Meredith Mundy headshotby Meredith Mundy

I recently celebrated my 20th anniversary as a children’s book editor. (Still loving it as much as ever!) One of the questions I am still asked most often is why an author and illustrator so rarely collaborate directly. Why WOULDN’T it be a great thing for the two creative parents to discuss and brainstorm? Why don’t I encourage lengthy Skype chats about their amazing book-to-be? What’s up with those control-freak publishers anyway?!

Most people assume the worst: surely author and illustrator are kept apart so the publishers can hold all the cards, hoard all the power. But I am here to tell you this couldn’t be further from the truth! The reason editors and art directors keep the wordsmith separate from the artist is to allow for maximum inspiration and creative freedom on BOTH sides. Authors needn’t weigh down their manuscripts with descriptions of scenery or characters, and illustrators are allowed unencumbered freedom to conjure with paintbrush or pixels the story’s characters and surroundings without trying to match an author’s vision of them.

I’d like to share three very recent examples of how well it can work out when an author trusts an illustrator and refuses to define how a character should look or how a plot should unfold visually:

  1. When Tara Lazar sent in her hilarious picture book manuscript for NORMAL NORMAN, in which a scientist attempts to pin down a definition for the word “normal,” I needled her to tell me more. Who exactly is this scientist? And who—or what—is Norman?? But Tara could not be persuaded—she had complete faith that illustrator Stephan Britt (AKA S.britt) would know exactly what to do with the scientist narrator and his or her mysterious test subject. It was fascinating to see Stephan experiment.
    .
    First Norman looked a bit like a lion.Normal Norman stripe sketch

    Then he looked more like a friendly monster.

    Normal Norman colorful sketch (1)

    Finally Stephan found exactly the right Norman.

    Normal Norman unicycle

    Who knew he would be a purple orangutan in square-frame glasses?!

    And much to our surprise, the scientist turned out to be a young Latina girl in black Mary Janes and a stylish bob. This certainly would NOT have been the case had Tara (or art director Merideth Harte or I) attempted to sway Stephan in some definite direction.

    normalnormancoverfinal

  2. Tammi Sauer is another author who very rarely includes illustration notes in her manuscripts. When I acquired YOUR ALIEN, I asked Tammi what the lost extraterrestrial in her story might look like, and all she would say is that she hoped it would be so adorable that readers everywhere would wish for an alien to crash land in THEIR front yards.

    youralien
    By giving illustrator Goro Fujita complete carte blanche to imagine the cutest alien in the whole universe, Tammi got exactly what she’d hoped for. See for yourself!Your Alien interior-endpaper
  3. My final example of an author bravely allowing an illustrator’s inspiration to take the driver’s seat is Kim Norman and her charming THIS OLD VAN, sung to the tune of “This Old Man.”
    .
    This Old Van book coverNot only did she boldly leave wide open what exactly the characters should look like . . . she also left the entire ending up for grabs! In this rollicking picture book road trip, a pair of hippie grandparents receive a very important invitation from their grandson. Soon they are zipping cross-country in their trusty old van, which must deliver them to their destination in time for The Big Event. But WHAT IS THAT EVENT?, I kept asking Kim. She assured me that illustrator Carolyn Conahan would come up with something PERFECT, but I was too anxious. Surely an illustrator would want some guidance from the author on something as crucial as the ending, wouldn’t she?? Reluctantly, at my insistence, Kim brainstormed a few ideas—perhaps the grandson was starring in the school play or had a big solo in a recital? Carolyn wisely ignored the illustration notes and surprised us with a grand finale so clever that any alternative is unthinkable now: of course the grandson is racing his own miniature version of the old van in the Downhill Derby!

    This Old Van interior - right side of spread

For those of you writing picture books, I challenge you to leave 50% of the inspiration to an illustrator. You are not alone and by no means have to do all the heavy lifting. Write the story and then step away. And for those of you illustrating picture books, I challenge you to ignore any illustration notes that don’t inspire you! Trust one another from afar, inspire one another at a distance, and then get together AFTER the book is printed to celebrate what your wonderful, individual, untainted visions brought into the world.


Meredith Mundy, Executive Editor at Sterling Children’s Books, has always had a passion for character-centered picture books with heart, but she is also seeking everything from funny, original board books to unforgettable middle grade novels to gripping contemporary YA fiction. While she enjoys editing lively nonfiction, she wouldn’t be the right editor for poetry collections or projects geared primarily toward the school and library market.

Meredith is very proud to be blogging alongside such a wonderful group of people, including five stellar Sterling authors/illustrators whose picture books are among her very favorites: Josh Funk, Tara Lazar, Kim Norman, Tammi Sauer, and Liza Woodruff.

PrizeDetails (2)
Want to give the slush pile the slip? Want to know what advice a seasoned picture book editor would give you? Now’s your chance! Meredith is giving away a free picture book critique.

Leave a comment below to enter. One comment per person, please.

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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I had no idea that authors could make suggestons to illustrators.

As someone without any artistic talent, I find it such a RELIEF to be able to leave illustrations completely up to illustrators. Good to get the reinforcement that a less-is-more approach is best for writers.

Lisa Connors I’ve been told NO suggestions and I’m happy to leave lots of room for an illustrator. Unfortunately, I am hearing how publishers are preferring author-illustrators these days. I’m not an illustrator.

    Not to worry, Lisa. I’ve heard that caveat for more than a decade, and yet I still know many more authors who write text-only than those who do both. Editors continue to be eager to find great manuscripts because they know so many wonderful illustrators capable of illustrating them.

So wonderful to know the process and allow for inspiration and freedom on both sides. How neat it is to see what the words do to conjure visions in illustrators heads and hands!

Love this advice, and it’s great to know the reason why authors and illustrators don’t collaborate!

Thank you for the very informative post. I have a lot to learn yet.

So interesting! Thanks for the informative post.

First, your prize is a gift to anyone and I hope they soak up every word. I know I would. Second, my CP (critique partner) told me something like this yesterday. To get rid of some description to let the illustrator figure it out. And you know what? I’m going to listen. Thank you. I needed this advice today.

I love this post. I can so identify. I sold a poem to Ladybug, Food For Thought. I had envisioned it as a little boy as the MC. But, the wonderful Ponder Goembel made him a rabbit. Much better that way! Artists rock.

What great examples of artist/author collaboration! I was especially impressed by THAT OLD VAN. The fact that “shared vision” could mean leaving the ending for the illustrator to dream up is something I’d never considered before.

Perhaps illustrator notes are more for the editor than the artist.

Thanks for your inspiring post and advice to trust the illustrator.

There’s something positively magical about a truly collaborative collaboration! Thanks for showing us a few examples and giving us the confidence to “let go.”

This is an awesome post, showing us how and why few or no illustrator notes are needed. Thank you, Meredith!

It’s so cool the way the illustrator adds to the text to make the author’s words even more fun and exciting! A wonderful collaboration!

Thanks for including your wonderful examples of why authors and illustrators should be kept apart.No more illustrator notes for me! 🙂

Can’t wait to pick up This Old Van – loved hearing this affirmation of what I’ve heard in so many classes and lectures. Give the illustrator room and magic happens!

Thanks for revealing more about this relationship. It’s all about trust and sharing ideas. Will take note!

So interesting to see actual examples of how letting go works so well. Thanks for this post!

Great info.

Thank you for this great post! I am always in awe of the vision that illustrators bring to the words.

Great advice for writers and illustrators

Thank you, Meredith! Terrific post. “The reason editors and art directors keep the wordsmith separate from the artist is to allow for maximum inspiration and creative freedom on BOTH sides.” Brilliant point. A lack of distance would kill the creative process, or at least stifle it. I know my limits, as a writer, and often marvel at the cleverness of artists to allow a story to soar. These days, I read new PB’s twice: once, barely ‘looking’ at the pics (hard to put those blinders on!), to see what the text says, and then a second time, to see how the artist expanded on it. This helps me to learn what needs to be in the text, and what doesn’t.

Fun post! Thanks, Meredith! 🙂

I love this post. It confirms exactly what I was thinking about a few days ago. Thanks!

I am quite sure my stick figure people would be of no help anyway….thanks for a great post!

Thank you Meredith for your great post and suggestion. And thank you for giving example of building trust and sharing with illustrators.

Great to know all this! It takes some pressure off the the writer and gives added freedom to the illustrator. I will definitely leave more room for the illustrator’s creativeness in the future! Thank you for sharing!

I love, love, love the three examples given here! They are perfect examples of how a leap of faith in your illustrator’s ability is more than worth it! I plan to share these examples with my crit group, which includes one author who is anxiously awaiting her first title with Sterling to be released this coming Spring! 🙂

It is such a leap of faith to give up a story to an illustrator as we hope that they will understand our vision, but the illustrator is just as invested in telling the story the way it was meant to be told. It’s a marriage really and the result is the birthing of an incredible book. Thanks for giving us examples of great marriages, Meredith!

Groovy!

As always, Meredith, thank you for your stellar advice.

This was a wonderful and supportive bit of knowledge. Thank you.

Great advice, Meredith! Love how the illustrations in those stories turned out.

I need to learn to trust those amazing illustrators more!

I am the lucky beneficiary of illustrations by Vincent Kirsch in my upcoming Hole Story of the Doughnut. Such genius! But I must admit it’s still a bit of an anxious time turning over your baby to a stranger who will supply the other half of the book’s DNA.

Thank you Meredith for your post. Great insight on what it takes to build a professional team to create a work of art.

Great information. Thank you, Meredith! Best – Jennifer Reinharz

I’m also in the camp of less is better. Let the illustrator carry the load and give him/her room to breathe.

So true. The writer-illustrator relationship requires all the trust of a good marriage.

Great advice. This topic often comes up in my critique group. I love the examples you gave. Thanks!

Awesome insight! It must be wonderful to see how your story unfolds in an illustrator’s imagination.

I think this is a critical leap of faith for picture book writers, to trust that the story will bloom in the hands of the illustrator. Thanks for encouraging us to leave room for another’s vision!

In fairness to both sides, I agree that each one has its own light to shine. You write, I illustrate and we’ll meet in the end. Does this sound so fair and appropriate? On this premise, I wish all success!

Love seeing all the possible shapes of Norman!

It makes for picture book magic! Thanks for sharing…

Trust is a must in the entire process. Meredith, this is a great post!

Wonderful post! 👏🏻 I agree wholeheartedly.

Wonderful post! I just attend a talk at a conference regarding this exact topic. Thank you for your helpful words of advice!

Nice glimpse into the illustrator’s process. Fun to see the changes in Norman! Thanks.

I have a great PB manuscript and hope I win this prize!! If you accepting manuscripts without an agent, I would love to submit to you. Thanks
Dana Wu

I love seeing examples of illustrators putting their own spin on things. Your Alien was adorable and I just reserved This Old Van at my library. Can’t wait for Normal Norman to come out. Thanks for this post!

