Writing Informational Picture Books: Q&A with Traci Sorell and Patricia Valdez

This week, we’ve been learning from two amazing nonfiction picture books, and today, their authors join us to answer some questions!

Got a question about writing craft for Traci Sorell or Patricia Valdez? Feel free to post your question in the comments. Traci and Patricia will be stopping by to respond throughout the day!

59 Replies on “Writing Informational Picture Books: Q&A with Traci Sorell and Patricia Valdez

  1. Hello Traci and Patricia! Thank you for participating in Teachers Write. I’d love to hear a little about your process from idea to final draft (which I know is a big ask). What are some revision techniques that you found helpful? When did it “click” and you knew you had a way of telling the story that worked? I ask because I am currently working on a PB bio and have tried several different structures, but none seem to be working so far. I’m questioning what else I can try at this point. Thanks in advance for any experiences you can share!

    1. Hi Angela! Great questions! For me, sometimes the idea comes from a topic I’m curious about (person, place, event, etc.). With We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, I read another picture book, I Say Shehechiyanu by Joanne Rocklin, and feel in love with the poetic structure she used. I created a grid of the four seasons, starting in fall with the Cherokee New Year. I had a mix of fiction and nonfiction stanzas, but when I got it critiqued, I got great advice to make it all nonfiction from the collective voice of Cherokee people and I did. For other books I’ve written where I didn’t have a structure in mind that I wanted to use or try out, I’ll admit those books have been a much longer, more arduous process to write (though still worthwhile and very doable). In revision, I always focus on a few key elements. How does it sound as a read aloud? During what parts does my young son or other kids I read it too lose interest (i.e. those areas need attention)? Have I taken out every single unnecessary word? Will the illustrator have all the room they need to tell their part (at least 50% but usually more) of the story? Have I employed the five senses (if appropriate to the story) to draw readers into deeper experience beyond what they might imagine if I hadn’t? Those are some of my go-to techniques.

      1. The key elements you mentioned are such a helpful focus, and I look forward to approaching the manuscript again with those in mind. Thank you so much for taking the time to repsond, Traci, and for sharing your process!

    2. Hi Angela,

      My ideas generally come from my day-to-day experiences. From reading an article about Komodo dragons or watching the livestream of a scientific discovery. Whatever might spark my interest that day… I also have a list of women I’d like to write about someday, but I need to find a unique way to tell the story before I tackle any of those.

      I like to make a timeline of events, both about the person if it’s a biography and about what’s going on in the world at that time. I usually cram all of my info in the timeline and try to identify any themes or story threads that call out to me. I might start writing at that point, leaving out any unnecessary info (thanks goodness for back matter!). For Joan Procter, I was really enthralled by the discovery of Komodo dragons so I wove that into her story. I liked that they were both considered “outsiders,” so that helped me focus a bit. As for revisions, I always write, put it away, then come back to it a few weeks later to make sure it’s working. Good luck to you!

      1. Thank you so much for your response, Patricia! I think I’ll go back to the bare-bones timeline I was working with, flesh it out further, and see if that hones my focus. I appreciate you sharing your process!

  2. Good Morning! Thanks for being here. I so enjoy Teacher’s Write each summer. I’m curious about how you document your back matter when send out a manuscript? Is it an old fashioned bibliography like high school? How do you let an editor/agent read and consider that part of your work? Thanks again,

    1. Important question, Linda! I’m happy to hear you participate in Teacher’s Write each summer. It’s a wonderful event that Kate hosts. I love back matter!! Even with my fiction picture books, I have back matter! I include it in submissions for my agent’s review as well as she sends to the editor at a publishing house. In my books thus far, back matter usually involves an Author’s Note where I explain how I got the idea for the book, my connection to it, how I did my research, etc. I may include a Definitions or Glossary section if I believe there are a number of concepts that readers may not be able to easily access themselves and understand. Since picture books can be read by young children themselves or shared with them by an older reader (librarian, family member, teacher, etc.), I never assume everyone has the same knowledge I do about the subject and want to be as helpful as possible. Yes, I absolutely include a bibliography with all the sources I’ve referenced to write the book. I put it in Chicago Manual of Style since that is what children’s publishing uses. For We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, I didn’t have a bibliography because the sources were from people – me, my own family and fellow Cherokee citizens. But the nonfiction books I’ve written since then have a complete list of sources used. The publisher will decide if they want to publish all or a select number of them, but they have all the sources I’ve used because they have their own internal review of my work and will need to reference those.

