Advice for Aspiring Children’s Book Authors

By Jason Boog Comment

At the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books last weekend, three writers shared advice for aspiring children’s book authors.

During the “Pictures on the Page: The Art of Children’s Books” panel discussion, Blue Chameleon author Emily Gravett, Hang Glider & Mud Mask co-author Brian McMullen and Not a Box author Antoinette Portis talked about their craft and writing lives.

Below, we’ve collected their advice for aspiring authors…

Brian McMullen (editor and the senior art director at McSweeney’s) had this advice:

I think I probably get 50 email pieces a week from people who are aspiring. I want to see what you are excited about. I want to see some ideas. If you can communicate some exciting ideas that are yours, [showing] “here’s what I’m passionate about.” Make the passion evident and clear and easy for me to understand within ten seconds. However you do that, that’s the goal. That’s how I approach every project.

Antoinette Portis added:

A lot of people get hung up trying to copy what’s hip right now or follow trends. Write soemthing that matters to you. Write where you have the juice, where you care. Something in your life experience or something that matters to you.

My other practical advice is to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and go to the conferences. Find out what editors and writers say about the business. It’s really good to get a feeling for the business. Because you can avoid making some really dumb and rookie mistakes that people tend to make. And why not skip that part?

Emily Gravett concluded:

We can all give you advice, but it’s not going to be the right kind of advice necessarily for you. You’ve got to figure it out on your own. Follow the things you are interested in and that you are passionate about … It’s got to be about what you’re interested in, otherwise it’s going to be boring. If you’re bored doing it, somebody’s going to be bored reading it.