When I began writing for children, I joined SCBWI and found a welcoming group in the NJ chapter. That’s where I met author Rosanne L. Kurstedt, who joins me today to talk about revision techniques for her newest [adorable] picture book with illustrator Ya-Ling Huang, AND I THINK ABOUT YOU.

Rosanne, what are some things you do when revising and how did that change (or not change) AND I THINK ABOUT YOU?

That’s a great question, Tara. I do a lot of things when I’m revising—but I’d like to talk about two today—playing with verb tense and using onomatopoeia.

I find that changing the tense of my manuscripts helps me see holes and helps me to craft more layered stories. I’m always amazed at how the tense changes the mood. Here’s the journey of AND I THINK ABOUT YOU.

The original drafts of AND I THINK ABOUT YOU were written in past tense—and the title was AND I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU. The premise of course was the same. In both, mother and child think about each other throughout the day.

But when the publisher, Kids Can Press, purchased the book, they wanted me to try it in the present tense. So, of course, I did. Instead of a welcome home routine and a recounting of the mother’s day, where she told the child what she had done throughout her day and then said “I thought about you,” the present tense brought immediacy to the story and provided space to add another layer.

In the present tense we see the mother throughout her day reminded of the child, thinking about something they had done together in the past or imagining what the child might doing in school. And then, at the page turn, the reader gets to see what the child is actually doing.

This allows little ones to engage with the text by guessing what the child might be doing. It also enriches the depiction of the mother and child’s relationship because of the different activities the mother remembered doing with the child.

Another thing I like to do is add onomatopoeia. Besides being so much fun to say, adding sound words fosters children’s engagement. Kids love repeating and shouting out the sound words. In And I Think About You sound words are used on each of the pages that show what the child is doing in school. I also peppered some sound words on the pages that show what the mother is doing.

Both of these revision strategies don’t always work. Sometimes I change the tense and the manuscript works better in the original tense. I find though, that even when that is the case, I’ve learned something about the story that requires me to rethink something in the manuscript.

I’ve also tried adding onomatopoeia to stories and it just didn’t fit. It sounded forced or broke the rhythm of the story.

In other words, try these revision strategies to learn as much as you can about the best way to tell your story. I can’t guarantee that you’ll wind up using the tense you revised to or the sound words, but I can guarantee you’ll be closer the story and what you want to say.

Did you imagine specific actions when you added onomatopoeia or did you leave the action up to the illustrator?

I imagined specific actions and put those ideas in for the illustrator—it was the editor who actually told me to do that. Ya-ling followed my suggestions and embellished. Like I didn’t have the pinwheel in the manuscript but Ya-ling put it in and I just love that detail. Young readers can look for the pinwheel on different pages. The pinwheel is what the bear cub shares with the class. I know we’re often told not “direct” the illustrator. But in this case, the editor wanted me too. Maybe because it was supposed to be connected to what the mother was doing at work.

I love that pinwheel detail!

Do you read your manuscripts aloud to hear what they sound like?

I always read my manuscripts aloud and have other people read them too. I even read only the onomatopoeia to see how they sound. Trying to find the right sound word or words can be difficult. I wanted them to be fun to say—so sometimes I used rhyme, sometimes alliteration and sometimes I used both.  Glub. Grrr. Ribbit. Purrr.  and Chit. Chat. Splat.

Thanks for sharing your tips, Rosanne!

I hope this is helpful. I would love to hear about everyone’s experiences with changing tenses or working with onomatopoeia.

Blog readers, let her know! Leave one comment below!

Rosanne is giving away TWO prizes:

  • a copy of AND I THINK ABOUT YOU and
  • a picture book critique!

Two separate winners will be randomly chosen next month.

Good luck!

Rosanne L. Kurstedt, Ph.D., has been an educator for over 20 years, supporting learners of all ages. She is the author of several books for teachers, including Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models and a series entitled 100+ Growth Mindset Comments. Rosanne loves picture books and anything kid-lit so she volunteers as the Assistant Regional Advisor for the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. Her first book Karate Kid (Running Press Kids) was released in 2019 and her second book And I Think About You (Kids Can Press) was released in 2022. She loves sharing her books and expertise with readers of all ages at various author events.

Rosanne is the founder of The Author Experience, a 501(c)(3) organization committed to the transformative power of sharing stories. In collaboration with students, families, and educators, TAE provides sustainable literacy-based experiences that build a culture of literacy—one that elevates connections and delivers lasting impact.

Rosanne lives in New Jersey with her family. Visit her onliine at RLKurstedt.com, Twitter @rlkurstedt, Instagram @rlkurstedt, and Facebook RLKurstedtAuthor.