Wow, it’s November. I’m not sure how that’s possible. On one hand, it still feels like 2020, and on the other, I could fill encyclopedias with how much has happened each month, day, and moment of this year. It’s been wonderfully busy—full of ups and downs, and all very dizzying. But...I’m finally readying myself to work on a big writing project that I set a goal to complete . . . LAST OCTOBER.
Was that a sigh and nod from you, too? Oh, good! I’m not alone. This, I know. In fact, if there’s one common thread among *everyone* these days, it’s probably that we need to give ourselves a little, or a lot, of grace.
It’s okay. I keep reminding myself of this. Because in this time that I have not written THIS THING, I did write a handful of new somethings. Some of which are becoming books! Some of which are out *there* finding the perfect champion. Some of which were scribbles and scrabbles . . . and maybe, some day, something more.
But now, it’s November. That’s two months before the new year. Next year is going to be busy-in-the-best-way for me. I have five books releasing in 2022—the three TEENY HOUDINI chapter books, and picture books, SOMETIMES LOVE, and GRUMPY NEW YEAR!!! So . . . I am setting a *new goal* for myself to start and finish THIS THING before the end of the year. (unofficially like the NaNoWriMo challenge, but I'm giving myself two months!)
When I’m drafting, I purposefully do not read any books in the same genre/vein of what I am writing. I don’t want any voice except my own coming into the story. However, I *do* do some work beforehand to infuse myself with books that I love. Books that I’ve fallen head over heels for, whose essence I want to become infused into part of my subconscious so that it guides my writing in an intentional way. I make a point to choose a variety of books, from various authors, to study.
What is it I’m studying? I’m seeking a tangible way to answer, What Makes Me Fall For A Book?
And, after much research, it comes down to this:
The author’s voice.
What is a literary voice?! There are a lot of fancy and official definitions and resources to explain it*. To me, an author’s voice is their individual personality coming through their words. It’s distinct, palpable, feels alive, and yet, through their different stories, feels consistent. It’s the way *only they* can tell that story. It’s both full of them, and yet, fully open to become the reader’s story, too.
Here are some notes for myself (and now, for you, too!) that I’ve taken from studying some of my favorite authors’ books:
Author: Kate DiCamillo
What Captivates Me: characters are memorable, full of warmth and hope
How? Use very specific, unique, quirky details
Example: “Frank thought how mysterious the world was, how unexplainable and sometimes frightening. But to sit in the kitchen and read to someone he loved and to push back the darkness with a story—that was a wonderful thing.”
- pg. 88, Franklin Endicott and the Third Key, Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick 2021
Author: Tammi Sauer
What Captivates Me: she creates extremely lovable characters that we want to be friends with; their struggles are very relatable and they have true to kid emotions
Example: check out A LITTLE CHICKEN, illustrated by Dan Taylor, Sterling 2019
She shares Dot’s story in such a sweet, fun, pun-ny way that remind readers it’s okay to feel chicken, and when you need to, you’ll be brave. And what a perfect name for this adorable main character who feels too small to be brave!
Now it’s your turn.
What makes you fall for a book?
How can you capture those tangible elements and infuse them into your own writing voice?
I’m rooting for you. Maybe yours will be the next book that I fall for!
*More Resources For You:
How To Get Six Pack by Tammi Sauer “You need to feed your muse and writing ability.” - Tammi Sauer https://taralazar.com/2018/09/26/how-to-get-a-six-pack-by-tammi-sauer-plus-a-giveaway/
Six Golden Rules for Writing Middle Grade: “See through their eyes, not yours.” -Erin Entrada Kelly https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/6-golden-rules-of-writing-middle-grade
How and When to Develop a Voice: https://literaryterms.net/when-and-how-to-develop-a-voice/
Hello, writers! Happy 2021! I’m writing this blog post from the same house I’ve quarantined in for the majority of 2020, in the same home-office, in the same chair . . . yet something feels different.