I was very surprised to find recently that authors and illustrators don’t collaborate directly. Now I know why! Thank you, Meredith, for the great post.

But what if you’re trying to be an illustrator/author? Well, I guess I could tell my two selves to stay apart from each other for their full creativity. ;D This information is good though if I ever get a chance to illustrate someones work. Thanks!

Excellent examples. Thanks!

Thanks for the insights, Meredith. It’s an unnerving process, but so wonderful when it goes well!

Thanks for these great examples, Meredith! Challenge accepted.

Love this post. So looking forward to someday seeing a picture book of mine in the illustrator’s eyes.

It’s hard to let go of one’s creative vision for a text but this post provides perfect examples of why authors do need to let go and leave room for illustrators. Great post!

So hard to turn your baby completely over to someone you don’t know.

I love these examples of letting your manuscript (child) blossom to their full potential with the help of someone else – what author (mother) doesn’t want this for his or her darling? Thanks for reminding us about the importance of using the available experts (village) to help publish (raise) our books (children). 🙂

Awesome examples!

Love these examples of the beautiful results born of mutual trust among writers, artists, and publishing houses.

Thanks for sharing the examples. Those always help make it “real.”

I see things quite visually and find it hard not to include some illo notes but I understand the need to allow the illustrator to have artist freedom and expression. Funnily enough, talking to some author/illustrators over the summer, they encouraged using (some) illo notes but editors and agents tend to say it’s a no-go! As a newbie, it’s really hard to get the balance right for everyone!

Would love the chance to see what an illustrator would do with my stories…

I agree, these were all very successful!

This is difficult! But I will try to take heed!

This is the most helpful answer I’ve heard to this much asked question. Thanks!

Great explanation of the collaborative efforts between editor and author, art director and Illustrator all working for the best book possible!

Thanks for the wonderful advice!

Meredith is generous, and I am grateful. In the trust thing as an illustrator/author it is a wise thing to trust talent to know that support and trust are the very best creative catalysts. And a gentle editorial insight of course. Thanks for this blog, and support to authors and illustrators.

Great post – I love the idea of two head being better than one!

Great to see concrete examples of how this process works. Very informative, thank you!

Dear Meredith, Thank you for showing “control freaks” like me why it is so important to step back and let the illustrator create their 50%. As your examples show, it makes ALL the difference!

Loved this fascinating look into the process of balancing image and words. I think choosing “which illustrator” must me a nail biting process.

Terrific advice with wonderful examples. Thanks, Meredith!

I LOVE how Norman came out. So fun!

Super excited about this potential prize! Thanks for this post, Meredith!!

Now wait a minute, Meredith. This article says that you’ve been editing books for 20 years. Judging from your photograph, that would mean that you started in the business when you were 7 or 8 years old! I was still trying to figure out how to erase all the doodles in the margins of my notebook paper before I handed in my homework at that age….. 🙂

    P.S. From an illustrator’s standpoint, I think you are absolutely right. A gentle nudge in the right direction is always helpful, but when an artist is told exactly how each drawing should look, the entire project tends to lose its spontaneity.

Judging by the number of illustration notes in my current WIP, I’m pretty sure I know who the control freak is. Thanks for the thought-provoking post and the wonderful books you publish!

Really LOVED this post, Meredith! As a writer AND an illustrator who has worked with art directors and editors AS WELL AS directly with self-published authors, I know first hand that direction that is TOO specific saps the life right out of an illustration, and causes the illustrator to feel like they are on a very short leash…..ultimately not good for the end result! Your 3 examples were great! Would love to work with authors like that some day!

Interesting info.

Thanks Meredith for the great inspiring post and the examples! Love the ending for This Old Van and the evolution of Normal Norman.

Superb examples of how illustrators bring amazing ideas to the words we authors offer up. Thank you Meredith!

Thank you for your post. As an aspiring author without the guidance of an agent/editor it is challenging to know the correct balance. I’m so glad you have examples of how authors leave room for the illustrator. Thanks again!!

This HAS always bothered me. Thanks for explaining the thinking behind those editorial comments!

Fabulous advice – hard for controlling “book parents” – but a great reminder!
Thank you!

Thank you Meredith! It is a challenge not to include the notes being a very visual person, but I have been learning to be more visual with my text to impart the feel of what I imagine. Your examples were very helpful in understanding why.

So much fun to see the first few Norman attempts!!!

I love this post, Meredith! I explain this to people all the time, the best I can. Now I’m just going to point them to your wonderful examples!

Meredith, thank you for sharing these examples. Picture books are amazing due to the collaboration of many creative minds working separately.

I’m so glad you cleared up the whole author- illustrator separation. I see now how distance actually provides for creative freedom, and a more interesting outcome. Great post!

A good and challenging reminder. Thank you Ms. Meredith Mundy. Can’t wait to get these books!

This totally makes sense. As writers we need to consider how we would feel if an illustrator told us how to write our stories. It must be a good thing to bring two different talents together.

Great advice and examples – thanks.

Meredith, what an eye-opening post! I had no idea how much space should be left to the illustrator to envision the characters and plot. Thank you!

I’d never thought about this topic before. I guess I’d assumed that there would be more collaboration. But I love the finished results you showed. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Very insightful look into how an author’s words and illustrator’s images seamlessly come together. Thank you.

Wonderful post Meredith! I have wondered about illustration notes. Good to hear that not including them is braver than keeping them in. I suspect I’ll keep adding them for my benefit and then as I edit I’ll realise they aren’t needed.

Very interesting to read about the imaginative possibilities if you let go of your own vision and trust the team.

Great examples of why writers should relax a bit and have confidence in their overall story. I think this is especially important advice from an editor, since we tend to think that editors expect us to have all of these details figured out.

I loved hearing about the creative process behind each of these books!

Great advice! I’ve been trying to edit my manuscripts to leave more room for the illustrator.

Thank you for sharing actual examples of two wonderful creatives working separately, yet in tandem. Inspiring!

Thank you for this view into the picture book partnership process! I’ve always wished I had the artistic ability to illustrate my own stories, but your examples show that the magic can happen even more serendipitously with two imaginations.

As an illustrator – you are speaking to my soul. I see how difficult it is to give up control… But the end result is always so much fun!

As an illustrator, I appreciate this very much!!!

Thank you for explaining the whys behind author and illustrator and giving such great examples! After seeing the illustrations, those stories couldn’t have been done any other way.

Thanks so much for this glimpse. On to be inspired!

I totally agree. The illustrator adds so much of his/her own creativity that is just completes the book! Great article!

Thanks for such wonderful advice! 😀 It’s so hard to let go of what you had in mind as the author, but your examples prove that the illustrator is the icing on the cake!

I love the idea of a 50/50 split in the responsibility. Let’s face it – writing the words is difficult enough. I don’t need another job! GAH!

Thanks for sharing your expertise!

This was a great post! This is definitely something that comes up often in my critique group and at conferences I’ve attended. Thank you!

I like how the examples illuminate the authors choosing to step aside even when given a chance to advise the illustrator. I think illustrators are magicians, but I’d still probably need some duct tape for my mouth if asked my opinion about such things. 😉

It is hard to give up control but important to the book to do.
Thanks for the information.

Thank you for reminding authors to believe that our text will inspire illustrators to complete the story and to meet up to celebrate after it has gone to print.

Great advice for both authors and illustrators!

It takes a village to make a great PB :-).

It’s a relief and a delight when the illustrator surpasses one’s own vision.

Love reading those examples! This speaks to my writer’s heart because I often worry that I leave out details but my gut tells me to leave room for the illustrator. Your advice is very reassuring!

(Art Note) Grateful writer bows in thanks.

Thanks so much, Meredith! That is the cutest alien! ❤

Darn tootin’! Beautiful!

That is the amazing thing about a picture book… It’s like a child – a perfect blend if both parents!

Terrific explanation of the process, Meredith. As an illustrator, I’ve been asked about this many times, and you have explained it perfectly.

This was so insightful, Meredith! I love the visual examples.

This is a fantastic reminder of allowing creative freedom for the illustrator. We need to be mindful of what we don’t say to allow the story to fully blossom. Thank you for this inside look into the real life process for some of these stories– what a fun process!

I don’t know who’s luckier, those authors and illustrators who get to work with a trusting editor like Meredith – or Meredith for getting to work with such fabulous artisans! Either way, picture books – and stories of how they came to be – like these ones give me the warm fuzzies all over. Fabulous post.

As a writer with an illustration background the separation on books I’m not illustrating myself makes me nuts, but this explanation is helpful!

Illustrators rock. Very informative and helpful. Thank you.

Yes, yes, YES! I get asked this all the time with respect to my Dragon books, and Howard McWilliam took my vision to heights beyond my wildest dreams. It’s definitely a 50:50 marriage when producing our sweet baby books. Thanks for “illustrating” this so beautifully! Hugs! 🙂

Meredith, Thank You for this very informative and inspiring post!

Love hearing from you as an editor…thank you for sharing!

Thanks for sharing the inside scoop! Very enlightening and helpful.

Yes on getting an editor’s perspective! Thank you Meredith 🙂

Great advice! Thanks for sharing!

Meredith, I’ve always wondered, why authors and illustrators were separated. Now, it all makes sense. Thank you! Also, thank you for the generous offer to critique a manuscript. My fingers are crossed that my name will be chosen, but I’ll be jumping up and down for whoever’s the lucky winner.

It took a while but I have come around to the exciting unknown of leaving that unlocked door for the illustrator to open and show us what is behind there. Thanks, Meredith!

Love this post and the wonderful examples. Inspiring!

I get this question asked all the time at schools and at writer events and now I have even more information straight from an editor’s mouth as to why we are kept apart from the illustrators. Thank you!

Thanks for the inspiring examples. Letting go has its rewards!

Keeping the writer and illustrator apart allows for free play and that’s when our imaginations are happiest and most productive. Thanks!

The visual stories here are remarkable, especially Norman’s evolution from words to wonderful illustrations! Excellent reminder for PB authors to have faith and trust that the magic of just the right artistic chromosomes will complete “their baby”, (the manuscript) perfectly!

Thanks, Meredith, for the inside look at how these great books found their fantastic illustrations.

Really great info! Love the mini derby van – my mom raced in a derby when she was a kid.

This is fantastic. I particularly like the This Old Van example. Thank you!

This was so insightful, I enjoyed this post very much.

Hi Meredith,
Thank you for the insight that serves as a creative reminder. The detail and examples you used really hit home for me. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for your generous critique giveaway!

Thank you for answering that question. I have often wondered why they didn’t work together.

All great insight on the process. I love reading these nuggets. Poppy

Critique my manuscript please!!! Great post!

This relationship between author and illustrator is fascinating to me. Love your examples!

A great reminder that this is a collaborative creative process… and works best when not in isolation! Thank you!

