Friday, July 30, 2010

Do's and Don'ts from Jon Scieszka

Alright, the first day of SCBWI-LA is over (sort of) and it was awesome! Let me just go on record as saying that children's books authors are some of the funniest and most awesome people on the planet. Srsly.

I learned a TON today, and I will be sharing a lot of it with YOU. Because I think you are awesome and many of you can't be here. I know a lot of you had questions about the nerdy boy comment I made below, and I promise to explain that all eventually in a whole post dedicated to MG boys. But today I'm going to give you some publishing DOs and DON'Ts from Jon Scieszka!

In case you're not familiar with the awesomeness of Jon Scieszka, here are some books he wrote that you should read right away, because they pretty much defined my childhood:

He also wrote some other fabulous books, but these are probably the two most well-known. (And here's a tip to the most fabulous of you out there! I bought a copy of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs to have signed and then giveaway here on the blog! So watch out for that when I get home :) And if you're not currently following me, you might want to clicky-click that little follow button, because you'll get extra points for being a current follower once the contest gets underway!)

Anyway, Jon was hilarious and had a lot to say about publishing. He offered the following do's and don'ts that he wished he knew when he started out:

  • Congratulate yourself for actually doing something. Because there are so many people (his dentist, his neighbor) who tell him they have so many ideas for children's books but never actually get to writing them. 
  • Read every book you possibly can in your genre. Just go to the library and wander around in your section. If you're a picture book writer, he suggests the New York Library's list of 100 Best Picture Books (which, consequently, VCFA also sent me). 
  • Read the worst books out there, because they're kind of educational. He thinks the best ones to look for are the celebrity books. 
  • Read children's trade publications: School Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly, and kidlit blogs such as Educating Alice and 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
  • If you write picture books, cut it in half. It's called a picture book for a reason - leave room for the pictures. 
  • Once you start writing, don't let the stuff you read in the trade publications drive you crazy. It will make you wonder, "Should I be writing about pirates?" or "Who got translated into Korean this week?"
  • Don’t beleive everything you hear.
Then he shared photos from his favorite picture books, which totally brought back memories from my childhood. Books like The Stupids and George and Martha were ones I just loved growing up!

He closed by talking a little about the creative process. He told the story about how he was inspired to write a book where trucks had the personalities of elementary school students. (This book would eventually be the Truck Town series) After meeting the kids, he gave all the trucks personalities based on the children he met. He described the personalities to the illustrators, who drew the trucks without having met the kids. But then he showed pictures of the kids next to the trucks they were matched to and the resemblance was uncanny. So, basically, illustrators are awesome.

In closing, Jon Scieszka had this to say: "Don’t listen to everything to everything you hear, including me. If you write write write, the spirit can move you and you might write the best vampire princess fart rhyming book ever.”


  1. great advice from Sciezka!


  2. Haha, I'm so glad there is a market for vampire princess fart rhyming books! These are great tips, though, I'll definitely make a mental note of them. Thanks for sharing :)

    The Giraffability of Digressions

  3. Can I just say that I loved those 2 books when I was little? I still have my copy of The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs at my mom's house. That one was actually one of my favorites.

    Thanks for sharing all the wisdom that's being laid on you!

  4. I loved The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs but haven't read it since high school. Fun times.


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