Actually, I love picture books, but I do have a new book coming out next year called I HATE PICTURE BOOKS!. I’m going to tell the story of how I had the idea for this book, but I want to back up a bit first.
Ever since I was a kid, I drew pictures and made clay sculptures of little guys and strange creatures. They always had stories of who they were and what they were doing, but that was in my head. I was an artist—not a writer—and I always figured that a writer would come along and look at my work and they would say “That looks good, let me write down the story of what you drew.” I don’t know what happened to that guy because he never showed up.
About 6 years ago, I finally realized I was going to have to write my story ideas myself. I wrote down a bunch of my ideas and worked them into stories that I thought were good and put together some sample pages of the illustrations and I felt I was ready to go. I had the good fortune of meeting an author who set up a meeting with Heidi Kilgras at Random House. I showed my ideas to her and although she said some nice things about the books I was showing her, what she really liked was my logo. It was on the bottom of every page and she kept saying how much she liked it and finally she said she wanted to do a book that looked like my logo.
So now I had a challenge. I knew the style of the book, now I needed to find the story and the illustrations that work in that style. On the long drive home from New York I had a million ideas running around in my head… what kind of characters do I like drawing? …aliens….robots…monsters. OK, monsters, now I have to look for a story about monsters and why they are in the book. Suddenly the title came to me…”I’m Looking For A Monster!” The young boy I pictured in my head started telling me his story of his search for the perfect monster. Two weeks later I sent a book dummy to Random House and they picked it up soon after. If you’d like to see the original dummy, check it out here.
Later that year I sent Heidi a dummy for “They’re Coming!” She liked it and showed it to her acquisitions team. She came back saying they liked it, but they don’t want to follow one monster book with another. They asked if I had anything with dragons or dinosaurs.
Another challenge! A short time later I sent her outlines for “I’m Looking For A Dinosaur”, “Shadows On My Wall” and another with dragons. She liked “Shadows”, but marketing liked “I’m Looking For A Dinosaur”, which they acquired. (Why it’s not out is a long story for another day.)
So now I find myself either challenging myself or finding external challenges to come up with creative ideas. Most of the books that I have put out or am working on are in answer to those challenges. I’ve never gone back to the ones I thought were good picture books (although I might at some point if only to grab some nuggets out of them).
I promised to tell how I came up with I HATE PICTURE BOOKS!. I was at the NJ-SCBWI summer conference two years ago. I was on the faculty with some of the other authors in the KidLit Authors Club. I attended a couple of the seminars while there, including “Finding The Funny Stuff” with Audrey Vernick and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. They were talking about parody (I love good parody) in children’s books and Olugbemisola made a very funny comment about Paddington Bear’s immigration status.
I started thinking about classic children’s books and this title popped into my head. I have to admit that I missed the rest of what they said in the seminar, because I was off…my character, a boy who is throwing away his books because he misinterprets them and then gets in trouble, was telling me his story. By the time I had driven home the next day I had the whole thing written in my head. I can’t wait until it comes out early in 2013. (Here’s a link to the publisher where you can pre-order it!)
Now I have to get back to the funny little bird who’s in the process of challenging me to tell his story.
Timothy Young is the Founder and Creative Director of Creatures & Characters LLC. He has designed toys, worked on animation projects, licensed characters, and produced picture books. Timothy is the author-illustrator of I’M LOOKING FOR A MONSTER, SHADOWS ON MY WALL, THEY’RE COMING, and I HATE PICTURE BOOKS!. Visit his creations at CreaturesandCharacters.com.
Timothy is giving away a signed book of your choice and an original pencil sketch. Just leave a comment to enter (one per person, please). A winner will be selected next week. Good luck!