Hi Meredith,

Thanks so much for letting us know more about the process. I see now that illustration notes can weigh down illustrators and their creativity. Makes perfect sense.

Thanks for sharing with us today!

Wonderful post! I constantly scrutinize my illo notes when I have them.

Thank you, Meredith, for giving us a peek into the process. The examples helped me see that creative process between story and illustration in a whole new way.

I would LOVE for a manuscript critique! This article was eye-opening!!!

Thank you for some insight into this situation.

Superhelpful to hear about the process —examples i haven’t heard before and actually help me as an author-illustrator.on how to separate the manuscript from the art.

Wonderful examples! Can’t wait to see how my chracters come to life in the hands of a talented illustrator.

Thanks, Metedith! These are wonderful examples!

Thanks for this helpful post!

I just love seeing how the creative process evolves! Thanks for sharing these paths, Meredith.

Thank you for the vivid examples. They illustrated your lesson week!

Great examples, but I am curious about how long it took the authors to give up that control over the story. It seems to me that it is a learned skill and it would be tough to do in the first stories submitted to agents and/or editors.

an illustrator can take a super story and it super-dooper! Thanks for the great examples.

Love hearing stories like this!

Thanks for the great post with excellent examples! 🙂

I love this 50% challenge. And the encouragement to illustrators to go beyond the notes and follow their muse. Thanks for a great post.

It it puzzling yet reassuring to know that these “separate” creative processes combine to form wonderful wonder-filled books.

Very interesting. I do always wonder about the collaboration, or possibly not-so-much collaboration, between arthor and artist. Thanks!

I have to laugh when thinking back to my first draft of my first PB manuscript – I think there were more illustration notes than actual text! Great post – thank you!

I love seeing how Norman could have looked! It’s great to see that things that turn out perfectly weren’t always so! Thanks so much for your post! I’m going to give 100% to only writing 50% of the story! 🙂

Thank you, Meredith, for this insightful post!

I love picture book illustration and I so admire the talented illustrators. I wish I could draw! Thanks for the insight into the process.

Gah! It’s so hard to give up control isn’t it? 😀 But look at the amazing outcomes when you do!! Thanks so much for these examples and the backstory behind how they became what they are. Wonderful post!!

Great post! Thanks.

Newbie here. I didn’t even know that the writer and the illustrator didn’t
really collaborate. Thank you for the insight.

Illustrators are so brilliant & creative-I have no problem “trusting” them.

It’s hard to even think about control of one’s story, but the results are beautiful.

So true, MM! Thanks for the invaluable advice.

Thanks Meredith for insight into what actually happens behind the scenes. I ended up really liking the illustrations in my book but it did feel strange to never talk to the illustrator.

Thank you Meredith for your post. As an illustrator I love visually interpreting authors’ words. As an author, I write my manuscripts pretending someone else will illustrate my book. I take my artist’s self away from the project and only focus on the language.

Thanks Meredith! I would also add that it’s a good exercise as a writer/illustrator to write without too many preconceptions on the artwork as well. It really frees you up to concentrate on the words.

Thanks for sharing the process of these picture books. Very useful…

Thank you Meredith! I think what is highlighted in your post, is that good editors and publishers make room for REAL collaboration. This means each side bringing their best, their expertise, to the table…without micromanaging, or skewed views, being placed upon one another. Sounds like an awesome process that I hope to be part of one day!

Great advice. This allows me to focus on my part of the job: write a good story.

In illustrator we trust!

I am often tempted to include illustration notes (or too much description) in my manuscripts. Thanks for the great advice!

Thank you Meredith for the great post. I enjoyed the examples and the peak into the creative process!

Thank you for your inspiring post!

Wonderful post with great examples. I am curious as to how this applies to the relationship between an author/illustrator and say, an editor or A.D. How much of the dummy book should be finished? How much loose? Does a fully done, tight dummy book give the impression (rightly or wrongly) that the author/illustrator is too married to THIS vision of the piece?
Curiously, and thanks again,
David Bernardy

What a wonderful post! As an illustrator and writer, I appreciate your explanation about the need to allow the illustrator their creative freedom. It is very difficult to create when your hands are tied by the author’s preconceived expectations. If you allow the illustrator to do their job, the end product will be much stronger in the end. Thank you for sharing your insight. T.

Wonderful examples–thanks!

Thanks to Meredith for explaining why writers and illustrators are kept in separate cages…in different zoos, even! 😀 It all makes sense now.

Thanks so much for this post. I needed it as I prepare to look over one of my manuscripts after having put it away for a few weeks. I can’t wait to see where my story goes!

Love this post from an editorial perspective. Thank you Meredith and Tara.

As an author/illustrator, I always try to be of two minds 🙂 Thanks for your marvelous post!

I’ll be the first to admit that I have no artistic talent–words are my paints. And I’d imagine that there are illustrators out there who only think in images. How wonderful that the two “halves” can come together to make an amazing and complete work of beauty!

Great examples on the splendid surprises the illustrators offer when left to their creative pursuit. Thanks Meredith!

Many PiBo writers feel magic in the way words combine, not just for meaning but also through phrasing and rhythm; their stories appeal to the ears. PiBo illustrators feel magic in the way picture elements combine to make facial expressions and colorful worlds; their stories appeal to the eyes. Let each specialist do their thing for a double dose of magic.

Terrific post! I’m sure it’s hard to give someone else total control over illustrating your picture book (kind of like letting a stranger hold your baby), but it sounds like it’s for the best. Thanks a bunch for the information!

Love seeing the examples of how an illustrator takes the story to another level. Norman the purple orangutan and the adorable alien are perfect examples of the illustrator’s perspective, but I truly love knowing that Kim Norman left her ‘big event’ completely open to the illustrator’s creative talents. I always thought the downhill derby race and all the vehicles which passed this old van on the road trip were in the illustration notes. Hurray for Carolyn Conahan, that was genius!

Such helpful advice on trusting the illustrator’s talents to make your manuscript even stronger. Thanks for the words of wisdom, Meredith!

Inspiring examples! Thanks!

Thank you for this inspiring post, Meredith! It was fun to see how masterpieces are created when writers trust illustrators!

I love reading information that includes illustrator information. It feels less cryptic now! Thank ya! Dea

Magic happens when you learn to let go, as you so nicely illustrated! Thank you 🙂

What a convincing article! Thanks.

That is SO hard! When you write a story, you definitely have specific ideas of what the characters look like; however, it is a GOOD thing to ‘step back’ and trust…thinking seriously about it…..

Great advice! I guess I have had visions of what the illustrator would come up with but haven’t ever given suggestions and always been pleasantly surprised.

Thank you, Meredith! It’s wonderful to receive advice from an editor, especially one with 20 years experience! Congratulations.

I love the examples in this post, it’s always helpful to see how things play out in real life.

Thanks for this great post on trusting an illustrator. Now I’m going to go through my pb manuscript and see what descriptions I can cut.

Great examples and advice! I love the excitement of seeing what an illustrator will create to being my stories to life!

Great post! Thank you!

I’m starting to think of this whole process like gardening. I can plant the seeds, but I’m really trusting the sun and rain and soil to do their parts in the creation of something marvelous. Anyone else have other analogies?

Leaving room for the illustrator has been a struggle for me. I’ve always been rather word heavy. But I’ve learned to allow myself the freedom to write my stories exactly as they come to me, full details and all, and then go back through and delete everything illustratable. This usually cuts the word count in half–sometimes more. There are shelves of wonderful picturebooks, prooving that writers can relax when their books are being illustrated. The end result is often more amazing than expected. Thank you for this wonderful post.

Thank you! That was a fun way to start the day. I’d love to see what inspired illustrations could do for some of my text!

It is evident that you truly respect your authors and illustrators and trust the creative process involved in the picture book form. Thanks for taking the time to offer your perspective.

Thank you for the backstory as to why authors and illustrators are not encouraged to collaborate. I’ve had good fortune with the illustrators my publishers have selected but often still wish we could communicate during the process. I’ve just accepted that it’s out of my hands and I trust my publisher — so far, so good.

As an illustrator, I say, “Hooray! Great advice.” As A writer I say, “Ouch. You caught me being a control freak.” Thank-you for your post. It inspired me to make two specific changes to two of my pb wip. THANKS!

Oh, I love the stories you told us about those three books. Thanks for sharing!

Great post! And agreed – trust your illustrator! I might be biased though. 😉

Terrific post!! Thank you for all the information you gave on the author/ illustrator relationship. It’s hard for authors to give up control of “their baby” but your behind the scenes peek at the end results, especially “Normal Norman,” makes it easier to step back and allow the illustrator the freedom to create the perfect blending of art and text

Great examples, Meredith. We so often hear about the revision process for writers, but seldom see the brainstorming and revision process for the illustrator. Loved how Norman morphed from a lion to an orangutan.

Very nice examples! thank you.

Thanks so much for the insight. I tend to sketch dummies of what I write…but to call them ROUGH is a gross understatement.

Hmm… maybe my fear of illustration notes is not a bad thing. 🙂

Thanks for answering that burning question. I have always wondered why this happens.

Thank you for this post. It’s hard to let go and trust the process!

Very interesting post. Thanks Meredith!

What if your main character has a problem, that’s the thrust of the whole picture book, and the solution, on the penultimate page, is wordless? I’d like to see what an illustrator could come up with, but I have my own answer so I feel I must suggest it. No?

Fantastic!! What a wonderful post to inspire us all! So interesting to hear your three examples and how sometimes you just need to let go and let folks create!!

Such a great post. I am going to put all three of these on hold at my library. Thank you.

What a lovely post! I think the individual visions of author and illustrator are what make picture books so interesting.

I love the potential in the relationship between writer and illustrator–but it’s oh so scary to take that leap. Thanks for the inspiring reminder of why it’s important to take it!

Excellent read. I would LOVE to get a critique from someone with your expertise and experience! 🙂 – Mark

Illustrator notes are such tricky business for writers. Thanks for the reminder that less is more.

This is a wonderful post! Thanks for three great examples. What great advice for all of us.

Meredith, Terrific post! I am a writer/illustrator and would be thrilled to have a critique on my character based, WNDB manuscript! Thank you for being apart of PiBoIdMo!

Thanks Meredith. always try to write something that an illustrator will love drawing.

It’s hard to let go of a ms, but it’s also FUN to see the illustrator’s vision for it. Thanks for the reminder, Meredith! 🙂

It’s great to get an insider’s perspective on this. And it reiterates what Mac Barnett told us in his Picture Book Summit webinar – as a writer we are only responsible for telling half the story.

Enjoyed reading your examples, Meredith. Makes this process much more understandable. Thank you.

I do love what the illustrators did with the examples you’ve shared. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing this great post. Of course, like everyone, would love a critique!

Thank you for your post! The best advice I received from an editor was to not do the illustrator’s job. Once I listened to that, my writing became tighter and my story had room to grow.

