Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Preparing for my talk

Today, I spent some time preparing for my talk in Dallas. That afternoon, I'm to give a breakout session with the illustrators. Aside from nerves, that talk will be the easier one. I've typed up an outline, and I'll follow it through bullet by bullet, sharing my experiences and stories, and offering advice.

It's the first talk, the one I'm to give in the morning that needs work. I've been asked to speak to the entire conference for 15 minutes. The topic: What I will be talking about in the afternoon. Thing is, I don't need 15 minutes to do that; I can take care of that inside a minute-and-a-half, maybe quicker. In fact, because I tend to talk really fast anyway, I could present my entire afternoon workshop in fifteen minutes, and give the illustrators an extra long coffee break in the afternoon.

That idea probably isn't so good, especially since my fast talk ain't always so well understood. Mix in a lot of stuttering and stammering and hyperventilating, and I'll probably need that additional half-an-hour anyway.

So, I'm beefing up my morning talk to include more of an introduction of myself. I mean, most of these folks probably have never heard of Don Tate in the first place, so I'll use that fifteen minutes to give them some background, and, hopefully, a reason to come hear me speak.

I've procrastinated on this talk for some time. By now, I had planned to have it all written out, and ready to practice in front of a mirror. But, every time I think about getting up there, my acid indigestion starts acting up and my only relief is to not think about speaking to 150-plus people.

Many years ago, I bought a book on public speaking. It suggested that a speaker imagine the audience isn't wearing any clothes. You've heard that suggestion before, I'm sure. I've tried it; it doesn't work. If anything, it made me more nervous. Can you think of anything more unnerving than 150 nekkid children's writers and illustrators all bunched up inside one auditorium? Even a well ventilated one?


I spent some time reading and rereading the manuscript I'm preparing to illustrate. I also spent some time studying other picture books with long texts. The book I'm preparing to illustrate is almost 3000 words. Yes, I said 3000, that ain't no typo. So, my initial challenge is in finding some space for illustrations.

First, I proposed going to 36 pages or maybe 40. That would give the book some breathing room, but that didn't go over so well because a book with more than 32 pages is more expensive to produce. I found two books that I really like that are heavy on text and still work well: Miss Ida's Front Porch, and Osceola Mays: A Sharecropper's Daughter, though both of these books are more than 32 pages. My solution is to illustrate sparsely — some pages will be fully illustrated, others will have smaller spot illustrations. Some spreads will have no illustrations at all, but maybe a complimentary illustrated icon or graphic.


I'm only on chapter five of David LaRochelle's YA novel, Absolutely Positively Not..., and already, I found myself laughing out loud in several places. What I'm enjoying most is the humor and the way the story was written. It's like the character is having a perpetual conversation inside his head, and the reader is getting a look-see inside. I do that all the time; good thing you can't see.

Well, that's my day.

1 comment:

rindambyers said...

I think you'll do fine in the speeches with those outlines. Even for the 15-minute one. There is NOTHING like going up there well prepared. I forgot to tell that the other thing I do is to make sure I have supplemental material, extra material up there with me just in case I talk fast or might run out of something to say. Order it all from most imoprtant to less important, and you do well. It is REALLY nice to have an outline up there with you! I guess the older I get the less I worry about appearances! The best thing you can wear is a smile! Trite but SO true.

I've always liked the spot illustrations with longer text, break up the text and all. It's unusual to have the 3,000 words and call it a picture book. It's really picture storybook and doesn't function quite the same way as the true picturebook, clearly more emphasis on the words than pictures with such a long length. You'll do well with it!