and see how other artists submit their dummies.
What is a dummy? Basically a working sketch of your picture book. Any size, filled with text and sketches. One or two color pieces. Could be designed or could be a Word document, cut and taped down. Showed 6 different dummies for same book. If you're not into making revisions, you should probably think about a different profession. Even the size changed in the course of her changes. Passed around her dummies.
Making a Dummy
Always start by folding a piece and folding in half, so you are aware of the gutter, Take 8 pieces of paper and fold them in half, you've got a dummy.
1. tool for you as the illustrator. You can see your text in the format of the book. Break it up. Do illustrations work? Did you leave room for type? Do you have a nice assortment of single pages and spreads? Visually too much text? Rule of thumb: cut text in half and then halve again.
2. Dummies are portable, so give them to your mean friends who will give you real feedback. You don't need to take all comments, but if you hear 10 times that they can't tell if it's a goat or a bunny, pay attention.
3. Perfectly acceptable way to give to a publisher or agent. Nice package - clear envelope, name tag, post card.
Dummies are invaluable for author/illustrators. Also good for writers just to see how text would break up. Nothing takes the place of having a tangible book in your hands. Illustrators have a definite advantage because they can tell a story visually. And then you add as few words as you can get away with.
Start with thumbnail layout. Usually 32. Make sure it's got a title and dedication page to show publishers you know how it's done, even though you might put dedication at the end.
Start with rough thumbnail sketches, but clean them up a bit before submission, so publisher doesn't think you're a raging lunatic.
How finished should your sketches be? Pretty close to finals, so no big surprises for art director.
What do you put in those 32 pages? Still follow rules of novel: need to have a beginning, middle and end. Exposition, introduce character, what are they like. Shouldn't be just a laundry list. Something has to happen. Complication: what's the problem, what's going on? Climax: everything comes to a head. Right around page 28. Resolution: problem gets solved.
Narrative Arc Formula (Darcy Pattison: 30 Days to a Stronger Picture Book)
• This is a story about ______
• Who more than anything wants _______________ or fears ___________
• But can't because of these complications:
• Until __________________________
You get to be a vindictive god who doesn't let your character have what they most desire, UNTIL ________________
Moe Willems' "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" as example. Sets up conflict right away. Pigeon then starts pleading and whining and cajoling, etc. More pictures per page, reaching the climax of "LET ME DRIVE THE BUS!" Then he is resigned, cools down. Accepts his defeat, his reversal. But then a truck comes in. "Hey..." Now pigeon has a new dream.
"No, David" by David Shannon
Starts off with lots of "no's." Get to know David. Funny examples.. Runs naked, picks nose. But then pushes too far and breaks vase and gets in trouble and punished. But resolution: "Come here, baby. yes, David, I love you."
Good things to remember
1. fewest words possible
2. Repetition of phrases, often in threes
3. Does it reach climax verbally AND visually?
4. Is there a compact and ultimately satisfying ending?
"Where the Wild Things Are"
pictures get bigger and bigger, spreads. Wild Rumpus climaxes with three full spreads with no words. Then cools down with single page.
Ending Your Story
Introducing the MOTHER OF ALL PAGE TURNS
• Make your ending inevitable, but not predictable. Stay true to your character and the world you've created
• Let the story live beyond page 32
• moral or no moral?
Mother of All Page Turns
1, unexpected twist
2 begin the cycle again
4. emotional connection
"Miss Nelson is Missing" James Marshall
nice sweet teacher gets walked on by her students. Evil teacher shows up and scares them and they so want Miss Nelson back. Secret is never told outright, but the visuals let the kid reader see for themselves. Final page has a private detective looking for the evil teacher, which makes the kid reader smarter than this adult detective. Victoria used to just laugh and laugh at dumb detective.
Moral or no moral?
Don't always need a happy, expected ending.
"Bea and Mr.Jones" father and daughter switch places and both do very well, have fun. You expect them to go back to their lives, but they don't. They both really like it and stay in their new roles. And why not? Imagine what the different endings could be.
Letter with your dummy
Check out QueryShark to see how to write query letters. But don't stress out. Most folks will read a dummy no matter what. A query letter would be sent alone to ask if they would like to see your dummy. Good to find out at conferences who will take dummies cold.
Victoria showed us two pretty final dummies of "Olympig." Her first one kept getting rejected. Finally her agent told her it was too preachy, with a "lesson" for Boomer. He's really bad at all the sports, until the mud. He's gonna win, but hears a "help" and goes back to help someone. Loses the race, but becomes a hero. Multiple agencies rejected it. Comments about predicability and "everybody wins." How could she turn the story on its head? After she threw the letter in the corner, she really started thinking about it and watched more olympic tapes.
Final: more backstory about Boomer, why is he so obsessed? Who is his family? Why does he think he will win? The race reporter stays with him, interviewing, etc. Boomer keeps losing, even though he really tried and practiced. But his mom still loves him, so he goes back in, apologizes and tries. Still loses, but realizes it was terrific practice for Winter Olympics. And it's gonna be published! Yay!