Several writers have urged me to add illustrator notes to one of my PB manuscripts, and even though I really don’t want to, I was starting to doubt myself. Thanks for the encouragement to stand firm!

Thanks for the great examples of how the writer and illustrator create separately, yet end up with a magic piece of work in the end. Also, how the editors oversee that magic!

Really cool that Meredith was trying to tease out illustration ideas from the authors in these examples! If there’s ever a gorilla, alien or van in one of my future stories, I hope they can look as fabulous as these do. Thanks for the peek from the editor’s seat!

TRUST !!!!! Wow ! That is a scary yet needed item in this crazy world of writing. Thank You for your words and your examples were spot on. 🙂

Thanks for sharing your examples AND for the super duper prize.

Illustrators are amazing!

I’ve tried illustrating some of my ms. What I found from that experience is that I love writing with all my heart, and the illustrations should be left to an artist who loves illustrating just as much.

So interesting to see how the writer’s ideas INSPIRED the illustrator’s creativity.

I used to think that they did collaborate and came up with the visuals together. Then when I found out they didn’t, my mind was blown. How could you illustrate a story by assuming what the author meant. Now I think it’s amazing how a text can inspire an illustrator to create amazing images and personalities.

Loved seeing the various character ideas.

Thank you Meredith! As an illustrator and graphic designer in “real life” (one who also writes stories). I unconsciously illustrate any story (book, tome, newsletter, poem etc and so on) I read…kind of like a slide show or movie in my head.
I am always asking. “Why not a dragon instead of a lizard” or “Highway 2 through that runs through woods is actually a very busy animal trail” Endless, endless ideas….
If you believe in your story, trust your illustrator. They see your words not only how you write them but also how they could be. And your editor/agent also knows how to pair you with an illustrator who can illuminate your story not just illustrate it.

Thank you, Meredith, for your examples that clearly show that my words can be a catalyst for the illustrator who will love my character and my story – my baby – because it will be her baby, too.

Wow! Great examples of how the illustrator can use their own creativity and imagination when working with a text! Thanks!

This is a very helpful post. Thank you for the opportunity!

Great info here. Thank you!

Even author/illustrators have to trust themselves!

Wahoo! As an illustrator, I hope all authors read this. As an author, I’m excited to see what other illustrators do with my manuscripts! Great post!

I was told months after my debut picture book, THE STORY CATCHER, was released that the illustrator was inspired by my manuscript to create characters based on her own family. I especially love the savy, world traveler she drew for Mimi, the grandmother. I hadn’t thought of her that way but now I can’t imagine Mimi being anyone else!

Great post!

Thank you for your post, Meredith. Such fun examples! As a writer/ illustrator, I try to add another layer to the story with pictures. I am always asking myself if I am showing or just telling.

Love these examples! Always like learning more about the publishing process. Thank you.

Thank you so much for taking the time to write and share such a great post Meredith.

I loved seeing how trusting your illustrator can lead to MAGIC. I hope that I have the opportunity to trust an illustrator some day! Thanks for an inspiring and informative post!

That was really insightful! Thanks for sharing.

Your editorial perspective is priceless, especially: “The reason editors and art directors keep the wordsmith separate from the artist is to allow for maximum inspiration and creative freedom on BOTH sides.” Thanks!

Great post! This collaboration is what truly makes picture books special!

Meredith, thank you for reminding us to trust the PB publishing process between authors and illustrators. The examples you provided are great inspiration and demonstrate the power of enhancing great writing with great illustrations.

Thanks for the post, and maybe I should take some illustrating classes!

This information doesn’t surprise me as it is the artist who really needs creative freedom. Great interview!

Thank you for your insight and explanation!

Such a great perspective from both sides, thank you!!

What a relief to know I can count on the illustrator to such a degree. Thank you for terrific examples, Meredith.

Great advice and examples. Thanks, Meredith.

This was fascinating to read! I’m dying to know what an illustrator will do with my text when/if one gets picked up by a publisher! 🙂

Thanks for the great advice and wonderful examples! I think this is the hardest part for new authors – letting go of their idea of “their vision” or even a “shared vision.” It is so important to have faith in the process, and something much stronger may evolve.

Thank you! Super helpful.

How exciting!! Thank you for the wonderful explanation.

Picture books stir all sorts of emotions

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Thanks for this advice, and the three examples are inspiring!

Creative freedom on both sides of the picture book is importnt if you want a great one. Thank you.

My daughter has illustrated a few picture books. I’m going to show her this post. I’m sure it will encourage and inspire her. (I know it does me as a writer.)

Thanks for the great advice!

Thank you for the inside look at how these books developed as a “blind’ collaboration between author and illustrator.

I love reading a ms from the brilliant ladies in my rhyming critique group. It’s so much fun to doodle what I see in my head. I know their publishers will find great illustrators for them, but its such fun not to see illustrations. When I write its like I have an animated movie playing in my head. I see the colors of the broadest strokest and all the smallest details of every word I write.

Thanks for the great explanation of the mysterious author/illustrator relationship!

This was such a fun post. I loved the illustrations you shared with us. How fun to see the way an illustrator comes up with how a character looks in a book. It really is important to let the writer and illustrator both have creative freedom. Thank you for taking the time to share this post with us. And thank you for offering a critique. It is very generous and kind.

I put very few if any illustration notes and people are sometimes surprised that I have no idea what my characters look like. It’s actually really liberating as a writer to not worry about that stuff and to trust in the illustrator. It’s their job after all.

Thanks for all the great examples and inspiration. SInce I’m married to a brilliant artistic genius, I know it’s best for me to let him decide on the images!!

Thank you for the post! That is just the way I would want the relationship to be. If I ever find a publisher for my picture book, I will gladly leave the illustrations up to the artist’s creative mind and hands.

EEK! This is so hard to do but I will loosen the vice grip – trust and have FAITH. Thank you for sharing, Meredith.

I’ve always seen the author-illustrator relationship as similar to that trust exercise where you fall backwards, trusting your partner to catch you. Thanks for reinforcing that belief.

Thanks, Meredith. Seeing the illustrator’s vision mesh with (and add to) my own is one of the things I am most looking forward to when one of my stories is finally published. 🙂

Hooray for Carolyn Conahan! She’s in my SCBWI Chapter.

Thank you for sharing your perspective. I found it helpful!

What wonderful advice. I found myself giving too much description in the first go round with one of my books in progress. I have stepped away and revisited and realized I didn’t leave much room for the images to do the work they so deserve. Thank you for this reminder.

Love this post! I knew to use notes minimally, if at all, but this post gives recent book examples of why and how successful the end product is because of it. Thank you!

Thank you, Meredith, for the excellent advice and examples for the benefits achieved when writer and illustrator co-operate.

Wow! Thank you for sharing about this aspect of publishing, Meredith. Now to review my manuscripts to see how much I can cut…Happy PiBoIdMo Day 9! 🙂

Food for thought, but I can’t quite believe that, as an unpublished writer, an editor would accept my version of This Old Van without the punchline. I suspect I’d be considered to be passing the buck. And would be overlooked. Hmmmmmm . . . . Maybe I’ll try it ; )

Lovely post! The author and the illustrator are a team 🙂

Thank you, Meredith! This is a wonderful post with great examples.

Thank you for the insight that Illustrators and Writers are both story tellers and each will make a unique and creative contribution that only they can do.

I absolutely love this post! Illustration notes are sometimes a struggle to leave out.

As a both writer and Illustrator I can only agree with you 😉
Thank you!

LOVE these true life stories. As a combo author-illustrator, I think this advice is equally important to embody within my own process… i.e. “trust your illustrator-hat wearing self and don’t write so dang many adjectives!” Or whatever. 😉

Ah, a prize that everyone wants! I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

As an illustrator/author, I really appreciated this explanation of the creative process that happens in picture book publishing. I wonder what would happen if the process were reversed, and an illustrator submitted pictures and a publisher had to find a writer for them (probably a disaster).

Seriously though, as someone that is trying to work on both fronts, almost of all of my ideas are ones that need the pictures to look and operate in a specific way to work. I guess I’m a bit of a control freak. BUT, sometimes I think one of my story ideas might work better with a different illustrator behind them. I’ve actually never written a story for someone else to illustrate. I should give it a go!

I find that I can cut my manuscripts considerably if I trust the illustration process.

It’s hard to let go but so freeing! Thank you for illustrating this!

Thank you master chef MM for revealing a clearly clever recipe for
great picture book creating.

Thanks for sharing your perspective and illustrating with such fine examples. A most enjoyable and informative post. Love your book choices and the images conjured up by the talented artists. Truly a cooperative team approach with creative license all around.

Thank you for reminding us that part of picture book magic is the blend of two (or more) talented people.

Thank you for your insight. It is helpful to here from an editor.

Thank you! Very helpful!

I really enjoyed this post an thanks for encouraging an environment/working partnership where both author and illustrator have freedom of creative expression to do their very best work!

Meredith, nice to know I can trust the illustrator. I’m not an artist. Appreciate your insights as an editor. Thanks!

I enjoyed seeing how the illustrations evolved. Thank you for a useful and fun post!

Wonderful examples of how the author and illustrator each work their magic in a story!

Meredith, thank you for sharing these insightful examples! Now it’s time for me to go through my PB manuscripts and take out some illustration notes….

So many stories would be just plain boring without the inspired creativity of the illustrator.

Great post! Thank you!

I’ve always enjoyed seeing the artist’s imagination on paper – the myriad of ideas one conjure and execute is remarkable. Enchantment results from a special blend of words and illustration — otherwise there’s just a simple story.

It’s absolutely true that a picture book belongs as much to the illustrator as it does to the author. It’s only fair that creative input should be shared equally. It can be so hard to take that leap of faith.

In my experience, finding the balance between leaving space for the illustrator and inserting illustrator notes to be one of the most frustrating aspects of picture book writing. I would love to hear more advice about this topic.

I have always thought that it would be SO HARD to let go and let the illustrator do his or her thing (if i ever get published!) Thanks for these examples of what wonderful magic can happen if the illustrator has free reign.

Great advice!

So, my instincts have been correct all along, only do my 50% and leave the rest to the illustrator. Such a fun, visual post to read. Love your mentor text choices, Meredith. Thank you.

Fascinating stuff – definitely need to learn to trust that other person’s vision.

Thank you for a wonderful explanation of this concept. From now on I’m going to point to your words of wisdom when people look at me funny when I tell them I don’t illustrate my own books. And a great reminder that true magic does come from trust, in so many aspects of our work.

As an illustrator, I truly appreciate this advice! While I do love a good collaboration project, sometimes it’s nice to absorb the inspiration from the page and see where it can take me visually. 🙂

Excellent way of showing and not telling why it’s good to give creativity the freedom it deserves, both in the writing AND the illustrating!

Great advice! Thanks for the insight and examples Meredith.

Like all great relationships, this really comes down to trust, doesn’t it?