Despite it being below freezing, I’ve got the windows cracked open. The air drifting in is cold. But it’s also crisp, cathartic, and new. It’s full of possibilities.
That’s what a new year promises . . . possibility. A blank page to be filled with anything.
Personally, I’m hoping to flesh out a new middle grade idea that I’ve collected bits and pieces for in 2020. Through the darkest days of the year (and there were many, unfortunately), I found myself needing to write. I had so much to let out, and my notebook was the safest place to release these raw and honest feelings.
In these dark moments, I wrote and wrote and wrote. Not much made sense. Not much tied together. But I wrote and wrote my way back to joy, however fleeting it was.
And I captured the joy of each day. I wrote down those moments, too, to remind myself to focus on the light. To let the light guide me.
And it did.
One of these cathartic writings morphed into a picture book manuscript that will be published by Dial/Penguin in 2023 (stay tuned for more soon!).
So when I look back to 2020, despite the many tragedies of the year, and in some ways, because of some of them, there was much joy, some magic, and so much love. That’s what I’m hoping to capture in this next middle grade project, now that I’m in the proper headspace to start writing it . . . joy, and magic, and love.
As I begin to draft this new novel, I’ve pulled out a checklist that I made for myself, something I’ve named CHAPTER 1 & 2 CHECK. It’s a checklist I’ve made after studying many of my favorite middle grade novels, including THE TIGER RISING by Kate DiCamillo and HELLO, UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly. When I “study” a novel, I re-read the book as a writer…looking for those literary devices that make the writing wonderful.
To do this, I’ll type out the first chapter or two of the book (or the scene I’m studying). Then, I’ll make notes on my typed version of the text (because I can’t bear to mark up the beautiful book!). Finally, I’ll re-read the notes I marked, write out the revelations I made, and turn it into a checklist question to use when I revise my own writing.
A revelation I had after studying the first paragraph in THE TIGER RISING by Kate DiCamillo was that “we get a sense of who the main character is, we’re intrigued, and it’s hooking us!” all within the first few sentences.
And a note I wrote down after studying chapter one of HELLO, UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly was that “by paragraph one, we know who, where, a sense of why, and we’re intrigued to know the details.”
If you haven’t studied books in the genre you’re writing, I’d highly recommend it. I do this frequently and with a wide range of books within the genres I write in--
picture books, chapter books, and middle grade.
It’s the best way I’ve learned what works. And reading and studying widely, and taking notes on my notes, allows me enough space from the mentor text to then apply what I need specifically for my own writing.
So, without further ado, here’s my CHAPTER 1 & 2 Checklist. I hope it’s helpful to you! (If you're looking for my picture book revision checklist, it's here!)
Of course, nothing will be more powerful than studying mentor books yourself, and making your own checklist. But here’s mine to supplement yours:
CHAPTER 1 & 2 CHECKLIST:
By Katrina Moore
I have an “Every Chapter Checklist” that I’ve compiled as well. I’ll share that in a later post (make sure you’re subscribed to the blog so you don’t miss it!).
As we begin this new year, I wish you endless possibility and a notebook full of magic. A blank page to be filled with anything.
What will you fill yours with?
Happy Writing & Revising!
Katrina Moore writes in New Jersey. She holds a M.A. in Teaching and has been an elementary teacher for eleven years. Her mission is to create books that children will hug for ages. She is the author of the picture books, ONE HUG, illustrated by Julia Woolf (HarperCollins/Tegen Books, Dec. 2019), GRANDPA GRUMPS, illustrated by Xindi Yan (Little Bee Books, April 2020), and the forthcoming SOMETIMES LOVE, a powerful and poetic exploration of love---from giving, to growing, to sometimes letting go, illustrated by Joy Hwang Ruiz (Penguin/Dial, Summer 2022). Her humorous chapter books series, TEENY HOUDINI, illustrated by Zoe Si, star the magical, mischievous, mayhem-maker Bessie Lee. Books 1 and 2 will publish Winter 2022 (HarperCollins/Tegen Books).
