Friday, February 12, 2016

One Thousand Picture Books

Some of the picture books I read in Jan. 2016.
At the end of January, I accepted a new challenge.  I would read 1,000 picture books in 2016.

I love picture books. Love them. The feel of the pages, their crinkly libarary protective covers, their bigness, their lightness, their words, their pictures.  But I gave them up in 2012 after having written twelve of them.  "Picture books just aren’t selling," said one speaker after another at the SCBWI Northern Ohio conference.  "Well, they sell sometimes," said KidLit’s Mary Kole, "but not very often and not for very much." 

The message was, if you’re trying to get published in the children’s market, don’t bother with picture books. Even if you love them.   So, I put all but two of my manuscripts away and stopped writing them. 

Then, this year, I’ve gotten message after message that picture books are hoppin’ again.  Agents ask picture book writers to send manuscripts (be sure to have more than one).  Publishers list their picture books desires on Manuscript Wish List, more writers seem to be getting agents and contracts. 

So, I’ve decided to go back to an early love and see what’s going on in picture books now.  I signed up for the 1,000 picture book challenge (a subset of the 12 x 12 challenge). In the first pile of books I picked up from the library (I read 82 picture books last week), I found a wonderful biography of Fannie Lou Hammer called Voice of Freedom and it unlocked a possibility for a project I’d been working on.

This morning, I sat down to read ten more.  I’m awed by the sweetness of the vision that writers are bringing to the work, and I love being part of a group of writers who have committed to honing their craft through reading and studying model texts. 

Most of all I’m happy that publishers aren’t shying away from picture books anymore.  Now if I can just find those earlier twelve manuscripts and see if there’s anything worth saving.

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