It makes so much sense to trust the illustrator. They were chosen as the person to best interpret your story visually. Illustrations are one of my favourite parts of picture books. Must be pretty exciting to see those illustrations for the first time.

Thanks for this post. Informative and wise.

Meredith thanks for explaining the reasons for giving writers and illustrators the freedom to share their vision of the story.

Thank you, Meredith. This is timely for me, as I was considering a specific art note in one of my manuscripts, and this post gives me courage to forgo the note and let the illustrator go wild!

It is quite a challenge to stop myself from detailing EXACTLY how I think everything should look on the page – but this makes so much sense. Thank you for all these great articles 🙂

Many thanks, Meredith…especially for the inspiring examples. I believe your advice to leave more for the illustrator will make me, not only a better picture book writer, but also a better critique partner. But it is hard hard hard…especially when so many mentors tell us to ‘know’ everything about our characters, even down to what they look like…I’m wondering if Tara and Tammi and Kim actually had the ‘picture’ of their characters in their mind as they wrote.

Love it! My critique group always wants me to give more details but I say….”the picture will show it”! Thanks so much!

As an author/illustrator I get to see both sides of the coin. Such a nifty post, thanks!

Good reminders! I try to keep myself in check while writing by repeating to myself, “That’s not my job. It’s the illustrator’s!” Not easy when you’re a wordy writer. Thanks again.

Great post! Thank you Meredith. 🙂

I so enjoyed reading Meredith Mundy’s post. I think it makes great sense to trust your illustrator and only hope I have the opportunity to do so with my stories!

Great article and fabulous give away! Thank you Meredith!

I’m always amazed by the wonderful way illustrators add to my story. Great post!

Great post, Tara and Meredith. Leaving room for the illustrator is a great way to get more than one person could imagine!

As an unpublished illustrator its reassuring to hear that you have some creative freedom. Thanks!

LOVE this.

I know that a manuscript is like an author’s kid – my illustrations are similar. When they play together… it’s gonna be awesome.

Usually when I write, I keep in the back of my mind how I’d like the visuals to appear. Not in terrific detail, mind you, but how the future images will support the flow of the story. Sometimes it’s difficult not to insert a ton of art notes–or at least, I insert them in my draft and delete them prior to sharing with agent/publisher! I envy those talented dual combos of writer & illustrator! 🙂

Thank you so much for your insight!
Brenda Huante

Thank you, Meredith and Tara. We cannot be reminded too often that a picture book is made up of text and pictures and BOTH create the story.

I did not know that authors could make suggestions to illustrators.

Great post. I love the picture books examples given.

Thanks for your insight!

Thank you Meridith for the inspiration and great visual examples.

Wonderful post, Meredith! Thank you so much for the insights! I look forward to reading the adorable books you mentioned.

Thank you. Illustration notes seems to be the trend in the PB world. This is a strong argument for trusting, and leaving all to the illustrator

Thanks for giving us a peek inside the process for these books.

Thanks for the great examples of the magic that occurs when the text and illustrations come together!
-Amanda Sincavage

TRUST! Thank you for reminding us of this incredibly important word. Trust is so important in the author/illustrator relationship. I love the possibilities this trust might nurture. I love the thought of leaving 50% of the inspiration to the illustrator. Thank you.

This is an excellent post. Thank YOU!

As an illustrator, I I thank you for your confidence in illustrators. I love the idea of an author/illustrator team.

In all this time I’d never heard that rationale of doubling & maximizing creativity for both author and illustrator. It makes SO much sense!

Thank you Meredith! Wonderful post with terrific examples. I do think some interaction between author and illustrator would be helpful sometimes. As Ame Dyckman once said to me about her relationship with an illustrator, “We’re birthing a book together!”

So encouraging for a writer who worries that the illustrator will catch the gist of what the author envisions. Waiting to see what the illustrator envisions is so much more fun!

Thanks for this post, Tara and Meridith. The picture book genre is such a special art form. And Sterling books are awesome!

This makes a lot of sense! Thank you!

Hallelujah! I am a writer. I love my illustrator friends and have learned to have faith in their vision.
Great post:)

I love the remake of “This Old Man!” Thanks for a great post!

It does take a lot of courage for an author to hand his or her “baby” off to an illustrator to turn it into something that the author potentially never imagined. Thank you for the proof that this process works.

What a great example about how the illustrator came up with the perfect ending for Kim Norman’s book, This Old Van. You give much to think about.

You are right that it’s hard but CRITICAL for us writers to give up the descriptions and leave them to the imagination of the amazing illustrators who we hope will soon grace our works! Thanks.

Leaving room for the illustrator is probably the most difficult thing for me with writing picture books, but I know it is really important. Thanks for a great post.

Thanks for the great advice, Meredith. Illustrators are so darn talented!

Fantastic information to know. Thank you.

Love your advice. Thank you for sharing. Need to learn to let it go.

Thank you for the perfect examples.

Wow, what a prize!

Thanks for the great advice and encouragement!

Elizabeth McBride – Oh My Goodness! A free critique?? That is marvelous! Thank you, Meredith and Tara! PiBoIdMo is full of opportunities!

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I really love the ending of This Old Van.

Great information! Thanks!

Great advice and also something that I get asked a lot. There definitely has to be trust and balance!

thank you for the post — I have often wondered: how do the pictures and words come together?

Excellent advice! Some of my favourite PBs have the cleverest connections between words and pictures…

What a wonderful opportunity! Thank you Tara and Meredith!

Thanks, that’s excellent advice–plus, think how many words you can trim in the revision process if you trust the illustrator!

Thank you for the concrete examples of this trust. Demonstrations of it working versus just an edict. To have the strength & conviction to step aside is truly admirable, something to strive for.

What wonderful examples of true collaboration! Thanks for the behind-the-scenes peek!

What an enlightening post! And what a wonderful prize! Here’s hoping . . .

Nice examples of how authors and illustrators can meld their ‘visions’ into one great picture book.

He’s a fabulous illustrator. Loved reading this behind-the-scenes look at how a book is born. I have finally learned that LESS is better. I want the artist to interpret my text in her way. Thank you both. Excellent prize.

Thanks for the wonderful examples and helpful advice!

Thanks, Meredith! I had the pleasure of seeing Carolyn present about her work at a recent SCBWI event in Oregon. Love that Old Van! I’m a writer who likes to write a lot of art notes. I’m learning that those are for me, at first. Then, I delete (most of) them before submitting. Your post is a great reminder that there’s another creative brain on the other end, just waiting to do the art work.

This is enlightening! It’s so fun to see the creative process in creating a picture book. Thanks so much for sharing, Meredith!

I come from the advertising world so have been “brought up” to embrace the model of creative collaboration of writer and illustrator/designer/art director–in the same room!–to marry words with visual and visual with words. Let it go! Let it go!

Meredith! Is that an old photo? You still look the same! So fun to see the early Normans (isn’t Tara a kick?) and also sweet Carolyn’s artwork. This is especially fun because—gulp!—I’m playing with illustration. Whew. It’s public now. Hugs from the other side…

Thank you Meredith. A picture book’s evolution is fascinating.

Awesome food for though. It’s fascinating to read about illustrators’ processes. Seems like it’s good for an artist to flounder on the road to the perfect image.

Thanks so much for your wise words of advice, Meredith. It’s such a challenge to leave the illustrator creative space, but well worth it! I love how Normal evolved too–thanks for sharing these examples :).

Great thoughts — I will refer those who ask ME this question to this post! And fun to see my friend Carolyn Conahan’s wonderful work and hear how it came about.

Cute books, thank you!

Good advice! It’s one of the things I struggle with the most.

Great post, Meredith! Especially since I possess no artistic talent, it’s always amazingly cool to see the various iterations of a character.

Rather like writing a movie script. Give ’em an idea and let them run with it.

The result of a collaboration between author and illustrator is one of the best kinds of magic.

This is a great post. Wonderful, helpful info. Thanks!

I really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for giving us the story behind the story Meredith 🙂

Super post and what a great giveaway! A pb critique is like a winning ticket! YAY!

Fabulous insight!

Meredith, thanks so much for the behind-the-scene peek into your world. It helps to know what’s going on. And, what a great giveaway! Thanks for a chance to win.

Thank you for offering to critique a PB manuscript of ours! What an invaluable prize.

Thanks for the post. As someone who would like to write and illustrate books, it’s very helpful advice! I especially loved the remark about ignoring the illustration notes if they don’t inspire you. I would have been too scared to do that! It’s also good to hear about trusting your illustrator. As someone who does draw, if I did get the chance to write a book that someone else illustrated, it would be tough for me not to know what they were doing. I know it would be worth it though!
Thanks!

Thank you for your advice on trusting the illustrator, and for the chance to win this prize 🙂

Very helpful explanation. I also heard Terry Widener and AG Ford talk about this at an event last weekend. Learning so much!

I’d rather see a fresh perspective on a story than just what I’ve conjured up in my head.

I enjoyed your post! There are so many wonderful illustrators out there, it’s incredible! It’s only fair to give them a chance to shine.

Thanks for the insights, and loved the examples you gave.

Thanks for the advice on illustration notes and a reminder when you collaborate it’s a combo of both visions.

It’s so hard to let go of your “vision” of what your characters should look like, but your post gives me the confidence to let an illustrator create his or her “vision,” and perhaps come up with something even better. I hope to write and illustrate a book one day, but in the meantime, if (when!) one of my MS is published I will look forward to the process of having it all come together!

As a PB writer, I can visualize some of the story, but not al, so would happily leave the rest to the illustrator. Thanks for the share!

I’ve oftened wondered why authors / illustrators don’t collaborate more. Thank you for a wonderful and convincing explanation. I just placed a hold on “This Old Van” at my library.

Thanks for the insights and examples.

and yet I love The Napping House!

PS: I’m totally buying “This old Van”.

Fascinating and inspiring post! Love this part of the magic of PBs.

    Yes, illustrators can see and then add so much. And hooray for that! Yet I still want to know what an author or publisher does if the illustrations do not quite connect to theme or tone?

Loved hearing the three stories. Collaboration (from afar) from creative people is amazing to see. Thanks for the advice.

It’s great to hear the perspective from the editorial side. I try to keep illustration notes to a minimum so the illustrator can work some magic too! Thanks!

As a published illustrator and an aspiring author/illustrator, it has been an interesting (new!) challenge to figure out how much to write and how much to draw. I find myself changing text to go with a drawing idea as much as I change drawings to go with a writing idea. I think I’m searching for a balance between separating the two processes and fully integrating them…

As an aspiring author illustrator, this post was also a great reminder of how important it is to maintain an even balance between art and words. Thank you!

As a writer how often do we come up with an image of what our characters look like? When an illustrator takes over, how often are we surprised? From Meredith’s great post, it happens quite often–much to the delight of our readers!

Nothing better than when art and words come together. Thanks for a inside look.