    2. Hi Linda!

      What I put into the back matter depends on the manuscript. For Joan Procter, I wanted to give more details of her life that couldn’t go into the main story. Even still, I didn’t put all of the information I could have in the back matter because it still needs to read like a story. I also put in information on Komodo dragons because I knew kids would be fascinated by them. As Traci mentioned, Chicago Style is what you want to use for your bibliography. For my next book, I included a glossary because I used some scientific terms and I also included a timeline since that’s a big part of the story.

      It’s important to include both the back matter and bibliography when you send out your manuscript so the agent/editor can see that amount of research you’ve done for the story.

      Good luck!

  3. Good Morning! Thank you for taking the time to offer your expertise. I am overwhelmed by the research process. Mainly, what are your personal organizational strategies for keeping track of the information that you’ve gathered? Also, maybe you have some insight about how you go about collecting your research. Thank you!

    1. Ah, yes, Katie, research can take up a lot of room! A lot depends on your personal preference. Some people like to have everything in a digital format. They create a folder with the book’s subject or title and put all e-files (scanned/photographed docs, links to news articles, etc.) related to that in there. I however prefer to have a paper copy of my sources. So whether it’s a newspaper article I found online or records I’ve found at the archives and taken photos of on my smartphone, I’ll print out all of them. I have plastic tubs that I file each book’s sources in so that if I need to reference them later (publisher has a question or I’m answering someone’s question in an interview, etc.), I can easily do so. To conduct my research, I start by seeing what is already known about the subject and then what can I discover and shine a light on that is different from what has already been shared. For We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, there was not a picture book about contemporary Cherokee people available, so I had a lot of latitude to showcase various parts of our culture and lives today. I’m working on a picture book biography right now about a well-known leader and I’m focusing on aspects of her life that have not been emphasized in other works, but are absolutely the reason she became the luminary she was. So I’ve scoured her public papers in the archives, interviewed one of her daughters, read her own writings, and watched documentaries about her. I’m looking to weave a story that brings forward what readers may not have heard before as well as how her story has applicably to all of us. Hope that helps!

    2. Hi Katie!
      I keep PDFs in a research folder on my computer. I also make a Word document with important links. Lately I’ve been using Scrivner to make notes on the research and to keep all of my drafts. As for collecting the research, I check news sources and Google. I check the library for any helpful sources. I might also look up some of the primary sources listed in Wikipedia articles. If you are lucky, like I was with Joan Procter, you might find an archive of information that can be (somewhat) easily accessed. In this case, Joan Procter’s sister deposited a good number of letters, articles, drawings, and photos at Cambridge University. I contacted the archivist and she scanned documents and sent them to me. I also put things into a Box file eventually and share that with the editor in case they want to share it will the illustrator. Best of luck!

  4. Good morning Traci and Patricia. I also want to thank you for being a part of Teachers Write. When choosing the subject of a picture book biography about do you just go with what interests you or do you take into consideration if you think this is a person that publishers will be looking to publish a book about? Thank you!

    1. Good question, Maureen. Absolutely both! I have to be passionate about the subject because I’m going to live with this book for a long time. After the research and writing, then revising and later submission. If the book is acquired, then the process of edits and art with potentially more edits to the text after artwork is sketched takes over. Once the book is published, then creators are expected to be active partners in the marketing. Of course, I’m also sharing the book in schools and libraries. So I need to know I can be enthusiastic about the topic for the rest of my career. So as I set out to write, I’m very mindful about what might interest publishers. They are for profit companies and they want to make a profit. I understand that and work to present the strongest work I can on submission. My critique group and my agent also understand that and are critical in helping me craft the best story possible.

    2. Hi Maureen,
      I need to be able to tell the story in an interesting way. Sometimes the person’s life doesn’t work well for a picture book or I need to think a bit longer about how to approach it. Maybe focus on one aspect of their life of tell it from a different angle. The story also needs to appeal to kids, of course. Like Traci mentioned, you will be spending many years talking about this person, so you should reaaaallly like them! Good luck!

  5. Good morning Traci and Patricia! Thanks for lending your work to Teachers Write and for being available to guide us personally! My question is a bit similar to Maureen’s in nature I think. I am wondering, when you are writing, whether you write to tell the story first or whether you keep your purpose/message at the forefront of your thought process? I feel the two are intertwined but that a subtle shift in mindset can really alter how my ideas come across. Thanks for your thoughts!

    1. Good morning, Breannen! The purpose for which I’m telling the story is definitely foremost in my mind as I’m brainstorming and figuring out the best structure to utilize. Then I focus on telling the story. As I’m revising, I circle back and go through each segment of the story to make sure it is cohesive in terms of supporting my purpose for writing the book. As I mentioned earlier, the purpose is almost always to shine a light on a topic that has not received the attention it needs to receive. But I generally have more than one purpose that I’m trying to convey, so revision is the heart of writing for me and where I work to make everything come together smoothly.

      1. Thanks, Traci! I appreciate your thoughts on your focus as you write and your mention of the revision process. It’s been really helpful to scroll through your responses to everyone’s questions. I’ve yet to attempt to publish a book; but, I would really love to. Your discussion of revising is making the whole writing process seem more manageable and exciting. It’s easy to forget that it doesn’t need to be perfect (and isn’t going to be) the first time!

        1. Definitely! The real writing is in revision. The first draft is just your sloppy copy. You are getting the stream of consciousness out, but sculpting the story out of that lumpy clay comes in revision. Good luck!

    2. Hi Breannen!
      I write to tell the story in early drafts and then I go back and revise to make sure the themes are in focus. I suppose theme is similar to my purpose/message. I don’t like to be hit over the head by a “message” when I read, so I make sure my writing doesn’t do the same. I find it’s important to engage the reader first and foremost, then they might pick up on strategically placed messages as they read. Good luck!

      1. Thanks, Patricia, for your insight. I noticed when I read Joan Procter how much it really felt like a story and pictured my students loving it. So funny that you mentioned engagement, too!

        Thanks again to all you, Traci, and Kate!

  6. Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us today! I was wondering if you used these manuscripts to get an agent who subsequently sold them, or if you sold them directly to the publisher yourself. Any words of wisdom on that process?

    1. Hi Roxanne! I sold this unsolicited and unagented to Charlesbridge. I submitted this manuscript to several publishers. There are about 20 publishers for children and teens that are still open to unagented creators. Otherwise, one must attend an event (like a SCBWI regional conference) where you can submit to the faculty there who could be from closed publishing houses). When I queried my agent, I did mention that I had sold a picture book by myself. I had three polished manuscripts ready for her. General advice is to have 3-5 polished stories ready to go when submitting to an agent. I completely agree with this as my agent sold one of mine within a week after I signed with her. That is my debut fiction picture book, At the Mountain’s Base, which comes out on Sept. 17. So anyone can absolutely pursue both paths. But know that if you’ve sent your story to a bunch of houses on your own and have gotten rejections (but not revise & resubmit letters) from editors, then generally your agent will not be able to resend it to them again once you’ve signed with the agent for representation. It is also critical that you spend time researching publishing houses (What are their current lists? Do they publish what type of book?) and agents (Does this person rep all the types of work (age groups, genres) you envision producing? Have the skills/background you need in a business partner?). Good luck!

