June 15, 2021
Note From Rochelle
Wow—it feels like summer is whipping by! I am spending time organizing a book launch for my new book: Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing.
I am learning so much about what it takes to release a book. For one thing, preorders matter more than ever. So I have a favor to ask you:
If you’re interested in learning about real people who used writing to change their lives and their communities, I would so love it if you’d preorder the book! Also, please consider requesting it for your local library. Here’s the link to the book at Bookshop, but you’ll also be able to find it at your local bookstore or wherever you shop online.
Today’s tip features an interview with my friend and former critique partner Stef Wade. She’s a brilliant picture book writer—and you’ll learn a lot from her!
Writers@Work: Writing a Picture Book
An Interview with Stef Wade
Welcome to the blog, Stef! And congrats on the new book. Can you tell us about Q & U CALL IT QUITS!?
Thank you so much for having me! I’m Quite excited about the release of my next picture book, Q & U CALL IT QUITS. Q & U are BFFs but U starts to get bogged down by Q’s neediness and she decides to take some time to herself. Other letter blend pals do the same and chaos ensues! This is a great story for kids learning their letters, letter blends, and digraphs. It’s also quirky and ridiculous. I’m not sure I’ve ever had so much fun writing a book.
You’ve published so many amazing picture books, how do you find such original ideas?
Ideas are everywhere. I’m always keeping my eyes and ears open, especially around my kids and their friends, to find my next idea. I tend to lean toward subjects where I can place some sneaky learning into my stories. One of the most important things to remember when working up a story idea is that you should never be married to one idea or one angle. I have so many ideas that I’m not able to turn into a story and many ideas where I start the story in one direction and end up turning in an entirely different direction!
I know you started out writing blogs and then writing fiction for older children—what are some of the things you learned to pay attention to when you transitioned to writing picture books?
Prior to writing fiction, I spent many years working as a marketing professional with a heavy emphasis on copywriting. When I transitioned to writing fiction, I began with young adult and then moved to picture books and I’m also working on middle grade! There are some big obvious differences in switching from novels to picture books – like length for example, but when you break it down, there are a lot of similarities. A good picture book will accomplish the same things a good novel does – create a unique voice, develop a character who solves a problem or changes in some way through the story, who’ll draw you into a world and connect you with a story, a theme, or an idea.
But with picture books, you have a very small space to do it. My marketing background is very helpful when I’m trying to fit a story into 500 words or so. But I still think through the same things I do when writing a novel, just on a smaller scale.
What advice would you give to writers wanting to break into writing books for kids?
First, ask yourself why you want to write for children. If you don’t know or if you think it’s easier…than writing for children might not be for you! Next, I would say – SPEND TIME WITH KIDS! You need to know what kids like, how they react, what makes them tick. And yes, there are many different types of kids, and your book may cater to a certain group, and that’s great! But know who they are.
Also: Have patience. Write because you love to write. Put yourself out there. Don’t fear rejection, it’s part of the process. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Try different things. AND HAVE FUN!
What are you reading now?
Similar to all the different genres I write in, I read the same way! Here are the latest books I’ve just finished or am currently reading:
Picture Book: PIGLETTE’S PERFECT SURPRISE by fellow McIntosh & Otis author, Katelyn Aronson, illustrated by Eva Byrne
Middle Grade: KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES by Shannon Messenger (which came highly recommended by my 11-year-old son and niece)
YA: THE ONES WE’RE MEANT TO FIND by Joan He
Adult: THE FOUR WINDS by Kristin Hannah
About the Author: Stef is the best-selling author of A PLACE FOR PLUTO, illustrated by Melanie Demmer and THE VERY LAST LEAF, illustrated by Jennifer Davison. A PLACE FOR PLUTO has received numerous awards and recognition including, Honorable Mention for the Council of Wisconsin Writers Tofte/Wright Children’s Literary Award and the 2019 LITA Golden Duck Notable Picture Book. Stef’s next picture books, Q AND U CALL IT QUITS, illustrated by Jorge Martin, releases from HarperCollins on June 15, 2021 and EVERYDAY’S A HOLIDAY, illustrated by Husna Aghniya, releasing from Running Press in summer 2021. Stef holds a BA in advertising from Marquette University and an MBA in Integrated Marketing Communication from DePaul University. A Chicago-girl at heart, she’s bounced all over the Midwest with her college sweetheart husband and her three historically and literary named boys. She currently resides in Brookfield, WI.