I think the greatest reward to getting published will be seeing what the illustrator brings to the book.

Illustrators are brilliant! It’s so cool to get a behind-the-scenes look at just how much creativity they bring to a story. Thanks for the great post.

Brilliant examples of how two heads are better than one. I’ve been told that our text needs to be as clear as possible which I took to mean that we had to write in non-visual details so I was surprised that the ending for This Old Van wasn’t specified. But, what a delightful result!

Thanks Meredith! Interesting to know how it can all come together in the end.

Love these examples, they’re extra encouragement for me to cut the cord on illustration notes!

Love hearing these examples! It’s fun to know how much freedom the illustrators had to explore these stories! I hope to be able to do the same one day!

As an illustrator, I love it when authors are encouraged to trust us. Thank you.-Kassy

I love this advice! Thanks for celebrating each artist’s creative freedom! I totally want This Old Van for my collection now.

Thank you, Meredith, for this insightful advice. Two creative minds really can be more than the sum of their parts.

I loved seeing the transformation of Normal Norman! Valuable advice that I hope to have the opportunity to think about soon! Thank you, Meredith!

A great post from a very interesting perspective!

I agree completely…my husband and I both write, and illustrate, and we have learned the hard way, what collaborating together on a book will do…YIKES!!! LOOK OUT!!! GO TO YOUR ROOM!!! 🙂
Today we give each other their head, and marvelous creations emerge before our eyes…this is our first time with publishing…we have only self published…thank you Meredith for your honesty and congratulations on your 20 year Anniversary…

Thank you for sharing. You are working as a team whether you are an illustrator, or the writer. The thing to do is trust each other.

Great advice – especially with the accompanying examples. Many thanks and best wishes, Meredith!

I loved seeing the evolution of Norman. Those clever illustrators know how to turn words into magical images. Thank you for sharing!

Thanks for this great post, Meredith. And, thank you Tara, for bringing Meredith on board.

For my first book (a how-to book), I told the illustrator exactly what I needed and it turned out okay. For my second book, I did the characters and she did everything else. What she came up with was exponentially better than what I had in my head. In the next book, I’m leaning towards having her do anything she wants and then see what we have from there. This article just cemented my decision! Thanks!

Thank you, Meredith. Great examples and a good reminder to “think in pictures” so you don’t overwrite the story.

Picture books are truly a collaboration. I’m a writer but acknowledge that illustrators can add a whole new dimension to a picture book. Thanks for your post.

That was very helpful (and encouraging) information. Thank you!

Meredith, I can see your point. However, I tried that and I would not have been happy with my 3 Picture Books if my illustrator had gotten his way.

I love reading about separate authors and illustrators – it seems like author-illustrators as one person has become trendy, and it’s nice to remember the benefits of two collaborators.

Thanks for the advice! As an illustrator I really appreciate this post. Thanks!

Aaron Reynold’s Carnivore is another example of an illustrator having free rein with incredible results. Two heads (author and illustrator) make a better picture book! Creativity multiplied!

Then I have started my project on the wrong foot. Gotta tell my artist. NOW. Thanks Meredith!

Fantastic examples, thanks Meredith.

As an aspiring author-illustrator, I better develop multiple personalities or keep changing hats (Now I know why Dr. Seuss collected hats!) Thanks Meredith for the examples showing how the artist completes the text.

Thanks Meredith for your professional advice. As a newbie to this, it’s important to read your input, and your illustrations “illustrate” perfectly your message. 🙂

Handing a picture book manuscript to an editor is a bit like sending your child off to school. You’ve done your best to nurture your darling and now it’s time for someone else to help her become a fully mature person — er … picture book. Thanks for sharing with us so we know a bit more about what happens once they’ve left home and thanks for the care you give our little ones when they land in your hands.

You are absolutely correct Meredith. Giving the illustrator total freedom not only makes the writers task of writing easier, it allows the writer an element of surprise to see what the illustrator does with the writing. Took me a while to trim all of the fat from my writing so the illustrator has freedom but now I embrace it and look forward to the surprises. (That is when I get to that point. )

Interesting post. Thank you!

Since we writers have vivid imaginations, it’s hard not to picture our characters, and it’s tough to let go and let the illustrator go for it. Thanks for showing us that it works!

That’s an exciting approach. Does it ever work the other way – with a set of graphics that tell a story, but need a (real) writer to flesh it out?

Your challenge for PB writers to leave 50% of the story to the imagination of the illustrator is very timely advice for me. I’ve been struggling to reduce the word count for my PB; I think I can eliminate quite a few words by heeding your advice. Thanks!

What a wonderful way to think about collaboration! Thank you for a new perspective.

Thanks for the insight! I learned something today.

Yes! I love it! Leave your ms open to interpretation for the illustrator!

Using actual examples to illustrate your point is soooooo compelling, thank you!

You’ve said this perfectly – thank you!

I love leaving openings for the illustrator. I know they can come up with so much to add to the story on their own if I don’t get in their way. I especially love the little add ins they do, like the tortoise and the hare added in the downhill derby in This Old Van.

Thank you for an inspiring post!

Thanks for this inspiring post. I’m still learning how to write a PB text with no illustrator notes at all. Yay for leaving things up to the illustrator!

Writing the text becomes a mystery the illustrator gets to finish! Pure delight.

Being a picture book editor must feel a bit like hatching a cuckoo’s egg sometimes, when the combination of writer and the illustrator provide an unexpected result. 😊

That makes perfect sense. Well stated, Meredith! We need to put our faith in the illustrator and at the same time, lighten our loads as writers.

Great advice to leave 50% out. So hard to do, but something revision should accomplish. Thanks!

Very informative and interesting post…..allow both creative to do what they do best! Thank you for sharing your time with us!!

I love the idea of being joyfully surprised by the artistic talent of the illustrator! Thank you, Meredith!

Thank you! You use great examples, your blog is very inspiring!

Great post and as an illustrator, I thank you!

As someone with absolutely no artistic ability, this is welcome information! Thank you for sharing your insights.

Such a great post, Meredith!

Loved seeing all these examples! Thanks for the great post.

I love when illustrations tell the story! Thank you!

I loved your post, Meredith. Thank you for your generous prize to a PiBoIdMo participant. I am always amazed at how perfectly illustrations can match text when they are by two different creative people.

I have been trying to write and illustrate my stories, probably a control issue, I know! Your post has inspired me to consider the adventure of an illustrator taking my stories to new exciting places that I could not do on my own! Thanks for your inspiration!

You have given me a wonderful new perspective, Meredith. Thank you.

I always wondered about this. Nice to get an insider’s POV. Now I’ll have to buy the purple orangutan book because I’m so curious!

OhOhOH yes please!!!!! What an awesome prize! Thanks for all the hard work and effort into PiBoIdMo, you’re doing great stuff.

Thank you for your insightful advice – it is truly appreciated.

Save me from the slush pile!

Good advice! And thank you for the darling examples.

Appreciate the editorial perspective.

Oh, this post was too easy for me to agree with. Since I can’t even draw stick people, I’ll have no problem letting an illustrator work his or her magic. Wonderful advice.

Trust! Thank you for the information.

I’m so thankful I joined this year! Inspired!

Thank you Meredith. This was a great reminder of the value of letting go. The examples were so fun, too!

Enjoyed this post. Great examples. Thank you.

Wonderful post! I could totally give free reign to an artist. I think it would be fun to see how they would make the words come to life. I admire so many of the illustrators out there. Thanks for this perspective.

Thanks for sharing your insight, Meredith! So valuable to hear an editor’s perspective.
~Della

This guest post should be the default answer to every writer who wants to know why they cannot or should not get involved in the illustration of their story. Terrific examples. What would picture books be like without those talented illustrators envisioning things the author had not.

I love seeing how an illustrator interprets and imagines an author’s story. Thanks for sharing, Meredith!

Thank you for giving us permission to leave that “space” for the illustrator. We can think of it as a gift!

Very interesting! It’s hard to let go of strong feelings on how you see your story, but you gave 3 great reasons why.

Thank you for this great description of the creative process, the trusting relationship between author and illustrator in creating a PB.

Thanks for all of the great advice. I’m going to get rid of my illustration notes now!

This is the first time I’ve seen this topic covered so concretely and, er, illustratively. Thank you, Meredith, for showing us the way this really plays out.

This is the first time I have seen this topic covered so concretely and, er, illustratively. Thank you, Meredith, for showing us what this really looks like.

Wow, great post, and how brave of these authors to give up so much of their creative vision.

Reblogged this on Pearlz Dreaming and commented:
I found this one super interesting on why illustrators and writers might be kept apart by the editor. Kind of like Elton John and Bernie Taupin?

Thank you for the inside perspective and the great advice!

Loved reading this post and seeing the evolution of Norman. Thank you!

Great advice! I loved your examples, and I’m impressed with the results when the author gave no input on the illustrations.

Thank you, Meredith, for offering the free critique. I would love to win it!

Thank you for your candid insights! I appreciate you!

Thank you for your post! I can’t wait to see THIS OLD VAN in person. I can’t wait to see all of them. I’m an author-illustrator and will definitely keep your advice in mind. My writing self wants control. My illustrator self waits her turn. But maybe she shouldn’t. She’s better. Thanks again!

I would gladly offer my ms. and a box of crayons to an illustrator. Go to town! Surprise me!

I think allowing the illustrator the “driver’s seat” could be exciting! Thank you for the clarification and advice!

Wonderful post. Thank you so much.

Great, great post. I love the examples you give! Thanks.

Thank you so much, Meredith!

Top-notch advice. Loved reading this post. So informative and helpful. Thanks for sharing on this topic, Meredith!

I totally agree with you! Thanks for sharing your insights!

Great information, Meredith.

Part of the surprise and excitement of creating a picture book – the dance between the author and the illustrator!

Outstanding post. Thank you.

Great to hear an Editor’s viewpoint in these posts. Thanks, Meredith (and Tara).

“Inspire one another at a distance”…love it! Thanks!!

Meredith: Thank you for not just TELLING us, but SHOWING us how the writer/illustrator relationship can work from a distance. I have never heard — or seen! — it explained so well. I guess some of us have a hard time trusting our “babies” to someone else to illustrate, but we need to trust that if our words paint a clear enough image, the illustrator will be able to make the world of our picture books come to life on the page. THANK YOU for allowing us to see how well this distant relationship can and actually does work.

Thank you for the great post!

Wonderful information and examples. Helps me to stay focused on writing the best possible story that fuels an illustrator’s creativity.

Thanks for the insight, Meredith

Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant, another univeristy myth exploded. So it’s not really a power grab?

Very inspiring. Would love.to.go through that experience of how my 50%.comes to life with the creativity of a great artist! Wow! Thanks.

Such great advice! Thank you!

It’s hard to let go and trust, but wonderful things can happen when we do.

Very good points. I will try to behave if I ever am lucky enough to have something illustrated.