    2. Hi Roxanne,
      My agent signed me with a manuscript about Eugenie Clark, then a few weeks later we saw announcements that two other Eugenie Clark manuscripts had just sold. We decided to shelve my manuscript to avoid three Eugenie Clark books competing with each other! Joan Procter was in the back of my mind then, so I wrote this one in a matter of months and my agent sold it the same year.
      I suggest you have 2 or more manuscripts ready when you start querying. Also, agents can help you get the best deal possible so I highly recommend finding an agent if you can. Find an agent who reps something related to your work and mention this in your query. Agents want to know that you’ve done your homework and are not just bling-querying them. Good luck!

  7. Good morning, thank you Traci and Patricia for giving of your time. As continuing education this summer for my library job, I read a book on reading picture books. There is soooo much more than I ever realized. How do you decide what to include and with so many wonderful things out there to write about, how do you narrow it down? I can’t wait to share your answers to everyones’ questions with my students. As a writer myself, YA, I try to teach my students a respect for the writing process and where books come from. Best wishes and thanks.

    1. Hi Martha, my main focus is on what will serve the story. Picture books have limited word counts (shorter for fiction than for nonfiction), so the text must be concise. Unless one is also an illustrator, thought must be given to how the illustrator, or one’s co-creator, will tell their portion (which is usually 50% or more). They need a lot of latitude to envision and create their part, so I can’t get to prescriptive. Next, I assess the rest of what I’ve gathered (which is generally wonderful information). Some of it will be necessary in the back matter to accompany the bibliography – an author’s note explaining how I came to write about the topic (person, event, etc.), definitions/glossary to help readers completely unfamiliar with ideas or terms in story’s text better understand and a timeline if applicable. Everything else (which is usually the bulk of the info I collect) is used for marketing the book on social media or in responding to interviews as well as content in school visits and conference presentations to provide more depth and specificity about the topic.

    2. Hi Martha,
      Once I’ve collected the research, I put the information together like a puzzle, and some pieces simply don’t fit! I want to make sure my manuscript is as concise as possible while being enjoyable to read. It’s important to keep the word count low. Too much text on the page can be painful to read in picture books, especially if the text is tiny.
      The extra puzzle pieces I add to back matter or I use in presentations / interviews. Good luck!

  8. Thanks Traci and Patricia for being a part of Teachers Write. My question is how do you include information that is not in your text. Example in Goodnight Gorilla the gorilla keeps stealing the zookeeper’s keys. Do you state this somewhere so that whoever is reading your manuscript gets the whole story?

    Also I have found several people I would love to see biographies about but I know that I can’t write from the perspective needed since they would need a diverse writer to tell the story properly. How do we get these great stories told? I would love to see someone write a children’s book about Marie Wilcox the last known speaker of the Wukchumni language and when researching for this workshop I came across Nanye’hi/Nancy Ward and would love to have a current children’s book about her in my library but haven’t found one.

    1. Hi Amy, I’m not familiar with Goodnight Gorilla. Usually if there is something happening in the story that is not shown at all in the text, then the author has provided an illustration note. Then whoever is reading it (agent, editor) understands that it will be shown only in the artwork. The editor will share the note with the illustrator. Yes, there are so many amazing people – especially women from all backgrounds – that have not had their stories shared. Some of these stories have enough historical record (oral histories, written documents) for a stand-alone book and others would work better as a compendium where the records are not as plentiful. I know there are many creators, including Native writers and illustrators, working on shining a light on these untold stories. Stay tuned! Also, if you know Native creators in your social and professional circles, please encourage them to create stories for children and teens.

    2. Hi Amy,
      I try to avoid illustration notes as much as possible. When I write, I like to create scenes that might inspire the illustrator. Some stories, like Goodnight Gorilla, really need those illustrator notes to make the story work. So I suggest including illustrator notes only when absolutely necessary.
      As for diverse voices, you could consider teaming up with a diverse author who might be able to provide the appropriate perspective.
      Good luck!

