A must read: WHY BOOKS? The Zena Sutherland Lecture by Mo Willems. Another gem I found in this month’s Horn Book Magazine.
It’s genius at work.
It’s difficult for most writers to truly honestly believe that illustrations and text in a picture book are meant to lean on each other. If you aren’t an illustrator as well, how do you know what to leave in the text and what to pull out? I’m not sure it’s possible in the same way it is for an author-illustrator. But, regardless, here is Mo Willems explaining his process:
“…if I re-read one of my manuscripts and I understand exactly what is happening, then there are too many words. And if I look at the images without the words and I can fully understand the story, there are too many drawings…. They need to be as close to incomprehensible, separately, as possible.
Yes, I make incomprehensible books for illiterates.
Incomprehensible also because I never know what the book I’ve made “means.” That’s my audience’s job.”
He believes, (and I do too, but he’s the genius), that books need the reader to be complete.
More from Mo (comparing books to enhanced digital books and aps and such):
“What if books are better because they don’t do things, because they can’t do things? What if the thing that makes books great, that makes them essential, is that books need us? They’re simple. You invest in them and become a part of them. You contribute….
… a real book is helpless. It needs us desperately. We have to pull it off the shelf. We have to open it up. We have to turn the pages, one by one. We even have to use our imagination to make it work….
So, suddenly, that book is not just a book; it’s our book. We’re the ones making it work. We’re the ones making it sing. Right there in our chairs as we gently flip the pages, we are, at our own pace, creating a living story just by reading….”
This helps to explain the ownership I feel over my books. It’s hard to pick favorites because I l love them so – and don’t want to hurt their feelings. I can toss old clothes or dishes or toys – I’m not particularly connected to or concerned with things most of the time. But books… I love me my books. Maybe it’s because I feel that responsibility of helping to make them what they are.
And it’s why writers want their books to be published. They aren’t complete without an audience.
Go read the whole lovely thing.
And celebrate that November is Picture Book Month!
Sarah Wones Tomp
WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK