Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Connecticut Children's Book Fair 2018--Janet Lawler

I concluded my trip to this year's Connecticut Children's Book Fair, just over a week ago, with author Janet Lawler's discussion of finding ideas for writing. Janet was the only writer writer whose presentation I saw. By which I mean she was the only one who doesn't do her own illustrating.

Janet gave a list of ways writers get ideas and showed how some of them led to her books. What interested me here was how does a writer, who is an adult after all, decide whether an idea can be used for a children's book rather than an adult book?

  • For instance, Janet talked about emotions being a source of ideas and made the point that children's writers have to keep kids' emotions in mind. (This sounds obvious, but new writers struggle with leaning too much on adult characters' minds.) She's written mothers' love poetry that became children's picture books like If Kisses Were Colors instead of poetry collections for adults.
  • Janet gave a terrific example of getting a book idea from the news. She saw an article about a man who got into trouble for building an outsize snowman that caused problems when it melted. From that she wrote Snowzilla. Now, yes, I spend a lot of time watching things like Stranger Things and The Haunting of Hill House. But I think a story about a giant snowman did not have to become a picture book. It could have gone a much different way. 
I've been obsessing about this situation for the last week. I'm thinking Janet's presentation could become a writers' conference workshop. No, not on how to come up with ideas, but on deciding who they're for once you've got them.

Janet's most recent book is Fright School

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