Sunday, August 18th, 2019

And in the End…

And so we come to the last of my series of posts based on Jane Yolen’s list of “10 Words Every Picture Book Author Must Know.”  Resolution… a fitting word to end the series with! Thank you, Jane, for providing us with such thought-provoking bounty (and two months worth of fodder for blog posts!) Resolution […]


Picture books tells their stories in two ways: 1) via text, and 2) via illustrations (hence the name “picture book.”) Occasionally a story will rely more heavily on art than text, or vice-versa – but more often than not, the balance is equal.   Great illustrations do not simply mirror or reflect the story – they […]

Words, words, words.

Polonius: What do you read, my lord? Hamlet: Words, words, words. – William Shakespeare, “Hamlet,” Act 2, Scene 2 And so we come to #5 in Jane Yolen’s wonderful list of “10 Words Every Picture Book Author Must Know,” which she shared at the SCBWI Winter Conference a few weeks ago: Words. Here are the […]

Get the Hook!

No, I’m not talking about pirate captains, or fishing.  But I am talking about capturing something – and that is the interest of your reader. As always, with the necessary economy of words in a picture book, the ‘hook’ needs to happen on the first page – ideally in the first sentence or two.  You […]

The Circle of Focus

When Jane Yolen speaks of ‘focus’ with respect to writing picture books, she specifies that it should be sharp and small. There’s an acting term originally coined by the great acting teacher Stanislavski called “Circle of Focus.”  During his career as a young actor, Stanislavski often experienced tension on stage. He discovered that he could better […]


The third word in Jane Yolen’s list of “Ten Words Every Picture Book Author Should Know” is Child-Centeredness. I’ve written about this in previous blog posts, but it bears repeating: the heroes, or protagonists, of children’s books must be characters that young readers can identify with and relate to.  Jane takes this notion one step […]

Compression: Getting Down to the Essence

The second word in Jane Yolen’s list of ‘ten words every picture book author must know’ is Compression.  It’s a good word, and can be defined as “the reduction of the volume or mass of something by applying pressure” (an apt description of the editing process!)  Among the words I might choose to describe the […]

Jane Yolen’s 10 Words Every Picture Book Author Must Know

Last week at the SCBWI Winter Conference, the award-winning author Jane Yolen talked about ten words that every picture book author should know: Lyricism, compression, child centeredness, focus, hook, words, ‘illustratability’, motion, emotion and resolution. I found this list particularly inspiring, and thought I would try my hand at riffing on each word, and why […]