Author/Illustrator Bob Staake was the guest at our local San Diego SCBWI meeting. Since I was out of town, I asked fellow author and “Writer Mama” Denise Harbison to do a guest post. Denise is the author of “Solving the Violin Mystery” (Highlights Magazine) and just recently graduated from the MFA program at Hamline University.
If you want to be a picture book writer, it only makes sense get to know an illustrator or two.
After all, they do half the work, right?
Here’s your guy: Bob Staake. Speaking to both writers and illustrators at the San Diego chapter of SCBWI, he managed to dish out good advice to all.
He demonstrated how his work changed during the development phase, while working with the publisher. Conceptions, such as “white covers don’t sell,” affect the final outcome, which in one case meant agreeing on a book cover that wasn’t his first choice. But he advises to “trust your gut.” He had noeditorial input on his book THE RED LEMON before it was complete, allowing him to fully realize his vision without the interruption of judgment or critique. It is now the book for which he is best known.
He also uses instinct in deciding what stories to work on. Often he begins with an appealing image, adding details that build into a book. Admittedly, he wants his children’s books to appeal to adults, too, because they are the buyers. He enjoys inventing and adding funny written details into the pictures, such as a pig reading a book titled “Gone with the Swine”—which is cheered by reviewers. The hard part, he says, is knowing when to stop adding more details, to quit “when enough is enough.” From a writer’s viewpoint, these little quips and funny details demonstrate character and give the story energy.
Hearing Bob speak about the balance between text and picture made this writer think more like an illustrator—to understand how words can better interact and complete the pictures. Ultimately, though, to write and illustrate a great book, you have to understand the reader. To that he says he puts himself in the reader’s shoes.
“To inspire a child…to have them want to engage in books…there’s nothing more amazing than hearing from parents that your book changed a child’s life.”
Thanks Denise, it’s sounds like a great presentation.
Writing on the Sidewalk