When she is not writing or teaching, she is cooking without a recipe, painting outside the lines, or snuggling up with her two kids, husband, pups, and of course, a cozy book. Connect with her on twitter @kmoorebooks or at www.katrinamoorebooks.com.
It's the end of the year (and the end of a decade). For me, this is a time of reflection. It's actually something I do at the end/beginning of each month, and then, again, at the end of the year as a whole.
Throughout the year, I have ongoing lists in my journal. I title a page for each, and then add to it throughout the year.
This year, my page titles included:
Of course, there's the rest of my journal for musings, learnings, sketches, early drafts, revision notes, outlines, etc.
After reviewing each of my lists at the end of the year, and going through my journals, I make a new list for the new year: GOALS. (I'll come back to goals in a later post!)
I was proud to fill (and overflow) each of these pages this year. In fact, my major highlights page was bursting this year.
Some Major Highlights This Year:
-Trusting my gut & seeking new representation. Knowing what I need and want in a professional agent-author relationship.
-Taking it seriously & staying grounded (and true to myself) when receiving multiple offers of representation. Taking my time to be thoughtful and ask potential agents and myself the hard questions.
-Signing with the perfect-for-me agent & agency! Later, meeting my agent (on the east coast) and celebrating hopefully-soon-to-be-announced news, meeting Writers House agents on the west coast in person, and touring the west coast office!
-All the moments along ONE HUG's journey to becoming a real book in the world, on the shelves for readers. What a long journey it's been! This year I got to celebrate this book in it's various stages!
-Connecting with others as an author! Presenting at my first SCBWI conference, and attending and signing books at my first nErDCamp!
-Of course, connections made are the best, biggest highlights of the year. I chatted about this during a twitter #PBCHAT with my New In Nineteen Debut Group. Also, this group of creators debuted AMAZING books this year. Check them out if you haven't already!
-And last, but certainly NOT least, ONE HUG debuted in the last month of this year, and I've been overflowing with joy and gratitude!
-So honored to have guest posted and been interviewed all over online! I share more on my writing journey, how ONE HUG came to be, what I hope it will do for readers, and some other fun traditions and tidbits! Check some of ONE HUG's online appearances here:
Whew! What a year it's been! I've filled four notebooks, sold books in a new genre, and began writing in another genre!
While the major milestones are definitely worth celebrating, it's also worthwhile (and important) to celebrate each moment that brings you to that milestone. Every moment that pushes you forward, and up, and along on your journey.
It's been a year of new beginnings, branching out, and what's been most challenging, but also most important to my overall health and well-being, a year of balancing. As a mother to two young children and two high-energy dogs, a teacher, and a wife, I'm most proud that I've been able to balance it all and find the time to nurture my passion---my writing. I've grown in craft and curiosity. And I'm excited for what's to come in the new year (I'll write up a goals post to share in the New Year).
For now, I'm wrapping up the year by spending New Year's Eve with my family. We're playing, partying, and not planning much of anything else!
What are you most proud of this year?
How are you wrapping up 2019?
Check out my Featured Author Post on the 12x12 Blog! I share more about my writing journey and how to take your career into your own hands:
One of the most common struggles for writers, myself included, is creating an ending that delivers a WOW factor. A good ending leaves a feeling of resolve.
But delivering a wow ending . . . what’s the secret?
Picture book author Dev Petty said it best when she tweeted this:
(She also says lots of other wise things and gives great writing tips if you follow her on twitter, FYI.)
I couldn’t agree more. The best endings leave me thinking about a book looong after I’ve closed the covers. In a previous post, CRAFTING STAND OUT PICTURE BOOKS: A REVISION CHECKLIST, I challenge picture book creators to ask themselves:
DOES THE STORY FEEL RESOLVED?
-Was it logical but surprising?
-Are we satisfied?
In this blog, I’ll expand on these questions by studying picture books that deliver a W.O.W. ending. I have a method for studying picture books from the lens of a creator, but for this blog, I'm going to zoom in on the endings.
How do they make us wonder?
