….We’ve got a secret! We know that a good picture book is not something you can dash off one free evening in front of the telly. The process is more akin to a jeweller meticulously creating an intricate Fabergé egg, or perhaps a clockmaker hunched lovingly over a mechanism where every small part must work to create the whole. The process could be compared to the thoughtful craft of a poet, or the painting of exquisite miniatures. It needs to have perfect reading rhythm, good pace and offer the space and opportunity for adding wonderful images to complete the treasure.
I say this is a secret because nobody else seems to know, or so it sometimes seems to me at this time of year. Every Yuletide or New Year social gathering seems to bring at least one fellow guest who thinks that writing picture books is child’s play, so I propose a new addition to banned topics at non-publishing social occasions. Alongside ‘no politics’ and ‘no religion’, let’s have ‘no picture book ideas.’
You know how it goes:
“You write books for children? I’ll do that one day, when I’m not working any more.”
“I’ve written a picture book. My children said they liked it. I’ll sell it for squillions probably. It’s about an elephant, which is good because it rhymes with ‘and then to the moon it went’. See? Brilliant!”
To which you reply…
“Actually, I’ll have you know that according to the internet I’m like a jeweller with a Fabergé egg and….Oh, forget it.”
To quote the Christmas Eastenders Special: “Leave it. It’s not worth it, love.” It doesn’t matter, and why should your neighbours understand? It’s when an editor appears not to know the secret that it gets difficult. I’m thinking of those rare but painful occasions when a publishing employee changes some words and messes up the rhythm wholesale, or decides to change the extent of the book three weeks after you’ve finished, or maybe even comes up with one of those breezy throwaway emails along the lines of:
“Hey, Fabergé. I know I said I wanted an egg, but can you change it to a banana?”
“Look, Wordsworth. Here’s the thing. Daffodils don’t sell in the US. Tulips are all the rage now.”
Ah well. They say you should never get grumpy in a blog, but this my first one, so forgive me, and put it down to one too many mulled wines.
So anyway, I’m thinking of taking up brain surgery in 2012. How hard can it be? I’ve got a free evening on Wednesdays…