Saturday saw the first full day session of Faber Academy (which still ended up being too short – I honestly think that the group – myself included – could be locked in a room for days with paper and books and would still run out of time, although we may kill each other.)
When I first looked up the details of this course, one of the things that drew me to it was that it didn’t cover picture book writing. That’s not to say that I’m not a big fan of picture books (the picture to my left is one of my all time favourites), it’s just not what I wanted to workshop at this point.
But as a group we decided to spend one session covering picture books – and bless Sally for cramming her extensive knowledge of picture books into one day! It was incredibly useful – not only because I actually do love picture books so it was secretly a lot of fun to have Sally read ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ aloud to us, but also because the struggle to use language so imaginatively, so succinctly and so well is the kind of workshopping that can and should be applied to all other writing. As Sally told us, Mem Fox would say that in a picture book every word must be the best word. I’m sure I’m paraphrasing but you get my drift.
Anyway, so the session was lovely. We read picture books aloud, we discussed the relationship between words and text, the age ranges, topics, plays with language – essentially the richness of picture books. I find it disappointing but not entirely surprising that it is getting more difficult to have one published, primarily because people don’t buy them as much. $30 does seem like a lot for minimal text – but picture books are often what readers remember well into their adulthood. Ask any booklover which book they remember and it’s likely to be a favourite picture book from childhood. They’re so worth it. I went out and bought one immediately after just to remind myself of that.
We then workshopped our own picture book (sans pictures – oh how I wish I could draw). Many people brought text in that they were already working on, but some started from scratch. Going around our group and reading out stories was wonderful. There’s one in particular who has such a way with rhymes (but not naff or forced) and her story (which she wrote on the day) was hilarious. I hope to see it on the shelves soon.
I wrote a piece called Puppy Fat. If I ever decide to make the foray into picture books I suspect that’s the piece I’ll do it with.
So all in all a surprising, extremely informative and lovely first full day. I wish there were going to be more of them.