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To art note picture

Guess what? Tara Lazar has a little more to share! She reached out to me about doing a second post on illustration notes. Why? Because she had just a little more to say. And I totally agree with what she has to say. So here it is. . . .

 

WAIT — THERE’S MORE
by Tara Lazar

 

Alayne, when it comes to art notes, I thought I said it all…

But the day my post was published, a friend said to me, “But I talked to [well-known illustrator] and he said he never looks at art notes. He told me not to bother.”

Well, I know this illustrator is widely published and award winning, but do not listen to him. (At least about this. Sorry, dude.)

The illustrator is not the first person to read your manuscript.

But who is?

The EDITOR you want to ACQUIRE IT.

So don’t think about the art notes being solely for your illustrator. They are more for your editor.

The editor must understand the story and your vision for it. If there is something they do not comprehend because you’ve been too stingy or cryptic with the art notes, then they may just send a rejection.

If an art note is necessary to understand the action, put it in. If your text says “Harry was happy” but you really want him to be hopping mad, the editor isn’t going to know that without [Harry is angry]. Editors cannot read your mind. This is your chance to ensure that she or he gets what’s happening.

After the editor acquires your manuscript, lots of changes may happen, including the stripping of art notes. And that’s OK. By the time illustration work commences, your illustrator has already been pitched on the story and its vision. There have been talks between the illustrator, editor, designer and art director. Your illustrator will be brilliant and do things that you cannot even yet imagine. They will blow you away.

But if the editor is confused while initially reading your manuscript, you will never even get to that step. Your story could be doomed to dwell in a drawer forever.

Remember, the art notes aren’t necessarily for your illustrator…but for your EDITOR.

Thank you for the bonus, Tara!

If you haven’t seen it, be sure to read Tara’s first post How Picture Book Writers can Leave Room for the Illustrator.

Check out – Illustration Notes: To Include Or Not Include on Johnell Dewitt’s site. It is loaded with info and resources on the topic of art notes.

Kidlit.com also has some good information about including illustration notes. (Full disclosure – I discovered this post in the Kidlit411 Weekly)

 

ABOUT TARA

Tara loves children’s books. Her goal is to create books that children love. She writes picture books and middle grade novels. She’s written short stories for Abe’s Peanut and is featured in Break These Rules, a book of life-lesson essays for teens, edited by author Luke Reynolds.

Tara created PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) as the picture book writer’s answer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). PiBoIdMo is held on this blog every November. In 2015, PiBoIdMo featured nearly 2,000 participants from around the world.

Tara was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2010 and has permanently lost feeling in her feet and legs. She has an inspirational story to share about overcoming a chronic illness to achieve your goals and dreams. Tara can speak to groups big and small, young and old—just contact her for more information.

Tara is the co-chair of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature Conference, a picture book mentor for We Need Diverse Books and an SCBWI member. She speaks at conferences and events regarding picture books, brainstorming techniques, and social media for authors. Her former career was in high-tech marketing and PR.

Tara is a life-long New Jersey resident. She lives in Somerset County with her husband and two young daughters.

Her picture books available now are:
• THE MONSTORE (Aladdin/S&S, 2013)
• I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK(Aladdin/S&S, 2015)
• LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (Random House Children’s, Oct 2015)
• NORMAL NORMAN (Sterling, March 2016)
• WAY PAST BEDTIME (Aladdin/S&S, April 2017)
• 7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY (Disney*Hyperion, May 2017)

To learn more about Tara and her work, visit her website.

 

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At a recent SCBWI conference, one editor mentioned leaving room for the illustrator. So, I asked Tara Lazar if she would share what that means to her and give some advice on how to do it.

 

HOW PICTURE BOOK WRITERS CAN LEAVE ROOM FOR THE ILLUSTRATOR
by Tara Lazar

“Leave room for the illustrator.” You hear it all the time.

But what does it mean?

I imagine the school bus, smelling like moldy socks and overripe bananas (which have an eerily similar aroma). Should you scoot over? Stop saving that seat for your bestie?

Well, kinda. The illustrator’s art is the elephant on the school bus. It’s the first thing people see when your bus…err, I mean book…rolls into the world. So it’s in your best interest to make that pachyderm shine.

So let the elephant speak for himself. Don’t shove words into his mouth. Don’t over-describe what he’s doing.

The elephant picked the perfect seat. [elephant in back, bus on two wheels]

The kids made him feel welcomed. [kids crowd in first row to balance bus]

It was a smooth ride to school. [flat tires]

OK, you see what I did there?