Thank you for writing this article and sharing your words of wisdom, Meredith.

Picture books and parenting seem to have a lot of parallels: Trust your illustrator partner and “the kid” will be alright. Thanks for the great advice!

Wonderful examples of trusting the illustrator! Thanks, Meredith!

Thank you for the informative post it was very helpful. I enjoyed the examples and know how important the illustrators own creativity makes the book shine.

I have always wondered about the workings of the author and illustrator relationship. Fascinating. It makes perfect sense though that the creativity from both sides would meet in the middle and invent something wonderful. Thanks for the insight.

Thank you, Meredith, for such a lovely explanation of how an editor gives freedom to both the writer and illustrator to let their imaginations create something unique.

Meredith, thank you for giving us the inside scoop on how authors and illustrators arrive at their finished product. It never occurred to me that a separation of author and illustrator could create an even better product, or that ideas could be revealed that might not have otherwise. Since learning the shocking truth that authors and illustrators don’t work together, I’ve held the belief, misguided as it might have been, that it would be impossible for the illustrator to ever fully get in the head of the writer to create images that completely convey the intent. I never even considered that without the intent being communicated, the path could be freed for new ideas to be added, to not only complement the story, but even to reveal an aspect that the writer either didn’t see, or didn’t choose to define. Fascinating!

Fun post! Thanks!

Wow! The whole is so much more than the sum of the two parts! Such obviousness is scary when put down in words and example. Thank you.

Love this! It’s neat to see how you’ve asked your authors for input, but everyone also wants to leave the creative door open to new ideas. The collaborations are so cool!

Collaborative work between two creative people is just about the best thing to see and experience. Thank you for the wonderful advice.

This was my favorite prompt yet. It inspired me to write the first draft of a story whose text can’t really be finalized until I see what the illustrator does with my premise. You can read more about this on my blog.

Thanks for the advice. Writing a story that captures one’s imagination without any art notes is not an easy task. I will keep trying!

I would LOVE to be in the position to trust the illustrator. Hope to be there some day, maybe with the help of a critique from Meredith!

I love this! I always start with too may art notes and it’s a struggle to rid myself of them. But they always disappear slowly. This post inspired me to cut them even more.

Thank you. This advice is like gold. Your clients are lucky to have you in the role of bringing them together.

It was so helpful to see the transformation with these projects! Thank you!

Thank you for the inspiring post!

That was great insight, thank you.

It’s so interesting to see this process from an editors pov. There’s a lot of trust required to be a picture book author.

Meredith, this was a WONderful post 😀 At our Craft Day weekend, once everyone had gone home, I ended up in conversation out in front of the Mackay Center and this very subject came up. Since I do both, I often wonder how that would feel to be an author with someone else illustrating, and I tell you—these authors are champs! 😀

Thank you for the wise and difficult to follow advice!

This was a wonderful post, Meredith! Thank you so much for the insight on how the dynamic of the words and pictures come into play. It allows us writers to leave some of that mystery, so that the illustrator can create the perfect depiction of the story. Perfecto!! 🙂

The relationship between the writer and the illustrator can be the BEST dating story ever told. A great picture book, like a great relationship, can initially delight with mystery and surprise and, in the final, they can mesh beautifully and last forever.

I knew on the whole that publishers aren’t keen on illustration notes from the writer. I’ve even heard of some who will automatically black them out with a marker. Now I see more clearly why, thanks Meredith.

This is great advice! It’s hard to walk away sometimes when you feel so connected to a story. Though as someone with minimal illustrating skills, I’m grateful for the insanely talented artists that can visually bring to life the story I can only tell!

Excellent post Meredith. I could not agree more.

I’ve learned something new today. But is this allowed only by tried writers?

Great advice to keep in mind. Thank you.

Thank you, Meredith. Nice to hear an Editor’s viewpoint on the matter.

Great post–and Rita’s question above is a really good one, one I’d like to know the answer to as well.

No doubt, difficult to let go but creating an environment for each talent to blossom to its fullest – best for the reader!!!!

Thank you for the wonderful advice! I’m going to delete my illustration notes now!

I needed this information. Thanks.

I’m trying to do this more and more. Thanks for the advice!

As an author-illustrator I often have to kill my prose in favor of the images. Thanks for sharing.

This is something I’ve been reading a lot about in PB forums and it really helped to see the thought process in action. Thank you!

Trusting another’s creativity is a great way to grow!

This bucket has been kicked around for a long time. Give illustration notes/don’t give illustration notes. Since I can’t draw a straight line, who am I to tell the illustrator what to do? I’m leaving notes out unless critical to the story. Now to review my books in progress and take out excess description.

This is highly valued information from an editor at a publishing company. I had heard about authors seldom meeting their illustrators before but now I have information from an editor on this. Thank you. How brave Kim Norman must have been with her book.

As an illustrator as well as a writer, I could not agree more with your post. I’ve heard over and over how a writer could have never imagined what an illustrator has done for their book and how pleased they are that they trusted the process. Thank you for putting that out there!

it is hard. Thanks for showing the editor’s side of the world, so it makes it easy (well.. easier ) to forget about the ill. notes ( or at least cut down by half? Oh alright more then). Thanks for sharing Tara, Tami and Kim!!

Thanks, Meredith, for such valuable information backed by terrific examples. I learned a lot from your post!

I’m working to leave room for illustrators *and* readers in my texts…almost no room for my words! 😉

Thanks for the advice Meredith 🙂 When I’ve worked with illustrators in the past, I’ve found that leaving illustrators to do what they do best always leads to wonderful surprises 🙂

Love your post, Meredith! I remember all you did to find the wonderful illustrator Carin Berger for the Green Mother Goose! She used whimsical eco-friendly collages created from ticket stubs, newspapers, and other reused items. This added another level to the green theme of the book!

Thank you for a great post!

Very interesting post! Thank you for sharing the inside scoop!

So true. A wise friend told me, “It could turn out like Heath Ledger’s Joker. No one thought of Heath Ledger starring as a comic book villain, especially the Joker. But he brought an amazingly unexpected depth to the character.”

Trust your editor. Trust your illustrator. They know what they’re doing.

Thank you, terrific advice!

Thanks for reminding us to do what we should be doing…”write” and focus on telling the best story we can.

Hello Meredith,

I was a bit surprised by your advice. Being an unpublished book writer, I was under the impression that some detail left out of a story would result in a quick rejection. Ken

Illustrators are amazing how they can work magic. They have the ability to transport us into the world of what it’s like to be a child again. I love the idea of letting them run wild with ideas ‘outside of the box’ so they can surprise us and give us that childlike wonder.

This is exactly what I tell people all the time when asked how much I get to influence the illustrations. I tell them that once the author steps back, the illustrator gets to “own” the story. Great article. Thank you!

Great post. Let the illustrator take ownership of the story. 🙂

Thanks for the inside view. I never looked at it that way before!

super interesting perspective! thanks!

Thank you for the reminder to trust!

Great post! Thanks!

Meredith, I would be so pumped to have you critique a story! And thanks for the thoughts on giving freedom to illustrators….I am working on being specific and allowing space!

Excellent post and a great reminder for us all to trust in the process. Thanks for sharing and for offering a critique too! Wowza what a prize!!!

As an illustrator who sometimes ventures with words, I absolutely love this post! It’s like a secret team. Thank you so much for inspiration words that help support the license I have acquired with creativity and many many mistakes.

As a pre-published author, this is exactly what we hope for. I look forward to the day of “yes” so that I can reread my story through the eyes of the illustrator.

Great to see how Norman evolved. Thanks for taking the time to inspire us. =)

Thank you Meredith! I’ve been told about the separation of writer and illustrator but wasn’t sure why. This makes wonderful sense!

Hi Meredith! Thank you for your author/illustrator relationship insight.

Thanks Meredith! Words to live and write by.

Thank you for a glimpse from behind the desk! It answers a very timely question: why don’t writers and illustrators collaborate from the get-go? Exciting to see how trust and interpretation result in magnificent creations!

What a great article! It can be such a struggle to “give up” some of your story to another. I love the perspective of viewing it as a partnership, a shared responsibility.

Great explanation of why the author and illustrator typically don’t collaborate.

Excellent advice. Thank you, Meredith.

Thank you for this liberating post, Meredith. The more I write, the more excited I get about handing my words over to illustrators. I can’t wait to see my stories through their eyes.

Can’t wait for the day when I’ll be able to use this advice!

It’s hard advice for me to take, but I’ll do my best!

Oh, for the day when I have an illustrator to trust — I’ll be ready, thanks to you, Meredith.

EXCELLENT advice! (coming from an illustrator herself haha)

Those examples swept away any doubts I might have had about the power of creative freedom for both the picture book author and illustrator. Thanks for addressing this topic.

What you wrote makes a lot of sense, and helped me understand more fully how the separation of author and illustrator often works perfectly. I am surprised though that the author left the ending almost entirely up to the illustrator. Very interesting post. Thanks.

Thanks for the insight from “the other side of the desk!”

Thank you for the important reminder that at least 2 creative minds, a writer and an artist, create a successful picture book.

Thanks for sharing! I love seeing a sneak peek of the process!

Such awesome pairings of authors and illustrators. That exhibits bravery and trust.

I think visually, so I often picture my characters in my head, which helps me to write the story. They are beautiful in my head, but I know they would be a disaster on paper! I know an illustrator will do a wonderful job of bringing my words to life in ways I never even dreamed. I loved your examples. Thanks.

Thanks for the great post! It is especially interesting to see the progression of Norman–can’t wait to read that book. Very helpful advice for a new writer.

I love that the author and illustrator are kept apart to maximize the creativity for both! Thank you for the post! 🙂

Thanks for helping us writers better understand the process. Love how Norman, the Alien, and the Old Van turned out – and I bet the authors do, too.

Great insights!!! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

Thank you for sharing this. It’s easy to get locked in on your vision for your project but many times it can be taken to a new level

Oooh…I want this prize. Thanks for the fresh take on author/illustrator relationships.

It’s very inspiring to know there are both authors and illustrators (and even editors ;)) out there who keep their minds open to all the wonderful possibilities! Thanks so much for posting.

It’s a fascinating challenge to work with an “invisible partner” when writing a pb manuscript!

Thank you for such a thorough answer and great examples!

What a wonderful reminder for writers! My critique group has 2 illustrators in addition to several writers, and the creative insight and perspective they bring to each of our stories always blows me away. What an honor it is to work with such creative talent. Thanks for this post, Meredith!

Great post! As a writer/illustrator, sometimes I wonder if I’m too close to my own stories. I wonder what magic another viewpoint might bring.

I am fascinated that the “This Old Van” manuscript did not reveal The Big Event. I don’t think my critique group would let me get away with that. I’d love to hear more about why it worked.

Great advice! I always produce my best art when my client lets me run with it. Thank you for the post.

I love the inspiration each of these illustrators brought to the table.

