Next up in my SCBWI Iowa conference report: Beach Lane Books editor Allyn Johnston. Now, I’ve considered some picture book ideas, but haven’t really worked on them because a) I’m in a groove with my MG manuscript and b) picture books seem really hard. And after listening to Allyn and illustrator extraordinaire Marla Frazee, I know I’m right on point b: picture books are hard! But, is there anything more rewarding than reading a great picture book out loud to a kid?

Allyn was like a walking quote board of picture book passion. Some nuggets of awesomeness:

  • “A picture book is a form of high art.”
  • I want “the voice I can relax into.”
  • “When you’re writing picture books, you’re writing theater.” – Picture books are meant to be performed, to be read out loud; make the adult reader the star for the kids.
  • “The great picture books are more like poems than anything else.”

She and Marla agreed that the author’s job is to make the words as special and compelling as possible, then step away and let the illustrator bring in their creativity. Don’t load down the manuscript with artist notes, leave the illustrator room to work.

Allyn and Marla are such great ambassadors for picture books; thanks to Iowa SCBWI for bringing them to our conference!