    1. Lots of places! I start by looking online at trusted sources (no Wikipedia, blogs or pseudo news sources) like established newspapers, university/gov’t websites, museums/archives. Then after I reviewed those, I try to figure out what I still need to know that goes along with the angle I’m using to tell the story. I may find I need to have more of a person’s actual words on a subject, so I’ll try to locate their writings, interviews, and meet with family, friends or colleagues that can help me locate resources and share information. I may also need to travel to the location where the event occurred or person lived/worked to understand what they saw, experienced, etc. to help me understand what I’m reading about in archival material, newspaper accounts, interviews, etc. I want to feel like I’ve conducted the necessary work to illuminate whatever aspect is the focus of my story. I also recognize that whatever research I gather will be helpful to the rest of the team – the editor, the art director and, most certainly, the illustrator – as we’re all working to create this book together.

    2. Hi Julie,
      I search anywhere and everywhere: newspapers, magazines, online articles, websites dedicated to the subject, libraries, museums, and archives. Family letters can provided insight into the person’s personality. Wikipedia can be a good source of primary sources if you focus on the citations and not necessarily on the content. If I can’t find the primary source for a piece of information, I don’t include it in the manuscript. Good luck!

    1. Hi Anita, it really varies from story to story. I’d say that nonfiction takes longer than fiction, but that isn’t always the case. In November 2015, I thought about, wrote and revised We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga within three days tops and then had it out on submission the following month. I got an offer from Charlesbridge in March 2016, signed the contract the next month, and it was published on September 4, 2018. I’ll probably never have a book like that again. At the Mountain’s Base, my debut fiction picture book that comes out on Sept. 17th, is similar to We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga in that I found a structure in another picture book that I really liked and wanted to write a story using that structure. At the Mountain’s Base is 111 word circular story in verse. I first wrote in May 2016, sold it in November 2016, and it comes out in two months. I have a picture book biography (not yet announced) that will come out in spring 2021 which I researched in July 2018, wrote over a couple of weeks in last November, revised in December, and sold in January 2019. I’m finishing up final revisions for the editor today. Every book is different. I have another one I sold which I wrote in spring 2014 and finally sold in summer 2017. It’s scheduled to be out next year. Timelines are really all over the place in terms of how much time you have to write/research, how much revision is required, getting through the glacial submission/acquisitions process, the illustrator’s time to create the art, production and crossing fingers for no major glitches anywhere in the process.

    2. Hi Anita,
      Timelines vary from book to book. For Joan Procter, I researched and wrote it in about 4 months, had about 2 month of edits with my agent, then she sold it in a five-house auction! The publisher wanted to target Women’s History month for my release, so it was almost 2 years until it was out in the world. My next book has taken much longer to write – about a year. My first book went through just a couple of weeks of revisions with my editor, and my second has gone through several months of revisions. So it depends. Good luck!

  9. Thank you, Traci and Patricia, for your wonderful books and for taking the time to answer our questions! Could you share any tips for how to approach people/institutions you want to access/interview in order to do research? I’m currently working on a picture book biography and I’m interested in doing research at a museum and possibly interviewing some people who are experts, but I’m a little worried that they won’t take me seriously since I have never been published.

    Thanks so much!

    1. I have the same question! I’m a librarian now but was a magazine writer an editor many years ago. I always felt comfortable calling to say “I’m writing an article about x for x magazine …” but also feel a bit intimidated to request information when I’m writing on my own.
      Thank you both, and Kate, for your wonderful books. This is my first Teachers Writing camp and I am so inspired for myself and my students!

    2. No need to feel worried or intimidated, Tricia! I’ve been working on other books (researching and writing phase) before my debut book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, published last fall. 90% of any interaction is in how you present yourself. If you reach out to someone in a professional, courteous manner and state that you are researching this topic (XYZ event, person, etc.) to write for ABC age group and have some questions that you’d like to discuss with them that would assist your research process, most will be happy to oblige. Realistically some may not be able to work in the time frame you need, so reaching out as soon as you realize this person, museum or archive could be a helpful source is key. Also, some folks are just super busy and may not be available, but don’t let that you haven’t had a book published yet keep you from accessing the sources you need. Hope that helps!