How do they outdo our expectations?
How do they wrap us in all the feels?
Of course, I'm never one to ruin a good surprise. So I won't actually be sharing the endings. No spoiler alerts here! But I will share a glimpse leading up to the ending and follow up with my reaction as a reader.
How do you end a book by creating a beginning? How can you ingnite, within the reader, a curiosity to explore more? A sense of wonder?
If you haven't experienced BLUE, from Laura Vaccaro Seeger, you need to!
I use the word experience purposefully because this book is a true work of art. As with all her books, the illustrations are stunning. You want to touch each page, each cut out, and you pore over each artistic detail time and time again. I rarely read one of her books with my mouth shut because I am full of wonder the entire time. How did she do this? How will she create a spread as magical as the last one? What will be on the next page? This book is a companion to the award winning GREEN, and it is wonderful!
Especially the ending.
You are invited into this special relationship between a boy and his dog as they grow up together. In the end, your heart will break. But it will also heal. And you are left with an overwhelming feeling of hope. And wonder. What will be his next chapter?
Outdoing Our (the reader's) Expectations:
You've crafted the perfect resolution. It's sweet. It's silly. It's meant to be.
It's . . . totally expected.
How can you surprise the reader? How can you deliver a twist that's logical, yet totally unexpected? How can you outdo yourself?
I previously tweeted this list of picture books that surprised me in the best ways. They made me giggle. Or gasp. Or guffaw!
Another book that outdid my expectations at the end was Dan Santat's AFTER THE FALL. This book tells the story of what happens after Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall and how he finds the courage to climb back up again. The story resolves beautifully, and then the very end is so unexpected, yet logical, that it's mind-blowing. Of course this is how it should end! How has no one thought of this before? How can *I* do something like this?!
Wrap Us In All The Feels
It is a very special thing when you connect to a book. When this connection happens, that's what brings me back to a book time and time, again. I've not only read the book, I felt it. I related to the struggle. I cheered for the main character. I was part of the journey. And when that journey comes to a resolution that's heartwarming, deserving, and wraps me in strong feelings---that's a wow ending. When this happens, I literally will hug the book, knowing it's just made it's place onto my bookshelf and into my heart.
This book ends with the happily ever after that, we, as very invested readers, *needed* to happen, but then the very last spread wraps us in a feeling that's warm. And wonderful. And WOW. Smile-lingering, heartwarming, wow.
Now, it's your turn!
Check out the ending of your work in progress. Does it check the list?
Will make us wonder?
Will it outdo our expectations?
Will it wrap us in all the feels?
Your W.O.W. ending is waiting for you, wishing, willing you to write it.
Will you? ✨
Katrina Moore writes and teaches in New Jersey. Earning her M.A. in elementary education, she has been a teacher for almost a decade in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. Her mission is to create books that children will hug for ages. Her debut picture book, ONE HUG, illustrated by the talented Julia Woolf, is a lyrical celebration of the different ways that hugs bring people together, forthcoming from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books in 2019. The book follows an Asian-American boy as he and his family prepare to welcome their immigrant relatives. Her second picture book,GRANDPA GRUMPS, illustrated by the amazing Xindi Yan, is a humorous and heartfelt story featuring a little girl, Daisy, and how she connects with her Chinese grandfather across cultures and generations, forthcoming from Little Bee Books in 2020. When she is not teaching elementary kids or writing, she is cooking without a recipe, painting outside the lines, or snuggling up with her two kids, husband, pomapoo pup, and of course, a cozy book. Connect with her on twitter @kmoorebooks or at www.katrinamoorebooks.com.
By Katrina Moore
Picture books, by their nature, are books in which the pictures tell as much (sometimes more, sometimes all) of the story as the words. When done well, this is why picture books are so magical. In 40 or less pages (mostly) and 500 or less words (usually) we are made to laugh, or cry, or wonder, and in the very best of cases . . . all of the above.
So how do you craft such a magical marriage between words and illustrations?
And how is this done if you are only the author?
