My old friend Liz’s one-a-day poem for National Poetry Month last Friday was a ‘Poem of Apology’, from the POV of a sticky tag. It followed the form of William Carlos Williams’ “This Is Just to Say”.
Reading (and thinking) about that particular poetic form made me think (again) about This is Not My Hat — and (this time) about how that book could be understood as one giant apology that doesn’t want to be said. The little fish builds this crazy, untenable, underwater house of cards rationalization not for why stealing the big fish’s hat was ok, but for why he will actually get away with it. Somewhere in there — if you really dig, and you maybe project a little bit too — you may find a misshapen mea culpa.
I love the dodgy little dance that the text and images do in This Is Not My Hat: the images both undermine and compel the narrative at every turn. So, instead of writing, I sat at my desk Friday perusing various other amazing choreographies of text and illustration — like Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead’s If You Want to See A Whale.
Two recent blog posts — perfectly timed for thematically-aligned distraction — focus on the making of a new picture book and the author/illustrator dance: one from an author’s perspective and another from an illustrator’s.
Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad’s This Is Sadie is due out May 12. Pat Zietlow-Miller and Eliza Wheeler’s Wherever You Go was released last week. Danielle Davis interviews Sara O’Leary about her writing process for This Is Sadie at thispicturebooklife.com, while Eliza Wheeler guests posts about the journey of illustrating Wherever You Go at picturebookbuilders.com.
Here’s a bit from the Sara O’Leary interview:
TPBL: Was the fox your idea or did Julie Morstad add in the fox on her own?
Sara O’Leary: There was a fox in the first draft of the story–a line about how when she grew up Sadie might get married and how she might marry a fox or a tin soldier but that she was in no hurry. And then the idea of her little fox family came in later. And then once Julie had added that into Sadie’s imaginative world I found that we didn’t need the line of text anymore. That happened a few times.
My favourite joke in the whole book is when the text says that Sadie is quiet in the mornings because old people need a lot of sleep and then we see Sadie merrily hammering away. My second favourite is when she “tidies her room” and we see everything madly stuffed underneath her bed. That sort of friction between the text and image pleases me inordinately.
It’s very strange because this is my fourth book with the fabulous Julie Morstad but it’s the first that really and truly feels like a collaboration rather than a co-creation. It’s partly a product of working with Tara Walker who is an absolute genius of a picture book editor–an Ursula Nordstrom for our times. It’s also partly a product of knowing Julie and her work so well that I was kind of writing the book for her this time and imagining it as a way of showcasing just what she can do.
And from Eliza Wheeler:
An awesome thing about Pat’s text was that it was completely open; no character descriptions or even specific story-lines. It allowed the story to be told in the pictures, which is a dream scenario for any illustrator.
The take-away for me, at my desk, avoiding writing but thinking about how I would write if I was writing: leave room for those fabulous illustrators.
But: how to leave room? Maybe, as Wheeler describes, you have to leave things out to make space for illustration. But you can’t leave so much out that you create befuddling gaps and holes. Perhaps it’s more about making room, as opposed to leaving it: about opening doors and leaving them ajar, offering up poetic language that is rich and suggestive without being overly prescriptive. Which means: you have to write.
Wherever You Go is about roads and journeys. At the book’s start, Pat Zietlow-Miller writes:
Roads give you chances to seek and explore.Want an adventure?Just open your door.
Writing is its own adventure. So: point taken. The first steps to writing-and-leaving-room: open the door; hit the road; write.
And off we go…