There's something about being in a room with 100 people who are passionate about the same thing you are: children's books. And when the speakers are Marla Frazee, Allyn Johnston (my publisher!) and Ann Bobco, you know you can settle in for a day of straight talk and extreme entertainment.
Successful stories begin in the heart. Once that has happened only then should they be allowed to enter the brain, and funnel on down into the fingers and out onto paper. In other words, it's good if heart precedes cleverness – or at least goes hand-in-hand with cleverness. (Marla never said those exact words, but that's what I took away from the SCBWI Illustrator Day at Fort Mason.)
And that's what makes Marla's Boss Baby so great. Though it's the cleverest book ever, it sprouted from the heart. It was captivating to hear the in-depth stories behind it, and behind several of her other gorgeous books: Is Mommy?, The Farmer and the Clown, Boot & Shoe, Stars...)
Other brilliant ideas I glommed onto:
– The goal of your story is to change the emotional temperature of the reader.
– Not getting to the emotion of the moment can often be the problem when you’re stuck.
– Marla suggested writing a story with a visual narrative (sketches and pictures) before using words. This is interesting to me because even as a longtime illustrator, I still think I’m supposed to start with words.
p.s. A very fun interview with Marla.
p.p.s. Another exciting thing was seeing the Beach Lane books that are slated for publication next year. My favorite was this tiny (5" x 5") 72-page book by Lois Ehlert: a funny "valentine" celebrating love and friendship. I can't wait to get my hands on it and send one to you.