Let’s share some stellar examples:
Sometimes, the words are purposefully open to interpretation, like in SOMEDAY by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds:
This can also lead to illustrations that amplify the drama and escalate the tension (and humor),
like in CHARLOTTE AND THE ROCK by Stephen Martin Illustrated by Samantha Cotterill:
Sometimes, the words are charged with emotion, leading to illustrations that are giggle-worthy,
Sometimes, the words are super silly, and the illustrations create the perfect compliment,
Sometimes, the words are intended to be ironic (and if you are the author-only, this is an instance where you will want to include an art note), as in Cate Berry and Charles Santoso’s PENGUIN AND TINY SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME, where the words say,
In the above picture book examples, the words and art flow together fluidly, sometimes complimenting each other, sometimes elevating each other, sometimes opposing each other, and sometimes balancing each other so beautifully that the matches are seemingly made . . .
in picture book heaven.
So as you craft your picture books, think:
How can I leave room for the illustrator?
What purposeful word choices can I use to make a big splash?
Katrina Moore writes and teaches in New Jersey. Earning her M.A. in elementary education, she has been a teacher for almost a decade in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. Her mission is to create books that children will hug for ages. Her debut picture book, ONE HUG, illustrated by the talented Julia Woolf, is a lyrical celebration of the different ways that hugs bring people together, forthcoming from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books in 2019. Her second picture book, GRANDPA GRUMPS, illustrated by the amazing Xindi Yan, is a humorous and heartfelt story about a little girl, Daisy, and how she connects with her Chinese grandfather across cultures and generations, forthcoming from Little Bee Books in 2020.
When she is not writing or teaching kids in elementary school, she is cooking without a recipe, painting outside the lines, or snuggling up with her two kids, husband, pomapoo pup, and of course, a cozy book. Connect with her on twitter @kmoorebooks or at www.katrinamoorebooks.com.
By Katrina Moore
Before I’m ready to send a manuscript to my agent, and even to critique partners, I go through rounds of self-revision. Over time, I’ve found myself asking the same questions over and over again (and asking the same questions to my critique partners when giving them feedback on their work), so I’ve compiled the questions into a revision checklist for myself.
I’m sharing it with you!
Because I keep learning. And growing. And nothing helps me to learn more or grow faster than sharing what I’ve learned along the way.
In this post, you’ll find essential questions to ask yourself as you revise your manuscript to make it the best that it can be. I’ve also included an example for each checkpoint using recently released (within the past 3 years), stellar picture books.
Without further ado...here's the checklist:
PICTURE BOOK REVISION CHECKLIST:
1) WHAT’S YOUR BOOK REALLY ABOUT?
Write out the pitch.
-What’s at the heart of this story?
-What do I want this story to do? (Use this as a guide for revision)
2) IS YOUR CHARACTER FULLY DEVELOPED?
-Is this someone a kid can relate to?
-Is there depth?
-Why are we rooting for the main character?
Interview your character and ask all sorts of questions. This is to inform YOU even though most of it won’t make it into the text. The better you know your character the better you’ll write your character, the more your character will feel real and we’ll care about your character.
Example: Check out the first spread of JULIÁN IS A MERMAID by Jessica Love. In very few words, we know so much about Julián and we care about him. We’re immediately connected to his relationship with his abuela. Think about how much is not written in this text, but was necessary for the author to know in order to create such a powerful opening and introduction to the characters.
3) IS YOUR STORY TIGHT?
Go through the story sentence by sentence, word by word.
-Is this word/sentence serving the story?
-Is it driving the plot?
-Is it adding to character development?
If the answer is no—cut!
Example: Kelly DiPucchio and Greg Pizzoli’s DRAGON WAS TERRIBLE opens with:
“Dragon was terrible. Naturally, dragons have a bit of terrible in them because they’re dragons after all. But THIS dragon here? Super terrible.”