      1. I’m going to jump in and second what Traci said here. Most experts are delighted that someone wants to know about the thing they know and love best in the world and are happy to help when they can. Don’t be afraid to send that email!

    3. Hi Tricia,
      I’ve found that experts are more than happy to help an unpublished author. You’ll be surprised at how generous these folks are as long as you are respectful of their time. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by reaching out to sources. Good luck!

  10. Hi ladies!
    You’re so amazing to do this, thanks a million!
    How do you determine that your piece isn’t too similar to a mentor text? Especially if you start an idea, then use mentor texts to help guide you in ideas as opposed to structure?
    Thanks again!

    1. Thus far, I’ve only used mentor texts in terms of structures I want to see if I can craft a story in that format. But regarding ideas, there are two things that immediately come to mind. One is the story you’re writing (or reading of someone else’s) is similar to the mentor text being used to guide the story, then that’s plagiarism because the ideas they’ve used to shape their story are being copied. From an acquisitions standpoint, there are retellings of familiar themes and tropes, but every publishing house wants to be able to show how the book they are acquiring and then promoting is different from any other one out there on the same topic. So if the manuscript you’re reading is too similar to the mentor text, then how will that serve the reader? The mentor text is already available to read. What incentivizes the publishing house to acquire the book and find a place for it in the market if there isn’t a different take offered on the mentor book’s same topic? Hope that is helpful.

    2. Hi Kaitlyn,
      Happy to help! Hopefully your manuscript and the mentor text is on a different subject because you certainly don’t want to use ideas from an already-published picture book. Publishers will not be too keen on acquiring a new PB that is similar to an existing one and it’s not great career-wise for a debut author unless you find a new, amazing way to approach the subject. I use mentor texts to inspire me to tell the story in an exciting way. That might include certain structural elements or literary elements. Good luck!

  11. Good afternoon, Traci and Patricia,

    Thank you for sharing all so much helpful information about writing and publishing. I have really enjoyed digging deeper into your books and learning more about your process this week.

    I have a question about including photographs in a book. I would like the back matter of the book I am working on to contain a few photographs. How do I go about using photos or gaining the rights to use them?

    Also, how do you structure or layout the back matter portion of your book when submitting it to a publisher? Do you simply send individual ideas you have for the back matter section or do you lay it out like you would like to see it in a final copy?

    I would love to hear any tips you have about back matter and using photographs or other artifacts as part of it.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share your thinking and experiences!

    April

    1. Hi April, I regret I haven’t yet used photos in a book. So I don’t have any experience to share on that question. But regarding back matter, I can help. When I submit the manuscript, I include the back matter in the Word document. I start it on its own page following the story. What to include in back matter depends on the topic. I also vary the order in which they appear based on what seems to flow logically from the story. Sometimes the Author’s Note goes first, other times it’s the Definitions or Glossary (like in We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga) and, in the most recent story I sold, the timeline came first. But I know that the publishing team will have the final say on where they think about the layout. They know the size dimensions available on each page, if the back matter will be accompanied by any spot art, photographs, etc. I have no idea about these things, so there can be revisions later on in the process once the pages actually get laid out to ensure the text fits, etc.

    2. Hi, April! I’ve done just a bit of work obtaining permissions for photographs, and it can range from very simple to super complicated and expensive. The easiest photos to use are those in the public domain, and you might be surprised how many historical photos, especially, fall into this category. Library of Congress is a great source, as is the National Archives. When you find a photo online, there should be information about the source, so for photos that aren’t public domain, it’s a matter of reaching out to the owner of the photo to inquire about permissions. There are also stock image places like Getty and Shutterstock that offer many images for various fees. Hope this helps at least for a start!

    3. Hi April,
      I found several photos in Girton College’s archive and the National Zoological Society website. My publisher was able to secure the rights to the photos for the book. I didn’t really do much other than tell my editor where to find the photos. You probably don’t need to include these in the submitted manuscript (I didn’t). Perhaps you can describe the photos if they are essential to the back matter.
      My back matter was pretty much in its final form when I submitted the manuscript. I didn’t indicate I had any photos to include when I submitted, but my editor thought it would add a lot to the book, which I agree it did! Good luck!

