Friday, January 29, 2016

On Revising Picture Books, Second Sight, and Drawing Mice

I am almost a month into the 2016 revision process on my children's book. Although I have been called in to help out at my old school, I am still making time to work on the book. I am finding a great deal of very useful information in Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising & Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B. Klein. My copy of this treasure is now sprouting dozens of post-its, marking  important points to consider. I have made quite a few changes already, and am certain many more will follow.

Ms. Klein has pulled together a number of talks that she presented at conferences around the country and has added some of her blog posts, worksheets and other helpful tips and tools. If you are working on a book for children, I strongly recommend this book as an incredibly useful reference. I couldn't find it at my local independent bookstore, so had to order it on line, but you can find it at It is well worth the price.

The Mouse Project is progressing well. I have drawn, painted or collaged a mouse every day. It appears that folks love the mice which I am posting on my personal Facebook page. You can see them on my website Use the navigation bar and got to "Projects" and you can click on "The Mouse Project" to see images that have been posted so far. This week, each mouse is rendered in the style of a different famous artist, so you can see a Princess Mouse after the style of Velazquez, a VanGogh Mousekin and tonight I will add a mouse in the style of Gaudi.

Many of my Facebook friends are making suggestions. It has occurred to me that 366 mice (this is a leap year) is a LOT of mice. Any suggestions for topics are welcome. Please remember that all my mice drawings are copyrighted, but if you want to use one, please contact me for permission and fees, if appropriate. I am generous about sharing, but it would be nice to earn a bit, considering the hours I put in on each creation.

Working on this project is forcing me to push myself into new mediums and styles. I am enjoying branching out, as well as learning a bit of what I should have learned in Art History class about each of the artists whose styles I am borrowing. I can now really see the influences Picasso and Matisse had on one another. They were great friends and shared much during their most creative years.

 While I want my illustrations to be charming, I also want the intentionally realistic ones to be scientifically accurate. This point was brought home to me when I picked up a new
 children's book at Watchung Booksellers the other day. One of the staff recommended it. I will pass on naming it, because I am loath to criticize a fellow author. The drawings are charming and the story is kind of sweet, but it is BAD science. The premise of the book is scientifically impossible. Unfortunately, young readers and (possibly) their parents will not know this. I will take this lesson to heart and work to be sure that in my book things happen as nature decrees. While there will be tidbits of anthropomorphism, animals and plants will be doing things that real animals and plants do, and not behaving in unnatural ways.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy fun books like If You Give  Pig A Pancake by Laura Numeroff, or de Brunhoff's Babar stories and Beverly Cleary's Mouse and the Motorcycle. But unless your story is clearly make believe, it should be scientifically accurate. The mallards in Make Way for Ducklings and the dog in Because of Winn-Dixie act like real ducks and real dogs. This makes the books so much richer. You know that the authors and illustrators really studied these species to get it right. That is what I aspire to. If it's supposed to be real, it must follow the rules of nature. If the story is a fanciful fiction with fun as the desired outcome, than let the silliness, sweetness, exaggeration and exceptional behavior abound!

Witness, my "Cat-and-Mousekin" in the style of Picasso. Obviously created for fun, not as a science lesson! This is very different from my woodland mouse leaping among grapevines and over logs. 

So I'd better get to work on my next mouse and get back to Second Sight. Month number two and mouse number 31 are at hand. I'd love it if you would post a comment. I need to know I am not writing into a black hole. Thanks so much.


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  4. There is a interesting story you have shared lot of work and get the best chance for the making in there same life student helping for us.

    1. Keeping focused on your work is a challenge, but a necessary thing. I am way behind on book revisions, but have kept up with the mouse pictures. I now have over 200 pictures completed and am considering selling items with my illustrations through "MousekinMarket" on Zazzle. Time will tell...