Writing Picture Books
Well… Where to begin? I’m a writer, part-time teacher and a parent to two boys. We live in a small village in South-West England. We have a dog called ‘Charlie’.
I am spending most of my time writing these days, having given up almost all of my teaching work, to spend more time with my family. Since creating this website, my son has stopped attending his mainstream school and is currently at home full-time, whilst awaiting an appropriate educational setting for his needs. The school he attended, for only a short period of time, is still supporting us and has submitted the appropriate paperwork to help us find an educational setting which is able to cater for his needs. I will always be grateful for their professionalism, sensitivity and timely intervention.
My original decision to give up my regular teaching job was a difficult one but, aside from the financial implications, it has been absolutely the best way forward for us and given me time to focus on my writing.
However, I do have to discipline myself to sit down and write when I’m working from home. Considering how much I love writing, I am very good at finding excuses not to, and take a long time to settle into the right frame of mind for a serious writing session! Added to my lack of discipline, and infringing on the time I carve out for writing, is the time I spend researching special educational needs resources, legislation and so on, in order to help my son. Then there are the many other distractions, from checking emails and social media to reading articles and baking cakes. And, of course, now I have a little person at home to nurture too.
I love spending time with my family, taking long dog walks, exploring new places, travelling, theatre, cinema, running, yoga, climbing, people who are positive and have a sense of humour and chocolate. Oh, and did I say ‘chocolate’? Yes, think I did!
On a more serious note, I have always loved reading and writing and am a huge fan of picture books. I get very excited about these, especially if I discover a new author. To quote Gretchen Rubin:
‘Truly great picture books are engaging at any age, beautiful and beautifully written, and yet we don’t think of them as something we would seek out as adults. And when we think of enjoying “art,” it’s easy to imagine going to a museum–but the pleasure of art comes in many forms, and the art of picture books is a delight. Also, at least for me, reading picture books brings back many happy memories, and that’s a happiness-booster, as well.’
Picture books are short but they are like little gems, perfectly formed. Every word has to count. I once read that writing a picture book was like writing War and Peace in 500 words. This I understand. Martha Dais Beck, editor of Riverbank Review says,
‘ A book for the very young should have words that swing and pictures that grab the eye. There should be enough in it that is familiar, to offer comfort, and enough that is new, to spark interest and create a sense of adventure.’
So true. And, over the past few years, whilst getting to grips with this genre, I have learnt the necessity of writing, editing, critiquing, more writing, more editing, more critiquing and so on.
So, as you may gather, Picture Books is ‘my thing’. In spite of all the digital reading I do, and I tend to read adult fiction on my iPad now, I can never go too long without purchasing a physical book. I also write a little poetry, both for adults and children and, when feeling very brave, have taken part in stand up performances both in the UK and on one occasion in a small launderette in beautiful Jasper, Canada! I am currently also writing some more educational resources for teachers, on TpT and TeachInABox.
Now that my eldest son is reading YA books, I find myself researching, reading and, more recently, writing my own book – Dolce Lento: Sweetly, Slowly. More on that to follow!
Before having children, I wrote and traditionally published an educational book about incorporating PSHE in school collective worship. I aim to still teach occasionally on a supply basis but have paused my teaching over the last year, to fit in with the needs of my children. Many of my friends seem to be teachers, practising or retired. Those who are currently working are energetic and inspiring, in a system which often seems inflexible and flawed. If only teachers were allowed to draw on their intuition and professional knowledge! If only there were less paper work, meetings and assessments! Increasingly, at school, we seem to expect children to adapt to fit our way of teaching, rather than us adapting to accommodate the children. For a culture that embraces diversity, we expect children to adapt to our demands, jumping through more and more hoops so we can tick a box or two. And I do wonder more and more if school is the right environment for a large proportion of children. But that is my rant over, for there is a lot of exciting ‘stuff’ going on in so many schools, many wonderful teachers and increasing opportunities for authors to get involved, through school visits e.t.c.
I have hop-scotched into the 21st century, with its increasingly bewildering technology, and am doing everything I can to keep up with the technophiles around me, including my children. From discovering ‘iTube list’, a wonderful free app that allows me to build up a library of You Tube videos suitable for my youngest son to using QR codes on teaching resources – it’s all a challenge! Recently, I have found the autism-friendly ‘Stories About Me’ an invaluable resource for creating social stories with my son. I also love the app ‘ShowMe’, a useful cross-curricular resource which can be shared between teachers and pupils. Digital media and the possibilities that story apps, games and ebooks provide are very exciting. One of my current goals is to start using Twitter more regularly. I am enjoying following some really interesting people, but perhaps need to make my own tweets more regular and more interesting! There will always be change and I am a strong believer in embracing it!
Many more authors are now taking the self-publishing route or are a hybrid of self and traditionally published. The former certainly allows more freedom, greater control over how a book is put together, higher percentage revenue and is overall a much quicker process. But it also often means that the writer has to take on roles, such as marketing and distribution, that in the past have not been part of an author’s job! I am constantly learning new things and that is one of the things I love about being a writer in today’s world!
Well, I have decided that I’m not quite ready to completely re-write the ‘About’ page, even if we have moved on considerably since it was written.
My son is still at home but now has an EHCP, funding for a special school and is awaiting confirmation that the chosen school can meet his needs, before planning a transition. What a journey – and, of course ongoing!
The ‘home education’ I am now providing is a short-term solution for us as a family. I am glad to say that my son’s health, both physical and mental, has improved and he is able to take part in more activities inside and outside the home. Recently we have visited a glass-making workshop, a recycling factory and attended a Science lecture. He is still doing very little writing or Maths but has a very individual programme which includes Science activities, physical activities and a sensory diet. Small steps! Although he did not ‘fit’ the conventional educational setting I am hopeful that he will find an appropriate setting and will flourish. I am very grateful to those individuals who have been emotionally and practically supportive. Those who haven’t – well, life’s too short to dwell on and I hope that at least some of them have learnt something along the way. Some amazing people have ‘crossed my path’ and, although there have been times when the battle has seemed overwhelming, I have been surprised and my own strength, determination and resilience.
To anyone who is at a different place in this journey – Don’t give up, stay strong and have faith that you probably know your child better than anyone!