I only attended the NESCBWI conference on Saturday this year, but came home with a big dose of inspiration. I especially enjoyed a morning session with illustrator and author, Marla Frazee, as well as the afternoon key note presentation put on by Marla and her editor, Allyn Johnston.
What I liked about both presentations was that she demonstrated her process of creating a wonderful and engaging picture book. Marla took her audience through the earliest stages of character studies and thumbnail sketches with examples from many of her books. With help from her trusted editor, she had made changes both small and radical, that enhanced the finished book. She stressed the importance of both text and illustrations working together, and how they create the rhythm of the story. In the keynote presentation, Marla and Allyn talked about the difficulties in finding just the right ending, in both words and image, that will pull the whole book together.
For a while, I have been working sporadically on a dummy for a picture book idea that involves lots of kids in a classroom. I'm really still in the thumbnail and character study stage on this project. It can seem daunting to put on paper all the elements necessary to create a well-crafted picture book. That's why it was inspiring to see how an accomplished illustrator like Marla Frazee takes an idea, or someone else's words, and builds a book around them.