I had the great pleasure of attending The Whidbey Island Writer's Group Conference this weekend. The stars were shinning because I met a really neat editor, Melissa Manlove.
As luck had it I spent the entire day with her because she hosted the two fireside chats I attended and also did my editor consult.
Melissa is an editor at Chronicle Books in San Francisco. She has twelve years of children's book selling experience and has been with Chronicle for the last six years. She is passionate about all age groups and styles of children's books, except religious.
Her AM fireside chat dealt mostly with picture books. I could tell she really loved her topic as she read with vigor and added bold sound effects. Her main goal was to teach us that audience participation is a great skill to be used in PB. In fact, she thinks it is a real shame that it is not used enough because children want to participate. They want to be invited into the story. She suggested the following strategies when writing picture books for great child participation.
First, use predictability. Children love to find patterns and will follow along to repeated refrains. Also, one can include situations that children can act out for themselves. She cited the book Going On A Bear Hunt as an example. Every parent knows that one. The swishing through the grass and the swimming through the water are a huge hit with little kids. Some other ideas included having the ending echo the beginning. This gives a sense of completion and the children can guess the ending. A really interesting book Melissa read to us was a version of Little Red Riding Hood in Italian. The author uses a unique writing style to bring children into the story. In the book the adult always gets everything wrong, causing the child to repeatedly correct the story. For instance, the adult calls the character blue riding hood and the child immediately gets involved and yells, no red. One of the last examples Melissa shared was that of using common songs to get children to sing along with the book. I really liked the example she gave of I ain't gonna paint no more, no more, no I ain't gonna paint no more. I wish I'd written down the title because the book is hilarious.
Melissa was a treat to meet. She is kind, friendly and really interested in the children's book world. One hint I would give is to know comparable titles to your work. It was the first question she asked me during my consult and I fumbled. I knew what I had originally started out with as comps, but as my work progressed it morphed into so much more. Silly thing was that I kept telling myself to say Deltora Quest books, but for some reason I just couldn't get it to pop out. Too nervous I guess. Because they are the exact works that are comparable for my Cleopatra's Legacy series. To check out Chronicle Books link to www.chroniclesbooks.com/submissions .