What Is Your Voice?
by Jeannine Q. Norris

As we are in the middle of PiBoIdMo, ideas are flying fast and furious, right? And are you hearing voices in your head? Hooray for you! When writers hear voices, that’s a good thing. The tricky part is identifying the voice that will get you published.

With the tight economy and a tough picture book market, publishers are looking for a unique angle. Chances are good that your picture book idea has already been published. The challenge is finding a way to make it unique, and that often involves a different voice.

While you are brainstorming, and the creative juices are flowing, choose to look at your manuscript from a different perspective. A unique voice is how I landed a contract with Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary’s Christmas Gift (HarperCollins, 2008). Certainly, there are countless Nativity books on the market, and more every year, but the voice of a mother speaking to her baby was my hook. Christmas suddenly had a different perspective.

Look at your manuscripts and try to push the envelope a bit. Can you find a different voice? Something that sets you apart from the other fantastic books that have already addressed the subject. Perhaps you are writing about a cowboy. Can you write about the cowboy from the horse’s perspective? Picture book about the new kid in school? How about the new kid from the bully’s perspective? You get the idea.

Be open to new ideas, new voices. Sometimes you have to search. If you are lucky, they magically appear—like our dog, Harry Potter, trotting past me in a denim skirt and pink bandana. Our daughter had dressed him in her clothes, and he was proud and embarrassed at the same time. That was a eureka moment for me, and two picture book manuscripts were born. The voice, of course, is our long-suffering dog.

Good luck with your writing and listen carefully to those voices—they’re trying to sell your manuscript!

Jeannine Q. Norris comes from a family of authors—her mother and brother are also published. She’s a mother and an animal lover who wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up. Jeannine and her husband created the At Least Kids Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to assisting children with brain tumors. ‘Tis the season for her debut picture book Tonight You Are My Baby, so she’s busy visiting schools all through December.