Thanks for insight into the process! It’s always been something I’m curious about.

Yep, every one of your examples turned out better than I would have created them. Thanks for the great case for writer and artist collaboration — publishing style!

Thank you for sharing these examples. One of the hardest things for me is to “step away from the illustration notes” but it is an important thing to remember.

I think that part of the thrill of writing is that unknown visual an artist will bring to the partnership. It’s the beauty of the picture book format.

Great reminder!

I try to keep my notes to a minimum. But, surely, until an author gets something accepted, the picture notes are really for the agent/editor. In most cases they are not artists, are they? So picture notes are not really for the illustrator at the pre-published stage. If I ever got a book taken on, I would definitely take out all the notes! (I’ve said notes quite a lot haven’t I!)

This is good to know. I wasn’t aware of the relationship between the author and illustrator. I just assumed that the two got together and worked side by side. Well you know what they say about assuming!

Wonderful advice! Sometimes it is best to leave the choices to to the people best at making those choices 🙂

Thanks for the great input. As an author, it’s very hard to know how much to leave to the illustrator!

I love all your insight and believe 100% that author/illustrator should have their visions kept separate (at least, at first!) But I’m thrilled to be introduced to a picture book I haven’t read! I MUST get my hands on This Old Bus! *Heading to bookstore tonight!!!

Great examples! Thanks for the explanation!

This is one of my favorite things about traditional publishing! It’s like Christmas. I never wanted to know what I was getting. I refused to sneak around and try to find my gifts. I love the surprise element. That’s what it felt like as I was waiting for the artwork for my book. I didn’t want to know anything, much less give suggestions.
Thanks for the wonderful examples.

So wise. Two heads are bound to be more creative than one. Thanks Meredith.

I loved this post so much! I loved the examples that you shared and now I have ordered 2 and preordered 1 just because of this post! LOVE the back story and thank you for giving us an inside peek!
Jamie Palmer

I also loved the specific examples. Looking forward to having my story(ies!) illustrated is a huge motivation for writing and submitting!

I love seeing the illustrator’s interpretation of the text, knowing they have had the room to envisage and create a unique perspective that children will fall in love with. Thank you for this post, Meredith.

Great article, thanks!

Thanks for sharing such useful advice. What a great reminder.

I always enjoy reading about the illustrators perspective. For me it helps me write my stories. It helps me know what to keep out of the story. Thank you!

I really enjoyed seeing the development of Norman. Thanks Meridith! A great reminder that authors and illustrators need freedom to create in their own way.

As a writer, I am filled with editor/illustrator love right now. These are spectacular examples of an editor’s strong vision and belief in a manuscript! Seeing how Meredith knew the story would work, without filling in “the holes,” is fabulous.

Thank you so much for showing the Norman before and after. It’s really fun and enlightening to see!

I love learning more about the process to a final product. Illustrators are awesome!

Meredith, I have long appreciated the credit due to illustrators, and make it a point when sharing books with my granddaughter or classrooms to focus as much on the illustrator as the writer… both authors. Thanks for your great post.

I particularly love the ending to This Old Van and seeing the evolution of Norman. I love illustrators (and the authors and editors that have faith in them).

Very interesting. Being new to this whole thing, I always wondered the reasoning. I always thought, well we spend so much time envisioning this character down to what they eat to breakfast, why wouldn’t you have any say so on the final product… for what purpose? This really makes so much sense. Why should a character be trapped in my box, when a whole new life can be brought to them through fresh eyes. Thank you so much for this insight!!!

Thank you for these outstanding examples from your authors. It was the clearest explanation yet for leaving room for the illustrator. What a terrific post.

Great advice! Even for an author-illustrator – to look at a story from various perspectives.

Thank you for telling us the reason why authors and illustrators don’t collaborate! Interesting!

Thanks for shedding light on this topic! Great post with fun examples!

Thank you for the tips and examples. I love the idea of letting the illustrator come up with the ending, as in This Old Van!

This is something I need to work on. Thanks for the great advice.

This was so fascinating to me. Thanks for sharing.

For me, this is a serious lesson in trusting another creative with what I’ve written, letting go of the controls, and setting free the creative talent needed to complete the story.
This is such an encouraging post. Thank you, Meredith.

Seeing the evolution of Normal Norman was very interesting. Thanks for a glimpse into this area of picture book development.

Great fun examples of writers’ and illustrators’ convergent creativity. Love it.

Thank you so much for giving us a window into the process of developing these fabulous books!

This was a tough post for me to read, because I always have such concrete ideas in my own head of what the illustrations should look like for my stories. Thanks for this advice!

Thank you so much for this “illustrative” blog (sorry for the pun.) But–seriously–I really did learn a lot! Thank you, Meredith!

After hearing stories about illustrators who were required to follow strict instructions, I’m glad to learn that are illustrators who are given artistic freedom.

More and more I hear editors and agents say, “I don’t need the illustration notes. I can see the book without them.” I’ll try to stick to it! I work in publishing production and when authors want to art direct their own covers, it can really tie the hands of a designer, because the designer might have thought of all kinds of original, great solutions that would never have occurred to someone who isn’t a visual artist. So I’m a big fan of backing off on being attached to what you think you want in the art.

I never considered it this way! Great advice!

I’ve often wondered about this…thanks!

Meredith Mundy, you rock! Thanks for your insight and your passion for children’s books!

So true. For me, the most exciting step in the publishing process is seeing first draft art and how the illustrator brings a story or scene to life.

I’m up to the challenge. Thank you, Meredith, for reminding me to trust. An author and an illustrator are a team.
~Suzy Leopold

Awesome examples! Great advice! Even for an author-illustrator – to look at a story from various perspectives.

Happy Anniversary,Meredith—Thank you for your passion and your insight!

I love “the story behind the story” posts.Thanks for sharing the various stages of illustrations.

Good advice. Great insight. Makes a lot of sense. Thank you Meredith.

I love the examples you gave showing the interplay and trust between writer and illustrator. Thanks for sharing.

Illustrators are amazingly creative when given space! I cherish the images illustrators give to my words. It’s always a delightful surprise to see the finished artwork.

Great examples.

I had no idea writers could leave the ending so open that the illustrator gets to decide.

When I first started, I didn’t know how to leave room for the illustrator, I wasn’t sure HOW to do it well. Over time and with the help of amazing critique buddies, I learned to make room and trust the illustrator more and more. In fact, I’ve started my own illustrations and love painting in watercolor. I’m slowly building my own portfolio. There is so much I am still learning but I’m proud with every effort, and enjoy learning from other illustrators. Thanks for this post.

Happy 20th, Meredith! Love this post. One of the things I get most excited about is seeing what an illustrator will do with my mss. I know how well something can turn out when the creators have freedom. When I and a graphic designer worked on an advertising project where neither of us were held to corporate standards — and with no constraints on one another — the client loved our work, and we won awards for the ads and brochure we created.

Great post! Thanks, Meredith!

Thanks for this advice; trust is a very scary word!

Wow, Meredith 🙂 Love the tip to step away from the art notes and trust!

Brilliant. And motivating to me as an illustrator to think big and allow creativity to take me places I’ve never even imagined!

Love this post

Love the examples…food for thought. Thanks so much

I’ve always wanted to illustrate my own PBs. Now I want to write them and be creative enough to illustrate others!

Time to pull out those artist notes. Thanks for the thoughtful and persuasive post.

Great advice…and perfect examples. Thank you.

Wonderful advice. Thank you!

My favorite part about picture books is the magic of how text and illustrations support each other. Magic!

Thanks for the peek into the creative process and another example of less is more!

That ratio/balance is absolutely what I need to work on as an Illustrator/author. Thanks for the great advice….

I think it is interesting to see how the illustrator interprets and blends the story with the visual.

Loved this post! Thanks for the great advice and examples.

This may sound trite, Meredith, but when I saw the cover for Your Alien not too long ago, my thought was. Oh, so CUTE! I’ll be adding all three books to my gotta see, gotta read list!

Happy 20th, Meredith! Can’t wait for an illustrator to add their ideas and bring my stories to life! 🙂

I had no idea as an author you could influence the illustrator in any which way…..thanks for the tips!

I love that the three authors you described had such faith in the illustrators.

This is such great information. Thank you for sharing this Meredith.

Wow! Such an interesting perspective. I didn’t know you could really leave that much open to interpretation – especially the ending. Sure learned a thing or two today!

Not for control freaks! 🙂

(Couldn’t resist.) When the text and the pictures flow together, the book is the best! Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ve always wondered about this process–thank you for sharing several examples of how books thrive best when each artistic contributor is allowed to let the creative process unfold without too much input/direction.

Such great (and valuable) perspective! Thanks, Meredith!

I find it hard to leave out all illustrators notes when writing a picture book because I feel like my intentions for the story won’t come across. This shows me to let some of that go and trust the process. Thank you!

Great insight and advice, Meredith. Thank you!

The process of working with an illustrator can be really mysterious. Thanks for shedding some light on it for us!

Thanks, Meredith. This post is informative and inspirational. I trust illustrators!

Wonderful post, many thanks, Meredith!

Thanks for sharing those examples of how the illustrations of several books evolved. I’m getting better at realizing I don’t need illustration notes. I do understand how an artist has so much to offer the story and I know their creativity and talent adds so much to the book. Yeah! for illustrators.

Great post Meredith! I’m going back through and re-reading all my favorites since its almost the end of PiBoIdMo 😦

Hi Meredith! Thrilled to get the perspective of a seasoned book editor! Thank you for reminding us to write the story and step away. This Old Van is an excellent mentor text. Thanks for the reminder, so I can go pick up a copy again! And thank you for taking time to share your expertise with PiBoIdMo!

Thanks for a great post, Meredith! Trusting the illustrator and leaving room for the illustrator to contribute to the story is so important. I look forward to reading This Old Van, Normal Norman, and Your Alien. And how wonderful that the scientist in Normal Norman became a female of color.

Sallie Wolf

Important advice — thanks for the reminder!

Thanks Meredith for that all important advice on leaving room.

Thanks for this post! The cover examples you shared turned out fantastic!

Thanks Meredith! Now I just have to shut off my illustrator mind while I am writing and my writer mind while I am illustrating. I wonder whether it will work. Hmmmm…?

As an illustrator, I just wanted to say thank you for this post. Leaving room for the illustrator’s imagination is key!

Thank you, Meredith! Great guidance for writing picture books, and for life. It’s important to remember that we may not know all the right answers ourselves. 🙂

Happy anniversary, Meredith! What a goosebump-inducing post about the magic of picture book making.

Trusting someone you’ve never met is definitely the hard part of the picture book creation process. Thanks for the inspiring examples.

I’m so glad I trusted your instincts and Meredith Harte’s on hiring Nicola Slater to illustrate “Leaping Lemmings!”. You’re right — trust the illustrator. Nicola came up with things I never would have. She’s been fantastic!


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