Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

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A Day with Dr Duck
Sometimes I have ideas for picture books, but I can't draw for toffee so never bring them to fruition.

Of course I could ask someone else to do the pictures, but this feels a bit of a cheat, since in my heart I believe that illustrators have a much bigger and more difficult job on their hands: they are Elton John to the writer's Bernie Taupin. I'm well aware that picture book writers agonize over every word and all, but even so, if I took my 300-word story (no matter how well crafted) to an artist and said, "Here, illustrate that!" I'd feel a bit like one of those people who accost authors at signings, saying, "I've got a great idea for your next book! How about I tell you the plot, you write it, and then we'll split the royalties 50-50?"

I picked up an old notebook of mine today, and came across the jottings my daughter and I had made for "A Day with Dr Duck" when she was feeling poorly once, many years ago. It was just to amuse her as she lay on her bed of pain, but as we plotted Doctor Duck's routine I remember feeling that we were on to something - something big... if only I could draw. First on Dr Duck's rounds were "A slug with a bug" and "A chick feeling sick", both of whom my daughter lovingly illustrated (better even then than I could have). My scanner's on the blink, or I'd reproduce them here. ETA: They are now proudly displayed under the cut:



slug and chick


I see the story continuing with visits to:

A beaver with a fever [Note to illustrator - please provide adorable, hilarious quirky picture]

A weasel with the measles [ditto]

A roo with the flu [ditto]

A snake with toothache [ditto]

A fox with chicken pox [ditto - and feel free to have some chickens looking in at the window and laughing.]

A whale looking pale [ditto - n.b., a snail is not an acceptable alternative]

A crow feeling low [ditto]

We never got as far as the ending. I imagine that Dr Duck, now "tired as fuck", would go home and have a stiff glass of pond water. I could probably tweak it if we looked like getting a contract: that's a writer's job, after all. But then again...

Oh. It looks like someone beat us to the punch. More than one, in fact.

"Gorilla's got a terrible case of super-stinky bottom burps!"?

I can't compete with that.

eglantine_br

2014-08-21 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

I like yours better. Especially Dr Duck.

steepholm

2014-08-21 08:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

You are kind. :)

cmcmck

2014-08-21 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

We have a hippopotamus name of Wilberforce who is something in the city complete with bowler hat and briefcase.

We had the idea for a book about his ancestors but while both of us can write, neither of us can draw to save our lives!

steepholm

2014-08-21 08:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Poor world, being denied our genius!

diceytillerman

2014-08-21 09:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Sometimes I have ideas for picture books, but I can't draw for toffee so never bring them to fruition.

Of course I could ask someone else to do the pictures, but this feels a bit of a cheat


Does it really work this way? What I've always heard is that most picture book authors submit their work (well, their agents do) as text-only. I've always heard that publishers prefer to do the matching of text to illustrator, the exception being when the author is really an artist themself.

(Too serious an answer for your lovely rhymes? :))

steepholm

2014-08-21 09:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

I believe that is indeed normally the case, but the awkwardness is no less for being conducted through a third party!

diceytillerman

2014-08-21 09:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

I wasn't thinking of the third partiness so much as the fact that I bet you could write really good picture book text and would never need to worry about the illustration issue. However, easy for me to say, as a person who doesn't do creative writing.

steepholm

2014-08-21 09:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Seriously, I'm not sure I'd be able to tell whether I'd written a good picture book text: I've never had to evaluate one separately from the pictures. (That might be an interesting exercise, in fact.)

diceytillerman

2014-08-21 09:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

That does sound fun. I'd like to try that sometime.

ethelmay

2014-08-22 01:10 am (UTC) (Link)

It's often helpful to analyze the structure of a picture book -- if I remember correctly one of my favorites (a longer story) turned out to be very carefully planned as eight small episodes of four pages each, or something like that. Two-page spreads occurred at precisely regular intervals. Simpler books of course often just have two-by-two structure (e.g., question and answer on left and right page), but it helps if there's some overarching pattern (and of course in a print medium, the number of pages in a signature will be significant).

steepholm

2014-08-22 07:20 am (UTC) (Link)

I know a few things - e.g. the 32 page rule - but I suspect that a lot of technicalities fly over my head. "A Day with Doctor Duck" would be for very young children, but I like the idea of an arc: perhaps Dr Duck could start off dapper and efficient, but as the day wears on sharp-eyed readers will see that the doctor is looking ever more harassed and making diagnoses with an increasingly tenuous relationship to best medical practice.

sartorias

2014-08-21 11:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think you and your daughter ought to publish yours.

(From everything I heard, publishers don't want writers and artists as a duo--they prefer to use their own artists)

steepholm

2014-08-22 07:24 am (UTC) (Link)

I think you and your daughter ought to publish yours.

I appreciate your confidence!

heleninwales

2014-08-22 12:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

What I've heard agrees totally with what you've heard. In fact I follow an illustrator on Google+ and she talks about her projects and how the publisher gives her the text and she illustrates it.

sovay

2014-08-22 05:20 am (UTC) (Link)

A fox with chicken pox [ditto - and feel free to have some chickens looking in at the window and laughing.]

I would love to see this book.

steepholm

2014-08-22 07:17 am (UTC) (Link)

I've managed to scan my daughter's drawings now, so that's a small step in the right direction!

rose_lemberg

2014-08-23 01:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Sonya sent me here :D I second what everybody else said about matching writers to illustrators, but what do you think of this style:

https://twitter.com/RoseLemberg/status/496464805742391296/photo/1
http://roselemberg.net/?p=941

I draw in Artrage; it is a digital format, natural media simulator. I can no longer do natural media due to disability.

steepholm

2014-08-23 04:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Those are v. cool!

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