Read those lines without the art notes:

The elephant picked the perfect seat.

The kids made him feel welcomed.

It was a smooth ride to school.

Eh, rather ordinary without those notes. But with them, it’s funny. It might even be hilarious.

A picture book comes together when the words and the text play together. And sometimes there’s a tug-of-war between them that elicits giggles and guffaws.

Leaving some things unsaid is a technique you must learn as a picture book writer.

So go ahead, DON’T WRITE!

And that, my friends and elephants, is how you write a picture book.

Alayne: Tara’s guest post prompted me to ask one of the most common questions that picture book writers ask. . . .

“I’ve been told by agents that text should be clear enough that art notes are not necessary, so how do you leave room for the illustrator without art notes?”

Here is Tara’s answer. . . .

Well, what you’ve been told by agents is true…and also not true at all.

Often at conferences and workshops geared toward new writers, presenters steer picture book writers away from art notes. That is mostly because new writers tend to use unnecessary art notes. New writers either try to dictate what their characters should look like or describe action that is perfectly clear by the text (or at least well implied). So it is sometimes easier to put the ix-nay on the ote-nay at that level.

Also, some illustrators will tell you they don’t look at the art notes. And that’s fine. Once they understand the overall story, they can tuck the notes away and think of something better.

However, if what you have written is not understandable without art notes, if the story does not make sense without art notes, YOU MUST USE ART NOTES.

Look at DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE by Sudipta Barhan-Quallen. There are only three words in that book–really, two, because DUCK is repeated. If she submitted that manuscript without art notes, there would be no story. Her story is IN THE ART, IN THE ACTION.

I have written manuscripts that use so many art notes it renders the story difficult to read. In those cases, my agent and I submit the manuscript in grid format. There’s a handy post on my blog that talks all about it. (https://taralazar.com/2012/10/03/art-notes-in-picture-book-manuscripts/)

The art of playing tug-of-war with text and image is best demonstrated by author-illustrators. It’s a difficult skill for authors-only to master, but it is one that all the best authors use.

Alayne: For additional information, see my post on including art notes in manuscripts.

Tara Lazar head shot

 

About Tara

Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books featuring magical places that everyone will want to visit.

Tara loves children’s books. Her goal is to create books that children love. She writes picture books and middle grade novels. She’s written short stories for Abe’s Peanut and is featured in Break These Rules, a book of life-lesson essays for teens, edited by author Luke Reynolds.

Tara created PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) as the picture book writer’s answer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). PiBoIdMo is held on this blog every November. In 2015, PiBoIdMo featured nearly 2,000 participants from around the world.

Tara was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2010 and has permanently lost feeling in her feet and legs. She has an inspirational story to share about overcoming a chronic illness to achieve your goals and dreams. Tara can speak to groups big and small, young and old—just contact her for more information.

Tara is the co-chair of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature Conference, a picture book mentor for We Need Diverse Books and an SCBWI member. She speaks at conferences and events regarding picture books, brainstorming techniques, and social media for authors. Her former career was in high-tech marketing and PR.

Tara is a life-long New Jersey resident. She lives in Somerset County with her husband and two young daughters.

7 Ate 9

Tara’s picture books available now are:

• THE MONSTORE (Aladdin/S&S, 2013)
• I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK(Aladdin/S&S, 2015)
• LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (Random House Children’s, Oct 2015)
• NORMAL NORMAN (Sterling, March 2016)
• WAY PAST BEDTIME (Aladdin/S&S, April 2017)
• 7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY (Disney*Hyperion, May 2017)

A big THANKS to Tara for sharing her wisdom with us. To learn more about Tara and her work, visit her website at https://taralazar.com/

 

 

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catch that babyOne day, I was studying Nancy Coffelt’s picture book, CATCH THAT BABY! Illustrated by Scott Nash (Aladdin 2011). I realized Nancy must have had to write a lot of art notes for this story. If you give CATCH THAT BABY a read, you will see how I came to this conclusion.

I had the good fortune of having Nancy as an instructor for my advanced course with The Institute of Children’s Literature, and we have continued to stay in contact. I emailed Nancy and asked her if she would have time to share with me the proper way to submit a manuscript with art notes. Not only was she gracious enough to help me out, she is also allowing me to share this information with you.

This year, Aladdin released a second Baby Rudy book UH-OH BABY! Also written by Nancy Coffelt and illustrated by Scott Nash. To give me examples of how she handles art notes for these “art note dependent” books, Nancy has shared a VERY EARLY draft (she wants me to stress “very early draft”) of UH-OH BABY! What I am sharing today is a work in progress. The fun thing about this is if you read the final product, you will be able to see the evolution of UH-OH BABY! from rough draft to published book. UH-OH BABY 2

Before I offer what Nancy shared with me, I want to clarify a few things.

