Friday, May 05, 2006

Lessons learned (Thursday)

I've easily read 25 picture books this week as part of Anastasia's workshop. So, what have I learned about my preferences in children's books?

I like books that are simply told in easy to understand language. My favorite book read this week was TOMAS AND THE LIBRARY LADY, by Pat Mora. Not only does she tell a good story, she tells it clearly. No flowery, ambiguous metaphors that kids will have to stop and figure out. No rhyming poetry that does not rhyme. She uses engaging dialog that children will love. That's the kind of book I want to write!

I used to think that writing was out of my reach because of my own limited vocabulary. I figured, simple language doesn't make for great writers. Whenever I tried to write with big, fancy words, I sounded like a fool. "I can't write for children; I'm gonna sound like a 3rd-grader," I told myself. But I was wrong, and now consider my limited vocabulary a blessing in disguise.


Well, my week is ending in a crunch. Originally, I was supposed to fly to Dallas today to participate in school visits on Friday, as a part of the Children's Book and Literary Festival, sponsored by the Dallas African American Museum. But, my son's school has their big track and field day tomorrow. My son loves to run! I'm seeing college track scholarships already, and he ain't but 4-years-old. I couldn't miss watching him run across that finish line, and I could never miss his looking for me to see him crossing it. So, I will have to miss the school visits in Dallas, fly out immediately after field day, just in time for the author's social on Friday evening. On Saturday, I will present to a group of children at the Dallas West Library. This is one of my favorite festivals. Besides the generous honorarium, they are heavily sponsored by the business community. That makes it possible for them to get authors and illustrators from around the county into inner city schools that probably never get opportunities like this.

Others in the festival include Lamberto Alvarez, Mary Brooke Casad, Shirley Duke, Paul Epner, Freddi Williams Evans, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Catherine Carrasco Lynch, Alice McGill, David Rice, Toni Simmons, and Willy Welch.


rindawriter said...

Don, you are in excellent company if you like to write for children with simple, plain words, including E.B. White, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maurice Sendak and oh so many more. That being said, indeed, it can be more difficult to convey an interesting story well with plain words. You must be so careful with the word choices. Sendak has said it took him three years to write the text of "Outside Over There," for example. But. Children like those simple, plain words! They can read them!

Susan said...

Don, what timing! I just bought "Tomas and the Library Lady" for my son earlier this week. Both of us liked it quite a bit.

I hope you'll post about your workshop.