One of my favorite things about writing for From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors is that I get to talk to so many great writers.
The following post is especially fun for me because I got to do an interview with Janet Sumner Johnson, who successfully writes both Middle Grade and Picture Books.
You started your career as an author writing Middle Grade (THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURES OF THE PB&J SOCIETY). What got you interested in writing Picture Books? And, how long did it take you to write a manuscript you were happy with?
I have always loved picture books. The idea of telling a story in so few words fascinated me! When I had three young kids at home, we had just moved to a new city, and we spent a lot of time at the library and reading picture books. Kids can be pretty inspiring (lol!), and that’s when I first attempted to write a picture book.
Granted, I was busy writing middle grade during this time, but it took eight years from the moment I wrote that first picture book, to when I finally dared show a manuscript to my agent.
Where do you get your ideas? And, once you have an idea, how do you know if it is best suited for a Picture Book or a Middle Grade book? Do you start out with the form specifically in mind or does it sometimes take you by surprise?
Read the rest of the interview over at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors and be sure to check out Janet’s books at your favorite bookstore.
About two months ago I had a flash of an idea. One of those flashes that come unbidden and out of nowhere and demand you pay attention to them. So I paid attention because I learned long ago that these flashes are gifts – from the universe or the muse or just some part of the unconscious that’s particularly tuned in at that moment – I really don’t know. But I do know that they always lead somewhere interesting. This time the flash led me to do something I never thought I’d do: I wrote a picture book!
I never had any plans to write a picture book. It looked hard. Too hard. I’ve read picture books. They are amazing. And impossible. Tell an entire story in 500 words or less and make it smart and funny, poignant and heartfelt, rich and beautiful. The best ones do all this and more.
But I had an idea, so when my friend Janet told me about Making Picture Book Magic and offered to retake the course with me, I signed up. Then I dove in with both feet, dedicating time every day to write my picture book. And thanks to Susanna’s awesome lessons, boosts of support from my classmates, and the added gift of Janet’s eagle-eye critiquing skills, I did it! I wrote a picture book. A complete one. And it might even be kind of funny. Maybe. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I honored the flash and took a chance and created something brand new. I played with ideas and tinkered with words and had a blast just writing – with no expectations beyond the simple act of creating something.
It was awesome! So awesome, I decided to lean all the way and challenge myself to write a picture book each month as part of the 12×12 Challenge.
I’m pretty sure it will be difficult and frustrating and exciting and loads of fun. All the best adventures are.
I’m excited to be starting 2018 with a completed picture book manuscript, a really fun middle grade work in progress, and a plan. It’s the end of January, what are you excited about?