Rules to be Broken


One of the great things about DIY publishing is that you get to break rules when you feel like they need to be broken.

One of the rules in traditional publishing it’s the children’s picture books should be 32 pages. There are a few exceptions, but not many. The irony is that those exceptions often tend to be exceptional.

As I’m perusing books pilfered from Thing2’s bookshelf, some of the most dogeared titles — The Giving Tree, Where The Wild Things Are — break rules with regard to page length. 

As I dig deeper, I also notice that the books that still stand out for us are those that may not have perfect “story book” endings but are somehow still satisfying. They may hint at a darker side of life but enlighten their readers. 

They do something truly exceptional. They trust children.

As I’m whittling words and laying out spreads, I’m keeping in mind that there is at least one rule I don’t want to break – and that’s to trust kids.

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Something for Nothing

I had paid my booth fee for the summer so it was free to stetup my tent with my notecards at the summer market yesterday.

There were a few big events in the area so our corner of Vermont was quiet for this stage of the summer tourist season. It wasn’t the most profitable morning, but as I sat across the street from the Episcopal church in Arlington, I was sure I could see the leaves of the maple tree in front of the churchyard cemetery changing color.

It marked the first official day of autumn for me — an unexpected and pleasant little bit of something that cost absolutely nothing.

Charting the Course

TrollsPage

 

One of the fun things about self publishing a children’s book is that in addition to the many hats you get to wear (I love hats) as writer, illustrator, layout girl, and official chocolate tester, you learn a lot about the rules that govern the creation of many books your own kids read.

Did you know, for example, the standard length for children’s books is 32 pages? The standard was established by Beatrix Potter and her publisher Frederick Warne as way to get the most pages out of a single sheet of paper. It was an economic decision that stood the test of time.

As a writer, illustrator, naturalist, and well-known rule-breaker, Beatrix Potter has been an idol of mine for some time, and as I’ve been laying out the Truth about Trolls, I had to decide whether or not to follow Beatrix’s guidelines, or make my own rules for the modern world. Remembering that my own kids never argued about a story lasting longer, I ended up deciding it was better to stretch the text over a few extra pages and pictures.

I’ve read many books to my kids over the years, never thought to check the word count. The modern word count is about 250 to 1000 words depending on the age of the kid. Many of the classics such as The Giving Tree or Sylvester and the Magic Pebble are much longer, settling on a word count was a tough decision. In the end, I trimmed it down to as close to 1000 words as possible, and, as the illustrations take shape and help tell the story, the word count continues to shrink.

Ultimately, walking the line has been less about following or breaking rules and more about listening to the story. Hopefully it’s what, in 2017, Beatrix would do.

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Blossoms

Dune Blossoms, 9×12, Watercolor


In any other garden, these would be weeds. On the dunes along Lake Michigan, they’re delicate blossoms that, in concert with the dune grasses that cover the sandy bluff, prevent erosion with an effectiveness human might and engineering has yet to match.

Here and Now

high water, 5×7


We’re vacationing this week in southwestern Michigan along the great lake. I had big dreams of spending the week painting the water and the weather which never fail to inspire. 
Thing2, however, was also inspired. The absence of glowing screens combined with an abundance of immediate and extended family helped Thing2 rediscover the joy of corralling parents and grandparents into card games and rounds of Monopoly highlighted by rules he makes up as he goes along.
When we finally got down to the beach, I was happy just to soak up the surroundings. I did a few quick studies and photos of things that may become paintings later. I’m starting to think, though, that the most important part of painting the landscape may be actually experiencing it — and the rest of life — while you’re in it. 

Thing2 seems to agree.