Saturday, May 28, 2016

Why Write a Picture Book?

Some amazingly successful picture books seem to be created on a whim or as art for the sake of art. Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham to win a bet, which apparently never paid out. Good thing the book did! It is still his best-selling work. 

David Weisner's reason for creating the winning picture book Art and Max was to explore and capture the creative process.

But Dr. Seuss was a writer (in advertising until his breakthrough into children's publishing)...

and David Weisner is an award-winning artist!

It's fascinating to read about the very strong reasons regular people feel drawn to the picture book format. 

For instance, there's Nicholeen Peck.
Her bio:
Nicholeen Peck is a mother of four and previous foster parent of many. She has been trained and certified in using the “Teaching Family Model”, which was developed at Boys Town and is used by the Utah Youth Village. Nicholeen did foster care for very difficult teens. She taught children with ADHD, OCD, kleptomania, compulsive lying, anger control issues, etc.
Would you believe she's written an entire manual for families on teaching self-government in addition to four beautiful picture books that reinforce what she calls the Four Basic Skills?

available here

People inspired by a sense of mission write picture books for a different reason than whim or artistic passion. Undoubtedly Nicholeen Peck would agree with Dr. Seuss when he said:
"Children’s reading and children’s thinking are the rock-bottom base upon which this country will rise. Or not rise. In these days of tension and confusion, writers are beginning to realize that books for children have a greater potential for good or evil than any other form of literature on Earth."

Sarah looked up from her piano music and saw Jessica through her window. 
Bolting outside, Sarah caught up with her neighbor. "Hi Jessica! Can you play?" 

 A sense of mission is what's brought me to the endeavor of picture book writing. And my first picture book is not likely to break any records or win any awards, despite my illustrator's obvious talent (see the gorgeous black-and-white sketch above). But that's okay, because my story isn't art for the sake of art. It is art for the sake of change.

My story is about a little girl and her homeschooling family, and the opportunities they find for growth and connection as they look around their community and see the needs of others. Specifically, it's about a family who looks to their community's deep historic roots and considers starting something new, a commonwealth for cultural enrichment, to strengthen those roots, even as the great branches of the community tree continue to spread outward to the bigger cities surrounding it. I'm writing it to explain my vision for a new commonwealth we're building in our area. I hope when parents in our community read it to their children, they'll feel a sense of loss and longing for the connectivity we've long-since outsourced to technology and big institutional programs. I hope to stir up some of the nostalgia that brought many of my friends to these small towns in the first place, and to remind them what we're capable of when we come together to share our most personal passions and talents with one another on a collaborative, volunteer basis.

That's my why.

What's yours? Have you ever felt inspired to write a picture book that would reach the rising generation? What would you say if you had to say it in pictures and less than 1000 words?

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