Author-illustrator Ruth Paul taught a children’s picture book workshop at The Children’s Bookshop in Wellington last weekend. I was excited to attend because she’s one of my youngest daughter’s favourite authors and is an inspiring speaker
Ruth entertained over 25 participants with advice about writing, illustrating and publishing picture books in New Zealand and for the international market. Here are some of her tips:
Immerse yourself in current picture books and notice the latest styles, language, themes and content.
Ruth said the biggest rule is: There are NO rules! Someone will have broken all of these rules and been successful! Having said that, Ruth mentioned several ‘NO’s when writing picture books:
- NO digression
- NO adjectives
- NO description
- NO author intrusion
- NO explanation
The images need to do the talking and often tell a second story. If we don’t obey the above rules, the text is not tight enough to sustain children’s interest or doesn’t give the illustrator enough freedom to insert their own sub-story into the pictures.
To rhyme or not to rhyme? Non-rhyming picture books are much easier to write, and to translate for foreign markets. If you insist on rhyming, Ruth gave some great guidelines to follow:
- Rhyme needs a strong, consistent structure
- Don’t let the rhyme dictate the story
- The rhyme must be the servant of the story, a musical tool which enhances the story
- Use vocabulary that empowers parents as they read to their children
- Only break out of the rhythm if has been established well.
- Your nonsense MUST make sense.
I’m not an illustrator, so I can’t wear that hat, but it was interesting to note that Ruth encouraged tight text from writers and loose initial illustrations from artists.
Ruth’s workshop was jam-packed with information, personal anecdotes, and practical advice about how to go about creating a children’s picture book. Both authors and illustrators attended and we had a lot of fun. She gave us homework to hone our editing and story-tightening skills, and handouts that will help us enhance our next picture books. Thumbs up for Ruth Paul – she’s dynamic, vivacious and motivating. I hope those of you that live in Wellington have a chance to attend one of her classes (see below).
Ruth has been writing and illustrating picture books for ten years. Her stories are lively and full of fun. My kids LOVE them. Check out Ruth’s website here.
Thanks to John & Ruth McIntyre of The Children’s Bookshop for creating this opportunity to learn.The writers and artists that attended enjoyed Ruth Paul’s workshop immensely and learned a lot. John and Ruth play a huge role in mentoring local talent. If you’d like to attend their next children’s picture book workshop with Ruth Paul on 13 October 2013, please email firstname.lastname@example.org