  • What I am presenting is the actual manuscript format that Nancy uses. I kind of see it as being more of a script. This format works best for her art note dependent stories.
  • “Off screen” means the character that is speaking is not visible to the reader.
  • “Panel” or “panel sequence” means several panels of illustrations on one page or spread.

Now for Nancy’s email to me. Although she sent me the complete manuscript, I have opted to share only a portion of it.

(email) Alayne, I am pasting a very early draft of my latest book UH-OH BABY! Everything that is in brackets is an art note. Since I already had a working relationship with this editor, she understood that the bracketed areas were art notes. But if this were a new relationship I would have made it clear that’s what they were. A cover letter would be a good place to state that information. Perhaps under the title on the manuscript a brief note such as: Art notes are in brackets–might be a good idea as well.

Page 4-5: [half title]

[Page 4: Mom opening present.]

Mom: It’s wonderful!

[(panels) Rudy looks on. Rudy runs off.]

[Page 5: Rudy finds ladybug.]

Page 6-7: [Title page, panel sequence, Rudy runs back to family.]

Page 8-9: [Rudy presents Mom with ladybug.

Mom: Hello Rudy! What do you have?

[Ladybug flies off.]

Mom: Oopsie, Rudy!

Rudy: No oopsie! Wonderful!

Page 10-11: [Brother walking past, Rudy holding blocks]

Brother: Hello Rudy! What are you doing?

[Rudy looks at blocks and then frenzied Rudy building action. In all the frenzied action scenes, no one is watching so the outcome is always a surprise.]

Rudy: (off screen) Wonderful!

Page 12-13: [Big reveal-amazing block construction. Mom and brother are so impressed]

Crash! [Buddy crashes into block tower and it collapses: no dialogue; like a comic book]

Mom: Rats!

Rudy: No Rats! Wonderful! [off to the next one…]

Page 14-15: [Rudy and Buddy in the backyard.]

Dad: Hello, Rudy! What are you up to?

[Rudy looks at flowers and then frenzied Rudy garden action]

Rudy: (offscreen) Wonderful!

Page 16-17: [Big reveal—Rudy briings in a flower sculpture of Buddy? Mom and Dad are so impressed]

Slurp! [Buddy jumps on Mom, muddy footprints everywhere, sculpture flies apart]

Mom: Icky, Rudy!

Rudy: No icky! Wonderful! [and off to the next one… Can Rudy look a little less enthusiastic with each exit to show he’s getting either discouraged or frustrated?]

Page 18-19: [Sister painting]

Sister: Hello, Rudy! What’s going on?

[Rudy looks at art supplies and then frenzied Rudy art action]

Rudy: (off screen) Wonderful!

Page 20-21: [Big reveal—amazing collage type painting of Mom. Mom and sister are so impressed]

Whoosh! [A gust of wind blows the pieces of paper all over]

Mom: Shucks, Rudy!

Rudy: No shucks! Wonderful! [off he goes…]

A big thanks to Nancy Coffelt for giving us an inside look at her creative world.

nancy-coffelt

ABOUT NANCY 

Nancy Coffelt began her career as a fine artist and soon branched out into illustration and writing for young people. While she is known for her bright oil pastel imagery and humorous picture books, Nancy’s young adult work has an edgier side. Her books have garnered praise ranging from starred reviews from Kirkus, Horn Book and SLJ as well as her FRED STAYS WITH ME receiving an ALA Notable mention as well as the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award.

Nancy lives, paints, writes, teaches and obeys the whims of her family’s two small dogs in Oregon.

Here are links to Nancy’s books currently in print.

Catch That Baby!

Uh-Oh Baby!

Fred Stays With Me!

Aunt Ant Leaves through the Leaves

Pug in a Truck

Big, Bigger, BIGGEST!

SOME OTHER EXCELLENT POSTS ABOUT ART NOTES

Susanna Leonard Hill: Oh Susanna – How Do You Handle Illustrator Notes in Picture Book Manuscripts?

Picture Book Den: How do you present a picture book text to a publisher? By Ragnhild Scamell

Tara Lazar, Writing for Kids: Art Notes in Picture Book Manuscripts

KidLit.com: Should You Include Illustrator Notes in Your Picture Book?

PLEASE SHARE: HOW DO YOU HANDLE ART NOTES?

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