Audrey: Like all picture book origin stories, this one starts years ago. Liz and I knew each other but not well at this point, if I remember correctly.
Liz: I was clinging to you like a kitten because I was trying to learn to write my first novel and I’d chosen you (lucky you!) to teach me!
And one day out of the blue, we received an email from our mutual agent, Erin Murphy, that included a book review of a forthcoming title with a brief description. And Erin wrote that if Liz and I ever had a book baby, it would be something like this particular book. And all I could think, right at that instant was, “I want to have a book baby with Liz!” It was all-consuming.
And I was like, “Squirrel!” Meaning, “We don’t have to write our novels today?!?!”
I believe that at this very time, I had a terrible cold. And sometimes I write like I talk, and I remember writing “aben,” instead of “amen,” in an email to the two of them about our some-day collaboration.
And then we talked about having stuffed up noses and how when you say “Mom” it sounds like Bob and before we’d exhausted the email thread, we were part-way there.
One of the ground rules Liz and I set up at the outset might be responsible for some of the magic of our process. Because there IS magic. It’s so much more fun writing a book with Liz than by myself—and this was the rule: NO “TRACK CHANGES”. We emailed each other updated versions of the file.
We freely cut what we wanted, regardless of which person wrote it. We added stuff. We re-arranged. I never found myself reading for the parts I wrote or the parts she wrote—it was really just about the story. The rules also dictate that if you miss something desperately, you can try make a case for bringing it back. I can only think of one example when I did that. And I don’t remember Liz ever trying it, on account of only one of us being a baby.
Oh, I’m a baby too but I think everything Audrey cut deserved it.
One thing I remember was that Liz started us off with the character Little Louie, and we had about maybe half a page written, and one of the lines I added was “Little Louie wasn’t all that little” and Liz knew, instantly, to move that line to the top. Which is where I NOW understand it belongs, but I didn’t know that then.
And that’s always true—not just for this story, or for our next collaboration (DEAR SUBSTITUTE, illustrated by Chris Raschka, due in 2018) but for all stories—you need to pay attention to what belongs where and to what the story needs. For whatever reason, we found it easier to really listen to the story during this practice of listening to each other. Even though it was all stuffed up. Ta-da! More magic. And more fun.
Speaking of fun, guess what we’re debuting today, right here and now with you all? Our BOB, NOT BOB book trailer! Designed and produced by the boy genius Jacob Vernick. Enjoy.
And then email a friend and write something together. Seriously. Take a load off.
Audrey and Liz are giving away a copy of BOB, NOT BOB.
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