Pippa Roberts’s Blog – Writing Picture Books

Hi everyone,

I thought I’d stop writing about my readings and workshops today, and tell you about one of the things I am working on at present. I decided to try my hand at picture books. I have two that are nearing completion, but I have been on a very steep learning curve. Did you know, for instance, that you should never have a red pillar box in an illustration, because anything that is typically English will make it difficult for a publisher to sell foreign rights? On the same principle you shouldn’t use names that won’t be recognised in a wide variety of countries. (You’re advised to use search engines to find the most popular names around the world.)

And people? Well, don’t put in anyone that looks too English, or too anything. In fact, animals are really better because they tend to look more alike in different countries.

I can well believe all this, but I find it rather sad. It’s the same reason that poetry publishers started preferring poetry that was – well – really far more like prose. It’s much easier to translate. You don’t have to worry about all those pesky consonance rhymes, etc…

I had more or less written my picture books when a book I’d ordered turned up in the post. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is Andrea Shavick’s ‘How to Write a Children’s Picture Book’ – and it is packed with good advice, which all comes from her hard won experience. I’d recommend it highly. But – oops! – those people still look too human. Better change them into cats! 😀