The first sentence here introduces us to the character and sets up the plot. Every word following this first sentence carries weight in establishing the narrative voice of the book, and also drives the plot by creating more tension. It engages what we already “know”—dragons are terrible. But this character is going to be even more terrible than those dragons we already know? Oh boy. As a reader, I’m eager to find out how bad this character is and what shenanigans he causes. How can he be that terrible?! See how she hooks us in with exactly the right words?
4) IS THIS PACED FOR A PICTURE BOOK?
Paginate it (12 or 15 spreads).
-Where do you envision the page turns?
-Does it end at a surprising moment?
-Are we holding our breath?
-Is there tension and build up?
Here’s what it looks like when I lay out a picture book:
Example: Check out this spread from Ame Dyckman and Scott Magoon’s MISUNDERSTOOD SHARK:
What is Shark’s excuse? I’m curious to find out. I am holding my breath. And I’m wondering, Will I believe him? I have to turn the page to find out. Since there is a literal pause that takes place when a picture book is being read aloud and the page turns, it’s beneficial to maximize the effect of those page turns.
5) DOES THE STORY FEEL RESOLVED?
-Was it logical but surprising?
-Are we satisfied?
Example: In BOATS WITH PAPA by Jessixa Bagley, Buckley carves beautiful boats and sends them out to sea in hopes that they reach his papa, who he misses very much.
I won’t give away the ending, because it’s so beautiful and you have to check it out for yourself. It feels inevitable—you know it’s coming, and yet, there's still a twist that's so heartwarming it brings me to tears everytime I read it (which at this point, is close to 100 times, if not more).
6) IS IT MARKETABLE?
-What are the recent comparable titles?
-How is yours fresh from these?
-Why would a kid love this book?
-What are the universal truths/emotions/themes that readers will connect with?
(these should be in and match the pitch)
Example: Check out BACK TO SCHOOL WITH BIGFOOT by Samantha Berger and Martha Brockenbrough, Illustrated by Dave Pressler.
It takes a familiar theme, starting school jitters, and makes it fresh (and funny) by making it about Bigfoot, which is a high interest, intriguing subject for kids (and adults). How does Bigfoot feel about starting school? What would he worry about? There’s tons of kid appeal here!
(*More on the marketability of your picture book in this post.)
Now it’s your turn! Does your picture book check the list?
Happy writing and revising! ✨
Katrina Moore writes and teaches in New Jersey, outside Philadelphia. Earning her M.A. in elementary education, she has been a teacher for almost a decade in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. Her mission is to create books that children will hug for ages. Her debut picture book, ONE HUG, illustrated by the talented Julia Woolf, is a lyrical celebration of the different ways that hugs bring people together, forthcoming from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books in 2019. The book follows an Asian-American boy as he and his family prepare to welcome their immigrant relatives.When she is not teaching elementary kids or writing, she is cooking without a recipe, painting outside the lines, or snuggling up with her two kids, husband, pomapoo pup, and of course, a cozy book. Connect with her on twitter @kmoorebooks or at www.katrinamoorebooks.com.
By Katrina Moore
If you want to write picture books, you have to read picture books. Hundreds. Thousands. Hundreds of thousands of picture books. As debut author Cate Berry eloquently says on the Cynsations Blog: “Picture books are like learning a new language. There is a rhythm, a vibe, and implicit rules are attached to the form. Taking a class or reading a craft book is great, but reading a heap of picture books is even better.”
But if you’re a writer, it’s not enough to read picture books. You must study picture books. What’s working? What’s Fresh? Why do you love it?
Here’s how I studied two recently released picture books in 3 parts:
PART I: Summarize
First, I read the book as a reader.
If I really enjoyed the book, then I jot down some summary* points:
Premise: (Who/what’s this about and what’s their goal?)
Square is trying to make something for Circle that’s as perfect as Circle is.
Inciting Incident: (What happens to set the story in motion?)
Circle sees the “sculpture” that Square “made” and insists he makes one for her.
You’ll have to check it out yourself !:-)
*Acclaimed author Arree Chung has a great method for studying picture books (& more) that he shares in his Storyteller Academy Class.
