Thoughts on PiBoIdMo and The Picture Book Academy

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

My first PiBoIdMo has come and gone and with it, the Picture Book Academy course I took concurrently with the delightful Mira Reisberg. I learned quite a few things from both:

First, when I try to force out ideas, they usually stink! At least that was the case this year. Since PiBoIdMo ended, I’ve had only 2 ideas, but they’ve been really strong ones! I’m pretty sure that it’s because A) the pressure of a daily idea is now off and B) the relief of that lack of pressure has made me uncurl from the little ball of stress and I’m now open to the ideas that flow in freely from images, or snippets of conversation. In short, I’ve learned what my current idea generating pattern is: Relax, feed my head, and listen.

Secondly, I’ve started to hone in on the kind of books I want to write. This is a lot like finding your “voice”, but voice can be applied to nearly any kind of book really. I mean, I can write about manners and numbers and letters, but is it really what I want to do? I wrote a story about covering sneezes and I like it a lot. I’m still fiddling with the form and trying to get that word count in the area of 600 words, or less, and while it’s funny, which I like, and I think it’s worthy of publishing, it may not be my ultimate book path. This brings me to the second thing I learned: You will only know what you enjoy writing when you have written and written a lot. Turns out I enjoy onamonapia, alliteration, character-driven plots that are meaningful, and, dare I say it, rhyming.

(I’ve been trying to avoid rhyming. It’s the thing that makes editors and publishers cringe and groan and not want to even look and you’d better be spot on, or they won’t. So… since my latest idea and its sibling are in rhyme, you’d better believe I will work and rework it until it’s as perfect and pleasantly readable as I can make it and that it has a reason that makes it essential for it to rhyme.)

The third thing I learned, and this also has to do with activity outside of PiBoIdMo and PBA, is that it’s really, really important to find the right critique group. The right critique group knows the Sandwich Form of Critiquing (lead in with a compliment, go to a problem/possible negative, and finish with another positive and encouragement.). The right critique group gets that your subject matter may not be their favorite, but also gets that theirs may not be yours! And regardless, everyone agrees to give a critique and not instructions on how to rewrite the story so that it’s more in line with their own personal likes. They also understand the format rules, namely the word count limitations of whichever genre they’re focusing on. I have once been guilty of submitting something WAY over word count, because I didn’t realize the group was for Picture Books. I was helpfully steered to a Middle Grade group for that manuscript and later submitted a PB manuscript to the first group. A misunderstanding like that once is forgivable, but knowingly committing repeat offenses is a surefire way to build resentment and pretty much ensure that people will not have the time or desire to read and critique your 1600 word picture book manuscript.

I’m sure I will continue to work with Mira and I do recommend her courses as she is overflowing with knowledge on the subject and has a beautiful smile and spirit to boot! Depending on what the next year brings, I plan to do PiBo IdMo again to test how my idea generating process will have grown. Unless of course, I have a mega picture book deal and I’m just too busy!

Hey, a girl can dream, right?

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