  12. Good afternoon everyone,

    Traci and Patricia I enjoyed both of your books! Traci is there a way that I can hear the proper pronunciation of the Cherokee words in your book? I’m on the west coast; hope I’m not too late for a response.

  13. You are not too late, Shauntrell! Go to this Charlesbridge Publishling website link and click on each italicized word in the middle of the page to hear each Cherokee word said by a young Cherokee woman who graduated from my tribe’s language immersion school. https://www.charlesbridge.com/products/we-are-grateful-otsaliheliga

    Also, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga’s audiobook is now out on CD and can be purchased for $12.95 from http://www.liveoakmedia.com. You’ll hear four different Cherokee citizens reading the book, Cherokee banter in the background in various seasons (when kids are playing stickball, fall and spring opening spreads, etc.), and Cherokee music. I’m so happy this is now out in the world!

  14. Oh my gosh, this is a wonderful thread. I love both of your books that Kate highlighted. Traci, yours is the ah ha structure that has given me the direction in which to go for a book I’ve been writing in my head for months. And, Patricia, yours is the kind of books I especially love to write-pb bios! Thank you both so much for answering these great questions today. A few of mine have been answered, so none from me!

  15. Thank you Traci and Patricia for your willingness to chat with us today. I don’t have a specific question to ask, but I have started reading the questions and your responses to these from other #TeachersWrite participants and I’m loving what you say. Again, thank you!

  16. Hi Traci & Patricia! Sorry I’m late…I just found the comments section and have been enjoying and learning so much from what you’ve said today, so thank you. I have 2 questions whenever you have a chance to answer:
    (1) Do you keep some kind of Writer’s Notebook with all of your ideas, inspirations, etc. to pull out and use when writing?

    (2) Do you find it’s best to write something all the way through from start to finish, then go back later and revise after it is complete, or do you stop and revise as you go?

    Thank so much.

    1. Hi Paul, I probably should use a writer’s notebook. But I find that if something is easily visible for me, then it tends to stay in my mind. So I have a huge dry erase board on my office wall. I list all the books I’m working on and deadlines – those that are in progress, those sold/in revision and those ideas that haven’t made it onto the page yet. Seeing them there reminds me what I need to work on next and that I have to spend some time on those ideas that haven’t been drafted yet.

      I’ve never been able to write without tweaking. I agree with Patricia that writing longer forms means just getting the words on the page should be the focus for the first draft, but I still find myself doing it. Hope that helps.

  17. Hi Paul,
    Sometimes I use the Notes app on my phone to jot down any sudden ideas. If I think something is promising I’ll create a Scrivner file and add notes and sources that I can revisit in the future. I use Scrivner for my initial drafts and for storing my research notes.
    I would love to be able to write all the way through to the end, but I often cannot stop myself from tweaking sentences each step of the way. As a picture book writer, every word is valuable. Now that I’m trying to write middle grade, I need to let myself just write and stop obsessing over every word!
    Good luck!

  18. Hi Traci and Patricia! What advice would you offer young writers who struggle with the fine line of drawing inspiration from a mentor text vs. following it too closely? I’d love to support my students in this area. Thanks so much!
    Betsy

  19. Hi Traci and Patricia, I know i’m late to the party by a day. Mine is a general question re: market for PB bios. I have read in several different sources that PB bios are harder to sell now. Yet, you both, (along with Vivian Kirkfield & Nancy Churnin and others) have success and sales. Is it harder for debut writers to break in w/a PB bio? Is it the biographee that makes the difference? I have 2 mss: a woman architect and a “renaissance” musician I’m working on now. Ty both and TY, Kate.

    1. Hi Kate,
      I still see great picture book biographies being published, so I think there is still room for them. In fact, I’ve heard others say that the market is still good. As long as you have an interesting story and a good hook, I say go for it!

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