Part II: Analyze
Then, I think about how this picture book works as a marketable product for the intended audience. *Remember, picture books are unique in that you have 2 audiences in mind (the child and also the adult reading to the child):
The story structure is familiar, but it’s suspenseful from the inciting incident. As a reader, I’m wondering, how will Square solve this? He’s unprepared for it! Oh, the pressure!! I can feel the tension.
There’s logic. Everything make sense for this abstract world. I’m not spending my time questioning or second guessing anything that distracts me from the narrative.
It’s deceptively simple! There’s a lot of room for the reader to fill in the blanks.
What I love about this book, and really all books by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, individually and together, is that they both respect the child reader and her/his intelligence. SQUARE allows big conversations and a lot of thinking to happen. The takeaway is so subtle and it’s open to interpretation.
Why did I love it?
This book is so funny! There’s sparse text and very specific word choice, such as “Oh crumbs!” and “Oh dirt!”
The art is genius. Jon Klassen is able to convey so much emotion from these characters using only their eyes.
I was emotionally invested in Square’s “journey.” His problem was relatable, and the way the page turns built up tension was extremely satisfying. On spread 26-27, Square says, “I Must stay up all night and figure this out!” And when I turned the page, I burst out in laughter. All that built up tension was comically deflated in a very enjoyable way.
Part III: Storyboard
Finally, because I am fascinated with the picture book design and story structures, I like to flip back through the pages (starting from when the story begins) and break down how many spreads are dedicated to each part of the story arc**:
Set up: 5 spreads
Escalation: 7 spreads
Climax/Low Point: 2 spreads
Resolution: 3 spreads
Wink: 1 spread
**For more on storyboarding a picture book, see Steph Lurie’s interview on Picture Book Builders. (Note that this will work with narrative picture books, but not others, such as concept books.)
Written by Anika Denise Illustrated by Lorena Alvarez GÓmez
(Abrams Books For Young Readers, 2017)
Part I: Summarize
Premise: (Who/what’s this about and what’s their goal?)
Carmen is a star, a one-girl sensaciÓn! But how will the show go on when the audience needs a break from show business?
Inciting Incident: (What happens to set the story in motion?)
Carmen’s little brother, Eduardo, asks if he can be in her show.
You’ll have to check it out yourself ! :-)
Part II: Analyze
This story is paced well (see Part III) and gives us insight into Carmen’s world. From the catchy title and bright, colorful cover, I’m intrigued! I know this is going to be about Carmen. She is a star! I want to know more. What makes her a star? What happens when she’s not a star? It’s a character I want to know more about.
While there are many sibling stories, this one stars Carmen! It’s her perspective, her world, her stage. The narrative voice is strong and thus, we are immersed in Carmen’s world from start to end.
Why did I love it?
Carmen has universal appeal and yet, she’s so uniquely her own. She’s sassy, a bit devious, and loves her little brother. I saw myself as an older sister in Carmen, and myself as a younger sibling in Eduardo. I also loved that this book stars a girl from a marginalized background that we don't often see in a starring role. We get a glimpse into this loving family’s life and learn some new spanish words throughout that adds fun flair to this charming story. And the last spread had me giggling.
Part III: Storyboard
Set up: 3 spreads
Escalation: 4 spreads
Climax/Low Point: 3 spreads
Resolution: 4 spreads
Wink: 1 spread
Now it’s your turn! Pull out that picture book manuscript you’ve been polishing. Summarize it. Analyze it. Storyboard it.
Why will a reader love it?
In a future post, I’ll dive more deeply into revision.
Until then, happy reading (and studying) and writing!✨
Katrina Moore writes for all, teaches many, and raises two young children. She holds an M.A. in elementary education. She's the author of ONE HUG, GRANDPA GRUMPS, SOMETIMES LOVE (Penguin/Dial, '22), and the forthcoming chapter book series, TEENY HOUDINI (HarperCollins/Tegen, '22), and more. Connect with her on twitter!